Language selection

Search

Review of the Effectiveness of Recovery Measures for Southern Resident Killer Whales

Review of Recovery Measures

Review of the Effectiveness of Recovery Measures for Southern Resident Killer Whales

Review of the Effectiveness of Recovery Measures for Southern Resident Killer Whales (PDF, 1.36 MB)

Table of Contents

5.0 Review of Recovery Measures

5.1 Identified Threats and Broad Strategies

Killer Whales are long lived animals with a long maturation time. Consequently, outcomes of threat abatement could take years before a measureable effect on the population trajectory is realized and it is challenging to causally link the achievements, or lack thereof, of a particular Recovery Measure to a specific measurable population outcome for SRKWs in short time periods. In the short term, measures are assessed in terms of their efficacy at reducing threats to the population. The 2011 Recovery Strategy identifies three major threats to SRKWs and these remain major threats today (Table 1).

Table 1 – Threats to the recovery of SRKWs as identified in the 2011 Recovery Strategy.

Threat Summary Description Occurrence Level of concern
Reduced prey availability Resident Killer Whale mortality rates (Ford et al. 2010a) and fecundity (Ward et al. 2009) are correlated with coast-wide Chinook abundance, the primary prey species from May through September. While winter prey of Resident Killer Whales are still not well understood, Chum Salmon are identified as being seasonally important to Resident Killer Whale populations. Factors such as habitat degradation and poor marine survival continue to negatively affect wild salmon populations. Current High
Disturbance Both physical and acoustic disturbance, from chronic or acute sources, can affect Killer Whales, though the long-term effects of disturbance are unknown. Vessel traffic (both commercial and recreational), industrial activities (including dredging, drilling, and construction), seismic testing and military sonar all have the potential to disturb Resident Killer Whales. Current High
Environmental Contaminants Chemical pollutants, including PCBs, DDT, PBDEs, dioxins, and other POPs, are found in high levels in RKWs, and are linked to reproductive impairment, immunosuppression, endocrine disruption, cancer in other mammalian and by weight of evidence in Resident Killer Whales.
Biological pollutants, including pathogens and antibiotic-resistant bacteria resulting from human activities or exotic species, may also threaten the health of Resident Killer Whales, their habitat or their prey.
Current High

The 2011 Recovery Strategy also identifies objectives for recovery of SRKWs, three of which (2-4) are aimed at abating threats:

  1. Monitor and refine knowledge of Resident Killer Whale population and distribution in Canadian Pacific waters.
  2. Ensure that Resident Killer Whales have an adequate and accessible food supply to allow recovery.
  3. Ensure that disturbance from human activities does not prevent the recovery of Resident Killer Whales.
  4. Ensure that chemical and biological pollutants do not prevent the recovery of Resident Killer Whale populations.
  5. Protect critical habitat for Resident Killer Whales and identify additional areas for critical habitat designation and protection.

These objectives formed the basis of the five Broad Strategies described in the Action Plan, and provided a framework for the development of the 98 specific recovery measures.

5.2 A Review of Recovery Measures

To support a detailed assessment of the effectiveness of recovery actions, Table 2 lists the 98 specific Recovery Measure from the Action Plan along with a brief summary of key achievements that can be associated or align with each measure since 2003.

Table 2. Recovery Measures currently identified in the Action Plan for the Southern Resident Killer Whale population in Canada (DFO 2017). Measures are organized under their associated Broad Strategy. “Priority” refers to the priority assigned in the Action Plan. “Threat” refers to the threats that may be reduced by a particular measure, as identified in the Action Plan. In many cases one measure is expected to address more than one threat. The status of each Recovery Measure is assigned “Completed” (the recovery measure, as currently written and in its entirety, describes an activity or task that was completed at a certain time in the past), “Underway”(the recovery measure, as currently written and in its entirety, contains multiple elements, some of which have been completed and others that have not) or “Ongoing” (the recovery measure describes an activity or a task that needs to reoccur at some regular interval or that takes place on a continuum, and likely never has an end date;), “Not started”(a situation where, to our knowledge, no actions have been undertaken) or “Uncertain”(a situation where effort was made to find information on the status of the recovery measure but no information was found in the timeframe of this review). Recovery Measures are also numbered according to the number assigned in the Action Plan. These are retained for ease of cross referencing between this document and the Action Plan. Achievements listed are examples of activities associated with a measure, but the list may not be exhaustive.

