Peter Hamilton of Lifeforce Ocean Friends sent in this photo of a transient orca pod near Mitlenatch Island. With boating season upon us, Hamilton reminds boaters to keep a safe distance from orca pods. As of June 1, the boat distances between the southern resident killer whales (SRKWs) in Canada will increase to 400 metres. Photo courtesy Lifeforce Ocean Friends

Education first step in Canada’s new southern resident killer whale conservation mandates

Fisheries officers to enforce 400-metre rule in Salish Sea

Education and outreach will be the first steps in enforcing new boating regulations created to save the endangered Southern Resident orcas.

Under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) new mandate, Canadian boats will soon have to keep a 400-metre distance from orcas in the Salish Sea, in an effort to lessen the effects of underwater noise pollution.

On May 10, the DFO announced enhanced measures for protecting the killer whales – which include the doubling of the mandated distance between vessels and resident pods – of which only 75 individual orcas remain.

Under the new policies, the 400-metre distance rule will apply to general vessel traffic – including both recreational boats and whale watching vessels – in the residents’ critical habitat, starting June 1.

And vessels – commercial and recreational – will want to take note.

Any person who contravenes the Fisheries Act could face a maximum fine of $100,000 and up to a year in prison if found guilty of the contravention.

But first comes a period of communication and education, says the DFO. Three dedicated fisheries officers will spend 100 per cent of their time focusing on the Southern Resident population – educating the public and enforcing the regulations.

“Outreach and on-water monitoring will be the main activity,” said Louise Girouard, DFO regional director of communications for the Pacific region. “Conservation and protection’s fishery officers will collaborate with Transport Canada’s Enforcement Group and relay information when deemed appropriate for enforcement actions to be taken by [Transport Canada’s] group.”

READ ALSO: Bigg’s orcas in the Salish Sea point to shifting habitat of resident killer whales

READ ALSO: Southern resident orcas spotted off the coast of California

Dr. David Bain, chief scientist of Washington State based non-profit Orca Conservancy, says reducing noise pollution is a vital step in protecting the endangered resident whales, suffering under the depletion of prey resources, increased acoustic disturbances and destruction of the natural salmon nurseries of the Salish Sea.

Resident Killer Whales rely on echolocation to catch their food, and interfering noise is damaging to their ability to catch salmon and ultimately, survive – especially in a habitat where salmon populations are already depleting.

“What we need is compliance,” Bain said, adding that it doesn’t matter to the whales if there is punishment for ignoring the mandated boundaries.

Also starting June 1, boaters must reduce their speed to slower than seven knots if they come within 1,000 metres of a pod and commercial vessels will be required to slow down over a longer distance through Haro Strait and Boundary Pass.

The DFO does however, outline an exception for commercial whale watching companies, who can approach transient killer whales up to 200 metres with authorization from the Minister of Transport.

Bain said transient whales are not quite as ill-affected by the noise pollution caused by vessels, since their prey – sea lions and other marine mammals – are much easier to spot and make detectable noise.

In Washington State, vessels can’t approach resident whales closer than 300 yards (about 274 metres) or follow from behind closer than 400 yards (about 366 metres).

The DFO is also moving forward on closures of recreational and commercial salmon fisheries in key foraging areas and is “committed to releasing an additional 1 million juvenile Chinook annually from a Chilliwack hatchery, in an effort to support Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery.”

READ ALSO: Calf born to endangered Pacific Northwest orcas



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Kids, parents cool off at Langford splash park

Centennial Park is home to a popular water feature

Saanich landfill gets used oil and antifreeze dropoff centre upgrades

BC Used Oil Management Association oversees upgrades, two new facilities in province

Saanich woman completes 10 marathons, raises double her initial goal amount

Over $20,000 raised for Victoria Hospitals Foundation

Colwood man to ride 400 kilometres to fight kids cancer

Man riding for a beloved family member who died from leukemia at 13-years-old

UPDATED: Missing 25-year-old Saanich woman found Saturday

Yuhan Jin thought to be travelling by foot or bus, carrying two suitcases

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Travel restrictions inspiring co-operation in border communities

Small border towns are asking for exemption to travel ban

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Woman arrested near Nanaimo beach after alleged road rage incidents

37-year-old woman facing charges including assault, assaulting a police officer, impaired driving

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

Raptors kneel for both American and Canadian anthems ahead of tipoff

Majority of players have substituted their names on the backs of their jerseys with racial and social justice messages

Most Read