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Two new protected areas for B.C.’s resident killer whales

December 20, 2018

The Government of Canada is protecting and helping the recovery of the iconic and culturally important Southern and Northern resident killer whales. On December 19, Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced the creation of two new areas of critical habitat for resident killer whales off the British Columbia coast.

The new areas add to existing critical habitat established in 2009 to protect the marine ecosystem vital to the survival and recovery of the whales. The additional protection follows the $167-million Whales Initiative announced in 2018. This past October $61.5 million was specifically allocated to address key threats faced by the Southern resident killer whale, including:

  • a lack of available prey (Chinook salmon);
  • acoustic and physical disturbances from marine vessels;
  • water contaminants.

The newly identified areas of critical habitat are located in the waters off the coast of southwestern Vancouver Island, including Swiftsure and La Pérouse Banks, as well as in western Dixon Entrance – all of which are key foraging areas for both Northern and Southern resident killer whales. These new zones will increase the area of critical habitat for endangered killer whales by approximately 6,419 square kilometres (2,478 square miles) to an area of approximately 10,714 sq. km. (4,136 sq. mi.) of Canadian waters. Designating these areas as critical habitat ensures they are legally protected against destruction that could hinder whale survival or recovery.