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Southern Resident Killer Whale Symposium

October 10-12, 2017
Vancouver, British Columbia

What We Heard Report


The Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) is an endangered population under Canada's Species at Risk Act. It is considered to be at risk because of its small population size (now at 76 individuals), low reproductive rate, and a variety of threats caused by human activity that have the potential to prevent recovery or to cause further declines. Principal among these threats are reductions in the availability or quality of prey, physical and acoustic disturbance and environmental contaminants.

The Government of Canada is committed to the protection and recovery of the SRKW, which is an iconic species of Canada's West Coast, and one that holds significant cultural value for Indigenous peoples.

In November 2016, the Government of Canada announced the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, which includes a commitment to address threats to at-risk marine mammal populations, including the SRKW. Through face-to-face and online engagement, the Government of Canada has been working with key stakeholders and Indigenous groups over the past several months to advance the understanding of threats to the SRKW population. To further this commitment, the Government of Canada will build on the extensive work already done to date and develop a strategy to address these threats in support of the species’ recovery.

The SRKW Symposium on October 11-12, 2017, in Vancouver, British Columbia, was a key milestone in contributing to the collective understanding of the threats facing the SRKW and the actions needed for their protection and recovery. The symposium was supported by technical sessions on the primary threats to the SRKW, held on October 10, 2017.

The symposium objectives were to:

  1. Ensure that all interested parties have a full understanding of the most recent science on the SRKW and understand the short, medium and long-term challenges with potential solutions that address the threats to this population;
  2. Promote further dialogue to improve our shared understanding of the complex issues and collective responsibilities among stakeholders with respect to the protection and recovery of the SRKW; and,
  3. Identify the relationships, partnerships and governance elements required to protect and recover the SRKW by taking into account the prospective roles and responsibilities, and cooperative research opportunities.

The symposium drew in 329 registered delegates from all levels of Canadian government, U.S. state and federal governments, academia, non-governmental organizations, industry, and Indigenous communities.

This report provides a summary of “What We Heard” from delegates and speakers at the symposium, so that all interested parties have the context needed to contribute to solutions going forward.

Discussions resulted in a number of concrete suggestions that the Government of Canada can undertake with the help of its partners to move beyond mitigation towards population stabilization and rebuilding. Delegates presented many and varied views over the course of the symposium, with a strong consensus established on the following:

As part of our commitment to the SRKW, we will work with all stakeholders and Indigenous groups to develop a path forward with key actions for the immediate and longer-term protection of this important and iconic species.

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