Protected areas, fishing closures, to help B.C.’s threatened southern resident orcas

VANCOUVER — Transport Canada has announced several new measures, ranging from sanctuary zones to fishing closures, as it works to protect critically endangered southern resident killer whales off the British Columbia coast.

The federal departments of fisheries, environment and transport have issued a joint news release outlining what is described as a fifth consecutive year of strong action to protect and restore the southern resident population.

There are 10 measures this year, including mandatory 10-knot speed zones in two areas near Swiftsure Bank, northwest of Victoria, a rich feeding ground for the salmon that the resident whales like to eat. 

Commercial and recreational salmon fisheries will be banned this summer and fall throughout the waters of the southern Gulf Islands and there will be interim sanctuary zones restricting all vessels from two areas off Pender and Saturna islands in the southern Gulf Islands. 

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says in the statement that it’s imperative that efforts continue to ensure a quieter, safer environment for the iconic and vulnerable species. 

The Department of Fisheries is also launching a consultation process over the coming year to consider adjustments to the Fisheries Act for the 400 metre distance vessels must stay from all killer whales on the Pacific coast.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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