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

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

It’s time to upgrade Metchosin’s connectivity, some residents are saying. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Petition signals desire for Metchosin cellphone coverage

It’s crazy for a Victoria suburb to be a dead-cell zone, petition writer said

Bill Almond’s observatory in its new home on a Saanich lakeside. (Submitted/Cameron Burton)
Colwood stargazing dome makes a move to Saanich

The backyard structure finds a new home after 30 years

Chris Grzywacz, development agent for cannabis supplier Seed and Stone’s, holds products from the new Songhees Cannabis S + S store on April 20. (Jake Romphf/ News Staff)
First cannabis store opens on Songhees Nation, creates economic opportunity says chief

The Songhees Cannabis S + S had a soft launch at its 1502 Admirals Road location on April 20

A convicted sex offender, whose crimes included offences against children, was arrested at Gonzales Beach after the man was spotted by an off-duty officer. (Black Press Media file photo)
Convicted sex offender arrested at Gonzales Beach

After committing crimes involving children, offender barred from public beaches, being in proximity to kids

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read