FBC Facilitation Support
Port of Vancouver ECHO Program
The Fraser Basin Council serves as a facilitator for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s program called Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO). Launched in 2014, ECHO is aimed at better understanding and reducing the cumulative effects of shipping on whales on the southern coast of British Columbia.
As whales and ships share the same waters, many of the ships calling at the Port of Vancouver travel through critical habitat of the endangered southern resident killer whales, as well as through other areas of importance to whales such as the northern resident killer whales and humpback, fin, blue and sei whales.
Many different organizations operate commercial vessels within the port’s jurisdiction. The ECHO program takes a collaborative approach to addressing and understanding the cumulative effects of vessel activity on whales.
The program involves Canadian and US partners and advisors from across government agencies, the marine transportation industry, Indigenous communities and environmental groups. It is guided by the advice and input of an advisory working group and associated technical committees.
The ECHO program has run three underwater noise reduction initiatives, which include voluntary seasonal ship slow-down and distancing trials in key areas of southern resident killer whale habitat. In 2021 these measures were shown to reduce underwater sound intensity by up to 55% in key foraging areas for killer whales. In 2022 86% of all large commercial ships had slowed down or stayed distanced from whales in the seasonal (June-October) period while moving through key areas of southern resident killer whale critical habitat — at Swiftsure Bank, Haro Strait and Boundary Pass and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Over 80 marine transportation entities participated in these measures.
Learn more about the project at Port of Vancouver ECHO program.