A2Marine Mammal Guidelines and Marine Protected Areas

5General Guidelines for Aquatic Species at Risk and Important Marine Mammal Areas

The Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for ensuring the protection and conservation of aquatic species at risk listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) (including listed marine mammals and sea turtles), and for protecting their critical habitat once identified. Under s. 32 of SARA, it is an offence to kill, harm, harass, capture, or take individuals of a species at risk listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans may issue a permit authorizing a person to engage in an activity that would otherwise contravene s. 32, but can only do so under certain specific circumstances. Similarly, pursuant to s. 58(5) (a) of SARA, once identified, the critical habitat of listed species at risk must be legally protected. Individuals who contravene the provisions of SARA may be found guilty of an offence and liable for a fine or penalty pursuant to s. 97 of SARA.

Did you know?
WhaleALERT is a free app designed to augment existing ship navigation tools informing mariners of the safest and most current information to reduce the risk of ship and whale collisions.

The Marine Mammals Regulations (MMR) under the Fisheries Act prohibit disturbance to marine mammals except in the following circumstances: when fishing for them under the authority of those Regulations; when carrying out a work, undertaking or activity that is authorized, otherwise permitted or required under the Act; or in a manner authorized under the Species at Risk Act or set out in a licence issued under the Fishery (General) Regulations. As per the MMRs, disturbance to marine mammals includes: approaching, attempting to feed, swim or interact with, moving, enticing or causing movement, separating from groups/calves, trapping, tagging or marking. Disturbing marine mammals (whales, porpoises, dolphins, seals and sea otters) may cause injury or harm and interfere with natural behaviors, including feeding and socializing. Individuals who contravene the Marine Mammal Regulations may be found guilty of an offence and liable for penalty pursuant to s. 78 of the Fisheries Act. Careful adherence to the general guidelines below will reduce the likelihood of disturbance.

Transport Canada is responsible for promoting safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation. The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (CSA 2001) gives the Minister of Transport the authority to make regulations respecting the protection of the marine environment from the impacts of navigation and shipping activities (s.35.1(1)), as well as the authority to make an interim order if immediate action is required to deal with a direct or indirect risk to the marine environment, including on a precautionary basis. The Minister of Transport has issued an Interim Order, to be in effect from June 1, 2019 to October 31, 2019, to protect Southern Resident Killer Whale. The main purpose of the order is to implement new measures to reduce underwater noise and physical disturbance from marine traffic for all killer whales, focusing on key foraging areas for Southern Resident killer whales recognizing the imminent threats facing the species. The enforcement regime under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 applies to violations of the Interim Order. This means that any person or vessel that does not comply with the Interim Order may be subject to an administrative monetary penalty of up to $250,000, or a fine of up to $1 million and/or imprisonment up to a maximum of 18 months upon summary conviction.

General Guidelines when in the Vicinity of Marine MammalsFootnote 1

The following general guidelines provide an overview of ways in which you can prevent disturbance to marine mammals as well as stay up to date on current legislation and regulations. In addition to these general guidelines, certain species have special measures to help ensure additional protections. Be sure to educate yourself about new regulations or forms of protection by carefully reviewing any important information in this Notice to Mariners which applies to your location and activities. The official source of information for species at risk is the Species at Risk Public Registry.

1.The ONE place not to be is in the path of whales. Don’t position your vessel in the path of oncoming whales within 400 metres/yards of a whale.

SLOW DOWN: Reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 400 metres/yards (0.215 nautical miles) (unless otherwise specified) of the nearest marine mammal to reduce engine noise and vessel wake. Avoid abrupt course changes. Please note: some species require different approach speeds and distances - please refer to individual species' needs in this Notice to Mariners and in other online sources referenced, i.e. the MMR.


Protecting the North Atlantic right whale:
New speed restriction measures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

 

Due to changing migration of North Atlantic right whales and their increased presence in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Government of Canada has established seasonal speed restrictions of not more than 10.0 knots in specific zones for all vessels above 13 metres in length. These restrictions combine “static zones” and “dynamic speed” sectors. Please refer to the Notices to Mariners Special Edition for coordinates and details and consult WhaleMap for the latest right whale observations: https://whalemap.ocean.dal.ca/.

Transport Canada inspectors, with assistance from the Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services, will enforce this precautionary measure. Failure to comply will result in an administrative monetary penalty of up to $25,000 and/or penal sanctions under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.


Commercial Whale Watching Flag Emblem
(only used in some regions)
If a commercial whale watching vessel is flying a Whale Target flag (see above), the vessel is in the presence of whales. Please slow down and proceed with caution. Respect the general guidelines when in the vicinity of marine mammals.

