Last month, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program celebrated its five years of collaboration and research to better understand the effects of marine shipping on at-risk whales.
According to a recent statement, since its launch, the Program has used underwater microphones to measure noise levels, such as the sound of more than 10,000 ship movements in the Salish Sea. What is more, over 5,000 large ships have voluntarily slowed down in, or moved away from, important southern resident killer whale feeding areas to reduce underwater noise.
In addition to this, the ECHO Program provides resources to help mariners build awareness of local whale species and the effects ships may have on them, as well as best practices for navigating in the presence of whales.
The main goal of the ECHO Program is to reduce the effects of marine shipping on whales; this collaborative program is a regional transboundary effort that brings together a diverse group of advisors and partners from the marine transportation industry, Indigenous groups, government agencies, conservation and environmental groups, and scientific organizations.
Namely, Duncan Wilson, vice president, environment, community and government affairs at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of the Port of Vancouver commented that “as we celebrate the ECHO Program’s five-year anniversary, we would like to thank our advisors, collaborators and research participants for voluntarily sharing their knowledge and time over the years and for continuing to make this work a priority.”
It is added that
Environmental protection is core to the port authority’s mandate, and the well-being of the whales contributes to a healthy environment, which is a key part of the vision for the Port of Vancouver to be the world’s most sustainable port.
It was in 2014 when the port authority officially launched ECHO, recognizing that commercial marine activity in the region was growing and that vessel traffic calling at the Port of Vancouver transits through critical habitat for endangered southern resident killer whales.
In February, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has expanded its industry leading EcoAction Program, encouraging vessels that call on the Port of Vancouver to quiet the waters for the endangered whale population along the southern coast of British Columbia. Specifically, the program got into force on January 1, 2019.
In June, the Port of Vancouver reminded the shipping industry that as of June 1 the commercial shipping sector is alerted to begin voluntarily slowing their ships southern resident killer whales return to Haro Strait and Boundary Pass to feed for the summer.