The Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program spearheaded by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority welcomed unprecedented rates of participation during the 2022 season in the efforts to reduce underwater noise. Launched in 2014, the voluntary initiative is to help the recovery of the endangered Southern resident killer whale population.
An impressive 86% of all vessels either slowed down or remained distanced while traversing key areas of the whale’s critical habitat along Swiftsure Bank, in the Haro Strait and Boundary Pass, as well as through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The high rates equate to more than 5,700 slower or more distanced transits creating a quieter underwater environment for the at-risk whales.
The all-time high 97% rate of participation by tug operators in the Strait of Juan de Fuca is particularly notable, as is the 93% by large commercial ship operators in the Haro Strait and Boundary Pass slowdown area. In the Swiftsure Bank slowdown trial that was expanded this year to include both the outbound and inbound shipping lanes, the 82% participation rate surpassed all expectations.
Strong participation rates during the 2021 season resulted in underwater sound intensity being reduced by up to 55% in key foraging areas for the Southern resident killer whales. The results of this year’s superior voluntary efforts in terms of noise reduction be published by next summer.