2.Stay at least TWO hundred metres/yards away from any whale, dolphin or porpoise in resting position or with its calf, and stay at least 400 metres/yards away from any killer whale located within the critical habitat of Southern Resident Killer Whale between June 1 and October 31, 2019, and 200 metres/yards elsewhere throughout the year.

3.Remember these THREE ways to Be Whale Wise: follow the guidelines for viewing all wildlife, check for local protected areas and restrictions, and always be safe.

4.BE AWARE: To view the most current information on aquatic species at risk and their critical habitat, visit the Species at Risk Public Registry and the Aquatic species at risk map. For marine protected areas, visit: the Open Maps Data Viewer. For information about increased protections for Southern Resident Killer Whale which have been put in place for 2019, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/fisheries-oceans/news/2019/05/government-of-canada-announces-enhanced-measures-for-protecting-british-columbias-southern-resident-killer-whales.html

5.BE CAUTIOUS, COURTEOUS and QUIET: Approach areas of known or suspected marine wildlife activity with extreme caution. LOOK in all directions before planning your approach or departure.

6.DO NOT APPROACH or position your vessel closer than 100 metres/yards (0.054 nautical miles) to any marine mammal.* Please note: some species require greater minimum approach distances - please refer to individual species' needs in this Notice to Mariners and in other online sources referenced.

7.PLACE ENGINE IN NEUTRAL and allow animals to pass if your vessel is not in compliance with the
100 metres/yards approach guideline. * Please note: some species require greater minimum approach distances - please refer to individual species' needs in this Notice to Mariners and in other online sources referenced.

8.KEEP CLEAR of the marine mammal’s path. If they are approaching you, cautiously move out of the way and avoid abrupt course changes.

9.ALWAYS approach and depart from the side, moving parallel to the marine mammal’s direction of travel.
DO NOT APPROACH from the front or from behind.

10.DO NOT feed, swim with or interact with, tag or mark, move or entice, or cause to move, from the immediate vicinity in which you find marine wildlife.

11.DO NOT separate a marine mammal from members of its group or go between it and a calf.

12.DO NOT trap a marine mammal or its group between a vessel and the shore or between a vessel and one or more other vessels.

13.AVOID a sudden course change if dolphins or porpoises choose to ride the bow wave of your vessel. Hold course and reduce speed gradually.

14.Marine mammals may approach vessels; if they do, move away subject to safety considerations and keep your distance.

15.STAY on the OFFSHORE side of the marine mammals when they are traveling close to shore.

16.LIMIT your on-water viewing time to a recommended maximum of 30 minutes. This will minimize the cumulative impact of many vessels and give consideration to other viewers.

17.NEVER approach using aircraft or drones.

18.REPORT any collisions with marine mammals, or sightings of entangled, injured or dead marine mammals to the appropriate marine animal response organization, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

If you see an injured, stranded, entangled or dead animal, immediately contact the following emails or 24-hours/day toll-free numbers. You can also help us track these aquatic animals to ensure their safety by reporting a sighting.

Region

Contact Information

Pacific

BC Marine Mammal Response Network (Observe, Record, Report): 1-800-465-4336

VHF Channel 16

Central & Arctic

Northwest Territories - Inuvik: 1-867-777-7500

Northwest Territories - Yellowknife: 1-867-669-4900

Nunavut - Iqaluit: 1-867-979-8000

Saskatchewan: 1-800-667-7561

Quebec

Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM): 1-877-722-5346

New Brunswick,
Nova Scotia &
Prince Edward Island

Marine Animal Response Society:
1-866-567-6277
mars@marineanimals.ca

VHF Channel 16

Canadian Sea Turtle Network
1-888-729-4667 (toll-free)
info@seaturtle.ca
Canadian Sea Turtle Network

Newfoundland & Labrador

Whale Release and Strandings Newfoundland and Labrador (Tangly Whales Inc.): 1-888-895-3003 or 1-709-895-3003

ATLANTIC REGION

North Atlantic Right Whale Critical Habitat

Species Status: Endangered

Threats: Vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, contaminants, underwater noise, and changes in food supply.

Characteristics of the North Atlantic Right Whale: V-shaped blow, no dorsal fin, deeply notched flukes, callosities (growths on the head).

Minimum Approach Distance: 100 metres in all Canadian fisheries waters, as per the Marine Mammal Regulations.

Immediately report any collisions with whales, entangled whales or dead whales to the whale emergency hotline
(1-866-567-6277), VHF channel 16, or Fundy Traffic VHF channel 14. Report any sightings of right whales, including location, date, and photos to XMARwhalesightings@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

Grand Manan Basin Critical Habitat

Guidelines (June - December):

Vessels should avoid passage through this area if possible. Avoidance is the most effective means to eliminate or reduce acoustic disturbances and vessel collisions. A small portion of the Grand Manan critical habitat area overlaps with the outbound lane of the Bay of Fundy Traffic Separation Scheme and special precautions should be taken in this area.

