Vancouver, B.C. – Ship strikes, vessel disturbance, and underwater noise are key threats faced by whales, dolphins and porpoises off British Columbia’s coast. A new guide for mariners — produced by the Vancouver Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute in partnership with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the Prince Rupert Port Authority — is intended to inform mariners about the risk of collisions between vessels and marine life, and to help minimize vessel disturbances.
On the B.C. coast, cetacean-vessel collisions may involve many species, including fin whales, humpback whales, killer whales and grey whales. The purpose of the Mariner’s Guide to Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises of Western Canada is to raise awareness among large vessel mariners and provide information that will help mitigate vessel impacts on cetaceans along the B.C. coast including strikes, disturbance, noise, and air pollution.
Data collected by the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, supplemented by data sets from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Pacific Northwest LNG, have been used to create maps that give a sense of high density areas for various species of cetaceans found off the coast of B.C., and where encounters are likely to occur. The guide will also help vessel crew members identify key cetacean and sea turtle species, understand the threats their vessels pose, and take action to minimize those threats.
“We are so fortunate in British Columbia; our coastal ecosystem is home to an incredible array of whales, dolphins and porpoises,” said Caitlin Birdsall, marine mammal researcher with the Institute. “It’s also host to increasing marine traffic and this is a terrific example of agencies working together to address common threats to at-risk wildlife.”
The guide was developed with input from ports and other partners from the marine transportation industry. Along with the ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver, contributors included Department of Fisheries and Oceans, B.C. Ferries, B.C. Chamber of Shipping, Shipping Federation of Canada, Pacific Pilotage Authority, B.C. Coast Pilots, ROMM (Réseau D’Observation De Mammifères Marins) and Cruise Lines International Association.
“We are very proud of the collaborative efforts that have led to the development of this guide. We also believe that the guide aligns well with the government’s recently announced Oceans Protection Plan, as it relates to preserving and restoring Canada’s marine ecosystems,” said Duncan Wilson, vice president, Corporate Social Responsibility at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
“The creation of the Mariner’s Guide is another vital component of our comprehensive approach to sustainability,” said Jason Scherr, manager of Environmental Sustainability for the Port of Prince Rupert. “The health of the ocean is integral to our success as a gateway for maritime trade. Close teamwork by partners that share this perspective helped make this project a success, and lays the foundation for future, similarly positive, initiatives.”
The guide has been distributed to commercial vessel captains, coastal pilots, B.C. Ferries and other professional mariners. An electronic version is available online at: http://www.wildwhales.org/conservation/marinersguide/
B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network
A research and conservation program of the Vancouver Aquarium, in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the goal of the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network is to increase public awareness of British Columbia’s whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles, and the threats to their survival, through outreach and opportunistic data collection. Sightings can be reported at wildwhales.org; by calling tollfree: 1.866.I.SAW.ONE; by e-mailing: email@example.com
Coastal Ocean Research Institute Established to measure and monitor the health of coastal ecosystems, the Coastal Ocean Research Institute produces and communicates scientific knowledge and understanding about Canada’s West Coast. Established by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, the Research Institute is grateful for its generous founding partners the Sitka Foundation and North Growth Foundation.
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is a non-profit society dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life. www.vanaqua.org.
Port of Prince Rupert
The Port of Prince Rupert is Canada’s northernmost trade gateway on the west coast. Prince Rupert anchors one of the fastest and most reliable supply chains between North America and Asia, providing vital infrastructure to support shippers and industries as they move their goods and resources to market. Its five modern and efficient terminals collectively shipped over 7.3 million tonnes of goods in 2016. With respect to sustainability, the Port of Prince Rupert is guided in all of its activities by the key principles of pollution prevention, preservation of environmental integrity, efficient use of resources, and continuous improvement. www.rupertport.com
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is responsible for the stewardship of the federal port lands in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. It is accountable to the federal minister of transport and operates pursuant to the Canada Marine Act. The port authority manages the Port of Vancouver, which is Canada’s largest port and the third largest tonnage port in North America, responsible for Canada’s trade with more than 170 world economies. Located in a naturally beautiful setting on Canada’s west coast, the Port of Vancouver is responsible for the efficient and reliable movement of goods and passengers, and integrates environmental, social and economic sustainability initiatives into all areas of port operations. Enabling the trade of approximately $200 billion in goods in 2015, the port sustains an estimated 100,000 supply-chain jobs, $6.1 billion in wages, and $9.7 billion in GDP across Canada. www.portvancouver.com.