Whale, dolphin, and porpoise populations in the Salish Sea face a variety of threats including acoustic disturbance, physical disruption, contaminants, and reduced prey availability. In particular, the endangered population of Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) continues to struggle as a result of ocean pollution, underwater noise, and food availability. A ten-year NOAA study found that SRKWs are one of the most contaminated marine mammal populations in the world and that they forage less and travel more when vessels are in the vicinity. Their primary food source is Chinook salmon, of which many runs are threatened, limiting prey availability. This triple threat is being tackled as part of Port Metro Vancouver’s recently launched Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program.
The ECHO Program is being undertaken to better understand and mitigate the potential impacts of commercial vessel traffic on cetaceans in southern BC. The program is a collaboration between government, academia, NGOs, First Nations, and marine industry partners and is comprised of a Federal Government Advisory Committee, Advisory Working Groups, and Technical Committees. Its aim is to inform and develop mitigation measures for reducing the potential impacts of shipping on cetaceans. SMRU Consulting North America is a member of the Acoustics Technical Committee and will be contributing scientific expertise in bioacoustics and marine mammal science to the program.
More information on the short and long-term program goals can be found in Port Metro Vancouver’s presentation to the Port Community Liaison Committee. Keep an eye on key program milestones here.