If passage through this area is required, decrease vessel speed to 10 knots or less and post a look-out to increase the likelihood of sighting and avoiding marine mammals. Increased caution must be exercised in conditions of reduced visibility, such as rain, fog, rough sea state, or at night. Be aware that marine mammals often travel in small groups dispersed over an area of several miles. Maneuver around marine mammals with caution (see general guidelines). Do not assume the whales will move out of the way.

Roseway Basin Critical Habitat and IMO-ADOPTED Area to Be Avoided (ATBA)

Guidelines (June - December):

To significantly reduce the risk of vessel strikes on North Atlantic Right Whales, it is recommended that ships of 300 gross tonnages and upwards, solely in transit during the period of June 1st through December 31st, avoid the area. This routeing measure has been adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as a seasonal Area to be Avoided (ATBA) described in IMO. SN.1/Circ.263. October 2007.

Smaller vessels are also asked to avoid passage through the area.

If passage through this area is required, decrease vessel speed to 10 knots or less and post a look-out to increase the likelihood of sighting and avoiding marine mammals. Increased caution must be exercised in conditions of reduced visibility, such as rain, fog, rough sea state, or at night. Be aware that marine mammals often travel in small groups dispersed over an area of several miles. Maneuver around marine mammals with caution (see general guidelines). Do not assume the whales will move out of the way.

Learn more about the recovery process for the North Atlantic Right Whale at the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Scotian Shelf Northern Bottlenose Whale Critical Habitat

Species Status: Endangered

Threats: Underwater noise, entanglement in fishing gear, vessel strikes, contaminants, and changes to food supply.

Characteristics of the Scotian Shelf Northern Bottlenose Whale: Low bushy blow, bulbous forehead, sickle-shaped dorsal fin located approximately two-thirds of the way down the body, light grey to brown in colour, maximum length approximately 9 metres.

Minimum Approach Distance: 100 metres in all Canadian fisheries waters, as per the Marine Mammal Regulations.

Immediately report any collisions with whales, entangled whales, or dead whales to the whale emergency hotline
(1-866-567-6277), or via VHF channel 16. Report any sightings of bottlenose whales, including location, date, and photos to XMARwhalesightings@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

Zone 1 of the Gully Marine Protected Area

Guidelines (year-round):

The Gully is a designated Marine Protected Area under the Oceans Act (see Notice 5A). Zone 1 of the Gully Marine Protected Area (i.e. the innermost of the three management zones) is also a critical habitat for Northern Bottlenose Whales (critical habitat coordinates are provided in the map below).

Vessels should avoid passage through this area if possible. Avoidance is the most effective means to eliminate or reduce acoustic disturbances and vessel collisions.

If passage through this area is required, decrease vessel speed to 10 knots or less and post a look-out to increase the likelihood of sighting and avoiding marine mammals. Increased caution must be exercised in conditions of reduced visibility, such as rain, fog, rough sea state, or at night. Be aware that marine mammals often travel in small groups dispersed over an area of several miles. Maneuver around marine mammals with caution (see general guidelines in this notice). Do not assume the whales will move out of the way.

Shortland and Haldimand Canyons

Guidelines (year-round):

Vessels should avoid passage through these areas if possible. Avoidance is the most effective means to eliminate or reduce acoustic disturbances and vessel collisions.

If passage through these areas is required, decrease vessel speed to 10 knots or less and post a look-out to increase the likelihood of sighting and avoiding marine mammals. Increased caution must be exercised in conditions of reduced visibility, such as rain, fog, rough sea state, or at night. Be aware that marine mammals often travel in small groups dispersed over an area of several miles. Maneuver around marine mammals with caution (see general guidelines). Do not assume the whales will move out of the way.

Learn more about the recovery process for the Northern Bottlenose Whale at the Species at Risk Public Registry.

QUEBEC REGION

Beluga (St. Lawrence Estuary population)

Species status: Endangered

Threats: Contaminants, noise, disturbance, reduction in prey abundance, quality and availability, habitat degradation, ship strikes, and entanglement in fishing gear.

Characteristics of the St. Lawrence Beluga: adults are white; young are grey; rounded bump on the head (melon), no dorsal fin, adults between 2.5 and 4.5 metres.

Minimum Approach Distance: 100 metres in all Canadian fisheries waters, 400 metres in the St. Lawrence Estuary, as per the Marine Mammal Regulations.

Immediately report any collisions or entanglements with a Beluga Whale, dead or alive, by calling Quebec’s Emergency Network for Marine Mammals at 1-877-722-5346.

Guidelines: Adhere to the General Guidelines when in the Vicinity of Marine Mammals as listed in Notice 5 of this Notice to Mariners, and follow the protection measures for the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park and Surrounding waters, below.

Learn more about the Beluga Whale recovery process at the Species at Risk Public Registry.

