March 19, 2018

New initiatives to protect whales on the West Coast

The governments on both sides of the border are committing resources to protect the endangered southern resident killer whale. In Canada, as part of the Oceans Protection Plan, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and of the Canadian Coast Guard announced $9.1 million in new science funding to develop and test technologies to detect the presence of whales. The ability to capture near real-time information could help alert mariners about whales in a particular area, reducing the risk of collisions. As part of this funding, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority will receive $200,000 to continue operating the underwater listening station in the Strait of Georgia, measuring and monitoring noise levels from commercial vessels and the killer whale’s presence in the Salish Sea.

In the State of Washington, Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order March 16 to establish a new southern resident killer whale task force. The committee is expected to prepare a comprehensive report that includes recommendations for the whale’s recovery, with a full draft due by October 1, 2018, and the final version by November 1, 2018. The report should detail ongoing and new actions that will address all major threats, including prey availability, legacy and ongoing toxic contaminants, and disturbance from noise and vessel traffic. A second report outlining the progress made, lessons learnt, and outstanding needs shall be completed by October 1, 2019. Additionally, the Washington Legislature approved $115,000 this year for the development of a long-term orca recovery plan: $548,000 for the greater enforcement of rules for vessels that travel near orcas, and $837,000 for hatchery operations that boost Chinook salmon stock and other key prey species.19

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