Vancouver, September 5, 2018 – Commercial marine shipping is delivering tangible protective measures for Southern Resident Killer Whales on Canada’s West Coast now, and is committed to progressing innovative and practical solutions into the future.
Southern Resident Killer Whales face at least three anthropogenic threats including prey availability, acoustic and physical disturbance, and contaminants from the environment. They are known to frequent the waters off the B.C. coast and a large part of the Salish Sea is designated as critical habitat and protected by law. Approximately 50 per cent of the vessel-generated noise in the Salish Sea is attributable to international shipping.
For the past three years, the Chamber of Shipping and its members have participated in the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program. This multi-stakeholder forum has progressed science associated with vessel-generated noise that led to a successful operational trial in 2017 and the implementation of effective voluntary noise mitigation measures in 2018 to support the recovery of endangered whales. These measures include a vessel speed reduction in Haro Strait and a lateral displacement of vessels away from known foraging areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This innovative approach to protecting whales in Canada’s Pacific Gateway is supported by ocean and coastal carriers, Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Pacific Pilotage Authority, and the United States Coast Guard.
“Innovation is flourishing in an atmosphere that supports dialogue and collaboration, a science-based approach, and experimentation,” stated the Chamber’s President, Robert Lewis-Manning. “While there are calls for more regulation, such an approach would stifle the significant progress already being achieved by industry. We call on the Government of Canada to respect the significant investment and positive impact made by the marine industry to date and consider existing tools that are available under the Species at Risk Act.”
A coalition of non-governmental organizations recently filed a lawsuit against the Government of Canada claiming that it failed to implement an Emergency Protection Order under the Species at Risk Act. While our sector is supportive of action to address all anthropogenic threats, such action must be considered with a complete understanding and appreciation of the complexity of operating large commercial vessels safely as well as existing measures currently underway, all while avoiding unintended safety, operational, or ecological consequences.
At 1.8% of the Canadian economy, ships move more than $200 billion worth of goods to and from global markets. From farmers to retailers, thousands of Canadian jobs depend on a healthy and thriving trade environment. International and domestic shipping in Canada has an extensive history of developing solutions to support the protection of marine mammals, including actions taken in the Bay of Fundy, the St Lawrence Estuary and, more recently, in the Salish Sea. The Chamber of Shipping looks forward to continued partnership with government and all other stakeholders towards protecting endangered marine mammals to the best of our ability.