St. Lawrence Beluga Whale Critical Habitat

Critical habitat of the St. Lawrence beluga extends from the Battures aux Loups Marins to the southern portion of the Estuary, off Saint-Simon. It includes the lower reaches of the Saguenay River.

SAGUENAY–ST. LAWRENCE MARINE PARK AND SURROUNDING WATERS – WHALE PROTECTION

The waters in and around the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park are well known for the resident endangered beluga population and the wide diversity of whales that migrate there to feed, particularly between April and November.

Regulatory Protection Measures

All whale species that are found in the St. Lawrence are protected under the Marine Mammal Regulations, pursuant to the Fisheries Act. Within the boundaries of the Marine Park, specific measures are set out in the Marine Activities in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park Regulations, pursuant to the Act Establishing the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park. Any collision with a marine mammal within the Marine Park must immediately be reported to a park warden at 1-866-508-9888. For collisions that occur outside the Marine Park or for any situation involving a marine mammal that is dead or in trouble, contact the emergency network at 1-877-722-5346 or on channel 16. (For more information on the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, see notice 5C of the Notices to Mariners Annual Edition.)

Voluntary Protection Measures

Provisional measures in effect from May 1st to October 31st. See map below. These measures apply to merchant vessels and cruise ships between Pointe à Boisvert and Cap de la Tête au Chien to prevent collisions with whales. These measures should only be taken when they will not jeopardize navigational safety.

Caution area (yellow area): To reduce the risk of collisions with whales that can be present anywhere in this area, heightened vigilance of navigators is critical. Posting a lookout is recommended in order to increase the chances of seeing the whales and thus taking necessary measures to avoid them. If bypassing the whales is not possible, slow down and wait for the animals to move away to a distance greater than 400 metres (0.215 nautical miles) before resuming original speed. It is more difficult to see the animals at night, therefore increased caution is recommended.

Slow down to 10 knots or less area (red area): To reduce the risk of collisions with whales in this feeding area, it is recommended that vessels slow down to a maximum speed through the water of 10 knots and post a lookout. It is further recommended to remain in the Laurentian Channel to the north of Île Rouge to minimize the impact of noise in a sensitive area south of this island, which is highly frequented by herds of beluga whales composed of females and young.

Area to be avoided (hatched red area): To reduce noise and the risk of collisions with whales, vessels should avoid transiting through this area which is highly frequented by blue whales, an endangered species. If the area cannot be avoided, slow down to a speed through the water of 10 knots or less.

WESTERN REGION

Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales

Species Status: Threatened and Endangered, respectively.

Threats: Principal threats are environmental contamination, reductions in the availability or quality of prey, and both physical and acoustic disturbance.

Characteristics: The killer whale is the largest member of the dolphin family. Its size, striking black and white colouring and tall dorsal fin are the main identifying characteristics. Killer whales are mainly black above and white below, with a white oval eye patch, and a grey saddle patch below the dorsal fin.

Minimum Approach Distance: 400 metres/yards within the critical habitat of Southern Resident Killer Whale between June 1 and October 31, 2019, as per the Interim Order under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001; and 200 metres/yards elsewhere in Canadian fisheries waters in the Pacific Ocean and British Columbia, and throughout the year as per the Marine Mammal Regulations.

Immediately report any collisions with whales, as well as any entangled, sick, injured, distressed, whales or dead whales to the Marine Mammal Incident Reporting hotline (1-800-465-4336) operated by the British Columbia Marine Mammal Response Network (BCMMRN), or to VHF channel 16. Sightings of whales, including location, date and photos, may be reported to BC Cetacean Sightings Network (BC) www.wildwhales.org, or 1-866-I SAW ONE.

Southern Resident Killer Whale Critical Habitat

Guidelines: Adhere to the General Guidelines when in the Vicinity of Marine Mammals as listed in Notice 5 of this Notice to Mariners.

The movement patterns of Resident Killer Whales are largely influenced by the availability of their preferred prey (Chinook salmon). The critical habitat for Southern Resident Killer Whales within Canadian Pacific waters has been partially identified, and includes 1) transboundary areas of southern British Columbia, including the Southern Strait of Georgia, Haro Strait, and Juan de Fuca Strait; and 2) waters on the continental shelf off southwestern Vancouver Island, including Swiftsure and La Pérouse Banks (critical habitat for both Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales). Human activities themselves are not automatically prohibited within an area identified as Critical Habitat; rather, it is the destruction of this critical habitat that is prohibited.

