In April 2023, the Government of Canada updated the press on their efforts to protect our Southern Resident killer whales. These whales are very important to the Salish Sea’s ecosystem and are “culturally significant” to Vancouver Island’s Indigenous nations such as the Lummi, who are celebrating the impending return of a captured J-Pod orca after 50 years.
These new measures were decided by the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the Minister responsible for Parks Canada. A few of the most significant ones are:
- The enforcement of two mandatory Speed Restricted Zones near Swiftsure Bank which is in effect June 1 to November 30 of 2023. According to the press release, “this measure was first co-developed with Pacheedaht First Nation and incorporates the latest scientific advice about habitat use.”
- Vessels are now required to stay at least 400m away from all killer whales in Southern British Columbia coastal waters between Campbell River and Ucluelet, including Barkley and Howe Sound, in effect until May 31 of next year. This is doubled from the standard 200m of grace that vessels are legally required to give elsewhere.
- Two sanctuary zones will be implemented off of Pender Island and Saturna Island from June 1 to November 30 this year, where no vessel traffic is permitted, allowing for emergencies and Indigenous vessels.
- Closures of commercial and recreational salmon fisheries for the Southern Gulf Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Mouth of the Fraser River areas in 2023, which is intended to further protect the Southern Resident killer whales who depend on Chinook salmon. This protocol is in effect “from the first confirmed presence of Southern Resident killer whales in the area” and continues until November 30 of this year.
- And perhaps the most impactful for ecotourism: an agreement with local whale watching and ecotourism industry partners to “abstain from offering or promoting tours viewing Southern Resident killer whales.”
At SpringTide, we are proud of our efforts to be sustainable and ensure these magnificent creatures remain safe in their homes indefinitely. After 30 years in the business, we know how important it is to work together to protect our whales. In fact, co-owner Dan Kukat has also long been an advocate for protecting the Southern Resident’s access to abundant Chinook salmon. We are very excited about these changes and believe these changes will help make your whale watching dreams come true for many years to come See the official press release for more information at: https://www.canada.ca/en/transport-canada/news/2023/04/government-of-canada-announces-protection-measures-for-southern-resident-killer-whales.html