Underwater noise from ships can interfere with the ability of whales to hunt, navigate and communicate. Slowing a ship down can reduce that noise. Since 2017, the ECHO Program led by the Port of Vancouver has undertaken vessel slowdown studies and other research to help inform the development and implementation of measures that reduce the impacts of marine traffic on Southern resident killer whales.
Working in close collaboration with the marine transportation industry, government and other partners and advisors, the ECHO Program is coordinating the implementation of another voluntary vessel slowdown trial. The goal is to maximize industry participation, underwater noise reduction levels and the benefits to the Southern resident killer whales in key foraging areas.
Over the past two summer seasons, the ECHO Program, supported by partners and advisors, coordinated voluntary ship slowdowns in the Haro Strait, a key feeding area within the Southern resident killer whale’s critical habitat. The research demonstrated that reducing ship speed effectively lessened the underwater noise in nearby habitats. This, in turn, is predicted to benefit the behaviour and feeding success of Southern resident killer whales. To reduce underwater noise effects on whales over a larger geographic area, this year’s trial zone has been expanded to include both the Haro Strait and Boundary Pass, which were identified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada earlier this year as key killer whale foraging areas.