Critical habitat areas identified for Southern Resident Killer Whales

Critical habitat is identified as the areas within the identified geographic boundaries, given that they contain the described biophysical features and the functions they support, as described in Table 4 of the 2018 Recovery Strategy for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in Canada. The hatched areas in the transboundary waters of southern BC and off southwestern Vancouver Island are the critical habitat areas in Canadian waters for Southern Resident Killer Whales, as designated under SARA. The hatched area in the transboundary waters of northern Washington State is designated as Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). Learn more about the recovery process, including the recovery strategy and action plan for the Southern Resident Killer Whale, at the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat boundaries off Southwestern Vancouver Island.
(Described clockwise from the western boundary - all Latitudes are Decimal Degrees North; all Longitudes are Decimal Degrees West.)

Start and end coordinates

Point Description

Latitude Deg

Latitude Min

Longitude Deg

Longitude Min

1

Northern Boundary (Vancouver Island running southwest offshore)

48

59.7

-125

40.15

2

48

41.72

-126

17.88

3

Offshore Boundary

48

13.95

-125

44.61

4

Waters adjacent the U.S.A. Border

48

29.72

-124

44.32

5

Waters adjacent Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat in transboundary waters of southern Georgia, Haro, and Juan de Fuca Straits

48

40.04

-124

50.66

6

And bounded by Vancouver Island to the Northwest boundary

7

Excluding waters north of the line joining (Nitinat Inlet)

48

40.05

-124

50.99

8

48

40.13

-124

51.3

9

Excluding waters northeast of the line joining Cape Beale and Amphitrite Point (Barkley Sound)

48

55.22

-125

32.391

10

48

47.174

-125

13.039

Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat boundaries for transboundary waters of southern Georgia, Haro, and Juan de Fuca Straits.
(Described clockwise from the western boundary - all Latitudes are Decimal Degrees North; all Longitudes are Decimal Degrees West.)

Start and end coordinates

Point description

Latitude Deg

Latitude Min

Longitude Deg

Longitude Min

1

Western boundary

48

29.68

124

44.31

2

48

40.02

124

50.68

3

Excluding waters north of the line joining (Sooke Inlet)

48

21.30

123

44.32

4

48

20.33

123

42.90

5

Excluding waters north of the line joining (Royal Roads, Esquimalt Hbr, Victoria Hbr)

48

24.25

123

28.97

6

48

24.57

123

22.61

7

Excluding waters west of the line joining (Cordova Channel and Sidney Channel)

48

29.69

123

18.61

8

48

36.12

123

18.51

9

Excluding waters west of the line joining (western half of Miners Channel and the waters west of Gooch Island)

48

37.04

123

18.49

10

48

39.70

123

17.72

11

Excluding waters west of the line joining (western half of Prevost Channel and Moresby Passage)

48

39.88

123

17.68

12

48

42.96

123

19.63

13

Excluding waters west of the line joining (western portion of Swanson Channel between Moresby Island and Prevost Island)

48

43.34

123

19.88

14

48

48.86

123

22.70

15

Excluding waters west of the line joining (western portion of Trincomali Channel between Prevost Island and Parker Island)

48

50.66

123

23.33

16

48

52.61

123

23.92

17

Excluding waters west of the line joining (western portion of Trincomali Channel between Parker Island and Galiano Island)

48

52.85

123

23.92

18

48

53.08

123

23.76

19

Excluding waters west of the line joining (western portion of southern Strait of Georgia)

48

54.28

123

20.67

20

48

55.39

123

21.98

21

49

0.00

123

18.88

22

49

10.39

123

22.82

23

49

13.58

123

21.97

24

Excluding waters north of the line joining (portion of southern Strait of Georgia)

49

13.58

123

21.97

25

49

14.00

123

21.09

26

49

14.18

123

19.22

27

49

13.79

123

17.21

28

Excluding waters north and east of the line joining (portion of southern Strait of Georgia)

49

13.79

123

17.21

29

49

12.87

123

15.75

30

49

9.01

123

16.48

31

49

3.39

123

9.24

32

49

3.47

123

8.48

And bounded on the east and south by Point Roberts and the United States Border

Northern Resident Killer Whale Critical Habitat

Guidelines: Adhere to the General Guidelines when in the Vicinity of Marine Mammals as listed in Notice 5 of this Notice to Mariners.

The movement patterns of Resident Killer Whales are largely influenced by the availability of their preferred prey (Chinook salmon). The critical habitat for Northern Resident Killer Whales has been partially identified, and includes
1) the waters of Johnstone Strait and southeastern Queen Charlotte Strait, and the channels connecting these straits; 2) waters on the continental shelf off southwestern Vancouver Island, including Swiftsure and La Pérouse Banks (critical habitat for both Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales); and 3) waters within Western Dixon Entrance. Human activities themselves are not automatically prohibited within an area identified as Critical Habitat; rather, it is the destruction of this critical habitat that is prohibited.

