Not only are they beloved by tourists and locals alike, but their mere existence is crucially important to the Coast Salish Peoples.
As of January 2023, there are only 73 remaining Southern Resident killer whales in total and they all call the waters off Vancouver Island home.
Because their numbers have declined to the point they are at, Transport Canada has put forth a plan to try to protect the remaining population in order for their numbers to grow once again.
The new measures to be introduced include:
- Speed reduction requirements near Swiftsure Bank, at the mouth of the Salish Sea
- Distance requirements for vessels travelling near orcas are set at 400 metres. If a whale is closer than that distance, ships will have to turn off their engines and wait until they pass
- An agreement has been made with whale watching tour companies to not actively promote or seek out Southern Resident killer whales specifically
- Two sanctuaries have been established near Pender and Saturna Islands that vessels may not enter
- Salmon fisheries near Southern Resident habitats are not allowed to operate during the parts of the year the whales need access to salmon
- Continuing to help reduce contaminants in the environment affecting whales and their prey
- Noise reduction initiatives continue to be in place in the Haro Strait, Boundary Pass, Swiftsure Bank, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca
“It is imperative that we continue our efforts to ensure a quieter, safer environment for this iconic, vulnerable species,” said Omar Alghabra, Transport Canada.
“That’s why, for the fifth straight year, we are putting in place protective measures to help protect Southern Resident killer whales. Our Government continues to take concrete action to help protect our vulnerable and endangered marine mammal species.”