New guide aims to help ships re­duce the num­ber of whale col­li­sions in b.C. wa­ters

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - FRONT PAGE - Wanyee li

A new guide for ship crews aims to help ves­sels avoid col­li­sions with whales in B.C. wa­ters but wildlife ad­vo­cates say pol­i­cy­mak­ers need to step up in or­der to save en­dan­gered species.

The Mariners’ Guide, cre­ated in part­ner­ship with Port Van­cou­ver and Port of Prince Ru­pert, rec­om­mends that ships slow down by 10 knots in or­der to re­duce the chance of col­li­sion.

The guide aims to pro­tect marine an­i­mals and in­cludes tips on how to iden­tify the dif­fer­ent whales found off B.C.’s coast.

“We need to re­duce the im­pact as much as pos­si­ble be­tween ships and whales,” said An­drew Dum­b­rille, se­nior spe­cial­ist in sus­tain­able ship­ping at WWF Canada.

“Mariner guides are a good tool to ed­u­cate and bring aware­ness around these is­sues, but the next step is reg­u­la­tion and for en­force­ment of that reg­u­la­tion.”

There were 30 re­ported col­li­sions be­tween whales and boats in B.C. from 2004 to 2011, ac­cord­ing to the guide. But the ac­tual num­ber of col­li­sions is likely higher be­cause crews on large ves­sels are less likely to de­tect a col­li­sion, es­pe­cially if the whale is small, the guide adds.

A necropsy done on an en­dan­gered south­ern res­i­dent orca that was found near the Sun­shine Coast in De­cem­ber 2016 showed it suf­fered blunt­force trauma be­fore dy­ing.

Other en­dan­gered species that live along B.C.’s coast in­clude the blue whale, sei whale, north Pa­cific right whale, and leatherback sea tur­tle, ac­cord­ing to Van­cou­ver Aquar­ium’s guide for mariners.

Dum­b­rille, who helped put to­gether a sim­i­lar guide for ships trav­el­ling through the Hud­son Strait in Canada’s Arc­tic, says slow­ing down not only helps ships avoid col­lid­ing into whales, it also re­duces un­der­wa­ter noise pol­lu­tion. Ship-traf­fic noise af­fects whales be­cause they use echolo­ca­tion to nav­i­gate, hunt, and com­mu­ni­cate with each other, he ex­plained.

“It re­ally dis­rupts for­ag­ing,

we need to re­duce the im­pact as much as pos­si­ble. An­drew dum­b­rille

calv­ing, and so­cial habi­tat of whales. They just can’t hear and they can’t com­mu­ni­cate.”

Dum­b­rille ap­plauded a Port of Van­cou­ver ini­tia­tive that re­duces port fees for crews who re­duce the noise their ves­sels make as they ap­proach the har­bour. The Port of Van­cou­ver also main­tains un­der­wa­ter mi­cro­phones that pro­vide data to re­searchers study­ing the ef­fect noise pol­lu­tion has on whales.

With the loom­ing threat of in­creased tanker traf­fic along B.C.’s coast due to the Kinder Mor­gan pipe­line ex­pan­sion, wildlife ad­vo­cates have called for re­stric­tions on oil tankers.

But large ships are a re­al­ity for many com­mu­ni­ties, Dum­b­rille pointed out. He wants Trans­port Canada to cre­ate ‘quiet zones’ in cer­tain parts of the ocean im­por­tant to whale pop­u­la­tions. The au­thor­ity should also en­force speed lim­its in those ar­eas, he said.

“It’s not like we can do with­out ship­ping,” he said.

“We just have to do it right and put in the right rules.”

ElainE Thomp­son/ThE as­so­ci­aTEd prEss


There have been at least 30 col­li­sions be­tween whales and ves­sels in B.C. from 2004 to 2011, ac­cord­ing to the Van­cou­ver Aquar­ium’s mariners guide.

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