Learn more about the recovery process, including the recovery strategy and action plan, for the Northern Resident Killer Whale at the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve

Ecological Reserves are areas in British Columbia selected to preserve representative and special natural ecosystems, plant and animal species, features, and phenomena. Ecological Reserves provide the highest level of protection for the maintenance of physical and biological diversity while allowing for research and educational activities. Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve was established to provide support for killer whale recovery by reducing physical and acoustic disturbance while they feed, socialize and use rubbing beaches.

Guidelines

Contained within the larger critical habitat area found in the waters of Johnstone Strait and southeastern Queen Charlotte Strait, Robson Bight Ecological Reserve provides an additional protected area for Northern Resident Killer Whales to rest and feed.

Northern Resident Killer Whales are listed as Threatened under the Species at Risk Act, and areas identified as critical habitat are protected from destruction.

Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve is a provincially designated Ecological Reserve that falls within the boundaries of the legally protected critical habitat for Northern Resident Killer Whales.

All vessels should avoid passage through the Ecological Reserve. Avoidance is the most effective means to eliminate or reduce physical and acoustic disturbance and vessel collisions with whales.

Fish harvesters are requested not to moor in the Robson Bight area.

Should boaters accidentally stray into the Reserve, leave immediately while maintaining at least a 300 m distance from any whale present.

If passage through this area is required for navigational safety, decrease vessel speed to 7 knots or less and post a look-out to increase the likelihood of sighting and avoiding marine mammals by at least 300 m. Increased caution must be exercised in conditions of reduced visibility, such as rain, fog, rough sea state, or at night. Be aware that marine mammals often travel in small groups dispersed over an area of several kilometres. Maneuver around marine mammals with caution (click here for guidelines). Do not assume the whales will move out of the way.

Critical habitat areas identified for Northern Resident Killer Whales

Critical habitat is identified as the areas within the identified geographic boundaries, given that they contain the described biophysical features and the functions they support, as described in Table 4 of the 2018 Amended Recovery Strategy for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in Canada. The hatched areas in the transboundary waters of southern BC and off southwestern Vancouver Island are the critical habitat areas in Canadian waters for Southern Resident Killer Whales, as designated under SARA. The hatched area in the transboundary waters of northern Washington State is designated as Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). Learn more about the recovery process, including the recovery strategy and action plan for the Southern Resident Killer Whale, at the Species at Risk Public Registry.

Northern Resident Killer Whale Critical Habitat – Boundaries for Johnstone and southeastern Queen Charlotte Straits.

(Described clockwise from the western boundary - all Latitudes are Decimal Degrees North; all Longitudes are Decimal Degrees West.)

Start and end coordinates

Point Description

Latitude Deg

Latitude Min

Longitude Deg

Longitude Min

1

Western boundary (Vancouver Island to Numas Island)

50

36.98

127

11.00

2

50

46.24

127

6.76

3

Northern boundary (Numas Island to Broughton Island)

50

46.27

127

5.26

4

50

46.41

126

48.27

5

Northern boundary (Broughton Island to Screen Island / Eden Island)

50

46.13

126

47.30

6

50

44.95

126

43.55

7

boundary line running from Eden Island to Crib Island (including waters of Queen Charlotte Strait and excluding waters of Trainer Passage)

50

44.79

126

43.22

8

50

43.67

126

42.73

9

boundary line running from Crib Island to House Ilet (including waters of Queen Charlotte Strait and excluding waters of Arrow and Spring Passages)

50

43.33

126

42.58

10

50

40.16

126

41.21

11

boundary line running from House Ilet to Swanson Island (including waters of Queen Charlotte Strait and excluding waters of Knight Inlet)

50

40.16

126

41.21

12

50

37.75

126

43.86

13

boundary line running from Swanson Island to Compton Island (including waters of Blackfish Sound excluding waters of West Passage)

50

36.06

126

41.77

14

50

35.84

126

41.42

15

boundary line running from Compton Island to Harbledown Island (including waters of Blackfish Sound excluding waters of Whitebeach Passage)

50

35.50

126

40.86

16

50

35.38

126

40.68

17

boundary line running from Harbledown Island to Parson Island (including waters of Blackfish Sound excluding waters of Parson Bay)

50

35.19

126

40.93

18

50

34.43

126

40.73

19

boundary line running from Parson Island to West Cracroft Island (including waters of Blackfish Sound excluding waters of Baronet Passage)

50

33.65

126

39.95

20

50

32.98

126

39.73

Waters of western Johnstone Strait bounded on the north by West Cracroft Island, the mainland, Hardwicke Island and West Thurlow Island with no exclusions except:

24

boundary line running from West Cracroft Island to the mainland (including waters of western Johnstone Strait excluding waters of Havannah Channel)

50

31.32

126

20.35

25

50

31.09

126

17.05

26

boundary line running from the mainland to Hardwicke Island (including waters of western Johnstone Strait excluding waters of Sunderland Channel)

