Raincoast welcomes federal government move to increase distance between vessels and Southern Resident killer whales

Sidney, BC – Raincoast Conservation Foundation welcomes and strongly supports the announcement by federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc to create a 200-metre protection zone from boats for endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

“Minister LeBlanc’s decision to establish a 200-metre buffer between the Southern Residents and boats is vitally important as noise is one of the most significant threats these killer whales face. We congratulate the minister for taking this action, and committing to establish the buffer as a regulation, not just a guideline,” said Raincoast biologist and Wild Salmon Program Director Misty MacDuffee.

The noise and disturbance caused by commercial and recreational vessels of all types, from large ships to whale watching boats, mask the frequencies used by killer whales to detect salmon and communicate. In addition, vessel disturbance changes the behaviour of whales, which also reduces their foraging efficiency.

“We strongly support Minister LeBlanc’s move to increase the distance boats can be in proximity to Southern Resident killer whales. Raincoast has been calling for a harmonization of Canadian and U.S. regulations as reducing vessel noise and disturbance for these whales is essential,” said Raincoast executive director Chris Genovali.

The critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales that inhabit the Pacific Coast of Canada and the United States are balancing on a knife-edge. A study published yesterday in the journal Scientific Reports by Raincoast biologists and academic partners shows a 25% chance that these iconic whales could be lost within the next 100 years. With appropriate and resolute actions, however, this risk of extinction could be significantly reduced.

— 30 —