50

28.46

126

2.54

27

50

26.57

125

57.94

28

boundary line running from Hardwicke Island to Eden Point on West Thurlow Island (including waters of western Johnstone Strait excluding waters of Chancellor Channel)

50

24.58

125

48.29

29

50

23.91

125

47.38

30

boundary line running from Eden Point to Tyee Point on West Thurlow Island (including waters of western Johnstone Strait excluding waters of Vere Cove)

50

23.91

125

47.38

31

50

23.26

125

47.06

32

Eastern boundary line running from West Thurlow Island (including waters of western Johnstone Strait excluding waters of eastern Johnstone Strait and Mayne Passage)

50

23.42

125

34.39

33

50

21.88

125

34.23

Waters of western Johnstone Strait bounded on the south by Vancouver Island - no exclusions except:

35

boundary line running from Graveyard Point to Kelsey Bay Harbour on Vancouver Island (including waters of western Johnstone Strait excluding waters of Salmon Bay)

50

23.45

125

56.71

36

50

23.80

125

57.62

Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat boundaries off Southwestern Vancouver Island.

(Described clockwise from the western boundary - all Latitudes are Decimal Degrees North; all Longitudes are Decimal Degrees West.)

Start and end coordinates

Point Description

Latitude Deg

Latitude Min

Longitude Deg

Longitude Min

1

Northern Boundary (Vancouver Island running southwest offshore)

48

59.7

-125

40.15

2

48

41.72

-126

17.88

3

Offshore Boundary

48

13.95

-125

44.61

4

Waters adjacent the U.S.A. Border

48

29.72

-124

44.32

5

Waters adjacent Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat in transboundary waters of southern Georgia, Haro, and Juan de Fuca Straits

48

40.04

-124

50.66

6

And bounded by Vancouver Island to the Northwest boundary

7

Excluding waters north of the line joining (Nitinat Inlet)

48

40.05

-124

50.99

8

48

40.13

-124

51.3

9

Excluding waters northeast of the line joining Cape Beale and Amphitrite Point (Barkley Sound)

48

55.22

-125

32.391

10

48

47.174

-125

13.039

Northern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat boundaries in western Dixon Entrance.

(Described clockwise from the western boundary - all Latitudes are Decimal Degrees North; all Longitudes are Decimal Degrees West.)

Start and end coordinates

Point Description

Latitude Deg

Latitude Min

Longitude Deg

Longitude Min

1

Western Boundary (Langara Island Northward)

54

15.38

-133

3.5

2

54

15.99

-133

3.5

3

Northern Boundary

54

16.05

-131

40.45

4

Eastern Boundary

54

9.13

-131

40.43

5

Excluding waters south of line (McIntyre Bay)

54

5.491

-132

15.97

6

Bounded by Graham Island on the Southern Boundary

54

11.07

-133

1.55

7

Northward to Langara Island, excluding waters west of the line

54

11.43

-133

0.75

8

Bounded on the western Boundary by the eastern side of Langara Island up to Langara Light

9

Excluding waters south of line (Virago Sound, Naden Harbour)

54

5.86

-132

26.26

10

54

5.57

-132

34.3

Southern Resident Killer Whale Interim Order

On May 27, 2019, the Minister of Transport issued an Interim Order under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, for additional mandatory protections for Southern Resident Killer Whale. These protections will be in effect between June 1, 2019 and October 31, 2019, and is designed to protect the whales during the season they are most frequently found in Canadian waters. The measures are intended to create spaces of refuge for the whales to reduce vessel noise in proximity to them on an interim basis pending further feasibility assessment work on measures to reduce physical and acoustic disturbances. The Interim Order applies to all vessels, which includes vessels that navigate in, on, through or immediately above water, regardless of the method of propulsion.

The Interim Order sets out two new mandatory measures for vessels operating in certain areas of the waters of southern British Columbia to reduce physical and acoustic disturbance to killer whales, specifically:

(1)An increase of the minimum approach distance to 400 metres for all killer whales within Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat, and

(2)The establishment of three Interim Sanctuary Zones off the south-west coast of Pender Island and south-east end of Saturna Island, and at Swiftsure Bank

Further information on the order can be found here: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/mediaroom/interim-order-protection-killer-whales-waters-southern-british-columbia.html

400 metre Minimum Approach Distance

Vessels must stay a minimum of 400 metres away from any killer whale throughout the Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat. This builds on existing prohibitions in place through the Marine Mammal Regulations, which provide that persons and vessels travelling outside the Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat must stay a minimum of 200 metres away from all killer whales in Canadian fisheries waters in the Pacific Ocean and British Columbia.

Exemptions

The following vessels and persons are exempt from the prohibition against approaching a killer whale within 400 m within the Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat:

vessels in transit (aka any vessel travelling directly from one point in the water to another);

vessels in distress or providing assistance to a vessel or person in distress;

vessels involved in pollution response operations;

vessels avoiding immediate or unforeseen danger;

employees of the Government of Canada and peace officers performing their duties or functions, persons assisting them, or persons that are present at the request of the Government of Canada;

persons undertaking certain activities, including scientific research, as authorized under the Species at Risk Act, Marine Mammal Regulations, or Fishery (General) Regulations; and

any vessel with these people on board.

Commercial whale watching and ecotourism businesses can apply for a special authorization to operate a vessel between 200 m and 400 m to watch non-Southern Resident killer whales.

If you own or operate a commercial whale watching business or an ecotourism business, including those owned or operated by Indigenous peoples, that offers whale watching, and you travel within Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat, then you can apply for an authorization to view non-Southern Resident killer whales at a minimum distance of 200 metres.

If you would like to apply for an authorization, or have additional questions, please contact:
TC.QuietShips-Naviressilencieux.TC@tc.gc.ca

Approved applicants will receive an authorization letter that is required to be produced for enforcement purposes.

Interim Sanctuary Zones:

To provide for greater refuge for Southern Resident Killer Whale in key foraging areas within critical habitat, three Interim Sanctuary Zones have been established within which vessel traffic is prohibited, including fishing, whale watching and recreational boating, from June 1st until October 31st, subject to exceptions. These three zones are located off the south-west coast of Pender Island and south-east end of Saturna Island, and at Swiftsure Bank.

Exemptions

The Interim Order provides a number of exemptions from the prohibition from traveling within an Interim Sanctuary Zones.

Specifically, the following vessels and persons are exempt from the prohibition from traveling within the zones:

local traffic that needs to access a residence or business on North Pender or southeast Saturna Islands, or a mooring buoy within the sanctuary, if travel by water within an Interim Sanctuary Zone is the only practical means of doing so. For example, if you need to access a residence or business that is not accessible by road, you would generally be permitted to travel through the area to reach it;

vessels in distress or providing assistance to a vessel or person in distress;

vessels involved in pollution response operations;

vessels avoiding immediate or unforeseen danger*;

employees of the Government of Canada and peace officers performing their duties or functions, persons assisting them, or persons that are present at the request of the Government of Canada;

persons undertaking certain activities, including scientific research, as authorized under either the Species at Risk Act, Marine Mammal Regulations, or Fishery (General) Regulations;

persons fishing for food, social or ceremonial purposes or for domestic purposes pursuant to a treaty within the meaning of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, in accordance with a licence issued under the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations; and

Indigenous persons exercising an existing right for non-commercial purposes, other than fishing, under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

* An immediate or unforeseen danger includes any situation in which weather, mechanical issues or collision risks require the vessel to go through the Interim sanctuary zone because that is the safest route or the quickest path to safety.

Interim Sanctuary Zones – Boundaries for Saturna Island, Pender Island, and Swiftsure Bank
(Described clockwise from the western boundary - all Latitudes are Decimal Degrees North; all Longitudes are Decimal Degrees West.)

Saturna Island

Start and end coordinates

Point Description

Latitude Deg

Latitude Min

Longitude Deg

Longitude Min

1

North Boundary of East Point (shoreline)

48

47.03

123

3.55

2

Tumbo Channel

48

47.30

123

3.00

3

Northwest Corner (Boiling Reef)

48

47.67

123

2.42

4

Northeast Corner (Boiling Reef)

48

47.55

123

2.00

5

Boundary Pass

48

46.93

123

2.67

6

Narvaez Bay Boundary Following the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS)

48

46.60

123

3.17

7

Narvaez Bay Boundary Following TSS

48

46.45

123

3.65

8

Southeast Corner (Narvaez Bay)

48

46.30

123

4.20

9

Southwest Corner (Narvaez Bay)

48

46.42

123

4.53

10

South Boundary of East Point (shoreline)

48

46.77

123

3.92

Pender Island

Start and end coordinates

Point Description

Latitude Deg

Latitude Min

Longitude Deg

Longitude Min

1

Southeast Boundary (Wallace Point)

48

44.17

123

13.90

2

Southwest Boundary (Swanson Channel)

48

44.17

123

15.55

3

Northwest Boundary (Swanson Channel)

48

46.05

123

19.52

4

Northeast Boundary (South of Thieves Bay)

48

46.05

123

18.38

Swiftsure Bank

Start and end coordinates

Point Description

Latitude Deg

Latitude Min

Longitude Deg

Longitude Min

1

Northwest Boundary

48

34.00

125

0.00

2

Northeast Boundary

48

34.00

124

54.20

3

Southeast Boundary

48

32.10

124

49.52

4

Southwest Boundary

48

32.10

125

1.84

Saturna Island and Pender Island Interim Sanctuary Zones

Swiftsure Bank Interim Sanctuary Zone

Authority: Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)