# Recovery Measures Priority Threats Status of activities Achievements
1 Undertake an annual census to monitor and assess Resident Killer Whale population dynamics (multi-species ship surveys and dedicated vessel surveys). High Prey availability
Disturbance
Contaminants
Ongoing DFO provides regular census data (photo-identifications) to the Center for Whale Research, the NOAA-supported organization that maintains updated information on the population demographics of SRKW.
2 Estimate the carrying capacity of Resident Killer Whale habitat (population modeling). High Prey availability Not started
3 Examine indicators of (salmon) aggregation to identify potential Resident Killer Whale foraging areas (e.g. salmon fishing effort, catch success). High Prey availability Ongoing  Salmon stock assessment work led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) provides information on the annual abundance and distribution of salmon in SRKW habitat.
4 Identify features that define "quality" prey for Resident Killer Whales and determine a means of assessment (e.g. length, age, caloric value, lipid content, contaminant load). Medium Prey availability Underway Previous DFO studies have shown that RKWs typically forage selectively for large prey. They target 4-5 year old Chinook that weigh 8-13 kg and when foraging on chum salmon select large individuals (4.0-5.5 kg) (Ford and Ellis 2005, 2006). Ongoing prey sampling efforts with SRKWs by DFO are continuing to monitor features of prey quality. Further studies of caloric value, lipid content and contaminant load of SRKW prey have not yet been initiated.
5 Assess the quality of identified prey species on an annual basis. Medium Prey availability Not started
6 Take into account both the seasonal (acute) as well as the cumulative (chronic) effects of poor returns for Chinook and other important prey species on Resident Killer Whales when managing fisheries. High Prey availability Not started
7 Investigate the benefits of strategic salmon fishery planning approaches and management actions to reduce Resident Killer Whale prey competition in specific feeding areas (e.g. modeling, retention limits, fishery area boundary adjustments or closures), and implement where appropriate. High Prey availability Underway In 2017, DFO initiated efforts to better identify and characterize key foraging areas for SRKWs within their critical habitat as a first step towards implementing this measure.
8 Evaluate the potential impacts of disturbance and prey competition from fisheries on foraging success in key Resident Killer Whale foraging areas. High Prey availability Underway In 2017, DFO initiated efforts to better identify and characterize key foraging areas for SRKWs within their critical habitat as a first step towards implementing this measure.
9 Develop and implement reporting systems for the fishing sectors that improve salmonid catch, release, and retention data to more accurately portray potential fishery impacts. High Prey availability Ongoing DFO collects fishery catch and release information for First Nations, Recreational and Commercial fisheries, stores this information in Departmental databases and reports out on these data annually during post-season reviews. DFO is also reviewing these activities as part of the plan for implementing the Strategic Framework for Fishery Monitoring and Catch Reporting in Pacific Region Fisheries.
18 Identify year round Resident Killer Whale distribution and diet using acoustic monitoring and dedicated vessel surveys. High Prey availability Ongoing Acoustic monitoring, on-the-water vessel encounters and assessment of movements from tagged animals have and are being undertaken by DFO, NOAA and ENGOs (Ford et al. in press; Hanson et al. 2013). SRKWs concentrate their activity in the Salish Sea June to November. In addition to the Salish Sea, all SRKW spend a relatively large proportion of time off the outer coasts of Washington coast and Vancouver Island, but detections of J pod were almost exclusively farther north than K and L pods. K and L pods were briefly detected off California in 2011. Passive acoustic recorders have been deployed by DFO in northern Strait of Georgia in 2016 and2017 to monitor winter use of area by SRKW and ambient noise.
19 Further identify Resident Killer Whales' prey preferences (species/size/sex/stock). High Prey availability Ongoing Current knowledge indicates Chinook salmon of primarily Fraser River origin are the preferred prey of SRKW. Chum and coho salmon are of secondary importance (J. Ford et al. 2010b; Hanson et al. 2010b; M. Ford et al. 2016). Recent DFO studies of SRKW diet off the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait have identified further species and Chinook stock identity (Ford et al. in press).
20 Incorporate aboriginal traditional knowledge (ATK) on the behavior and distribution of Resident Killer Whales and their prey into measures for the recovery of the species. Medium Prey availability
Disturbance
Noise pollution
Not started
21 Undertake a catch per unit effort assessment of Resident Killer Whale foraging effort and success rate to provide information on foraging areas and inform management decisions. High Prey availability Not started
22 Continue to investigate the role of abundance of Chinook and other important salmonid prey species in the population dynamics of the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whale populations. High Prey availability Ongoing KW survival and calving rates have been studied and correlate with Chinook abundance index over long term (Ford et al. 2010a; Ward et al 2009; Noren 2011).
Killer whale energy requirements based on summer occupancy and proportion of the diet that is estimated to come from Chinook salmon for the SRKW population is modelled to be ~59,000 Chinook (Williams et al. 2011).
23 Assess seasonal and inter-annual changes in body condition and growth of Resident Killer Whales and refine the relationship between prey abundance to inform management actions in support of prey availability. High Prey availability Ongoing Photogrammetry studies to measure body condition of 69 SRKWs were conducted in 2008 and again in 2013 (Fearnbach et al. 2011). A decline in body condition was noted in 2013 compared to 2008; of the 12 SRKW identified as pregnant based on breadth measurements in 2013, only 2 were subsequently seen with a calf (Fearnbach et al. 2015). On-going photogrammetry efforts by NOAA and the Vancouver Aquarium in 2014-16 have documented body condition of SRKW and NRKW (Matkin et al. 2017). Formal linkage to prey abundance had not yet been conducted.
24 Assess the potential impact of prey competition between Southern Resident Killer Whales, Northern Resident Killer Whales and other salmonid predators. High Prey availability Underway Use of important SRKW habitat on Swiftsure Bank by NRKWs was recently quantified through passive acoustic monitoring by DFO (Ford et al. in press). Assessment of potential impact of competition not yet undertaken.
25 Continue to monitor abundance, distribution and age specific composition of Chinook and other important salmonid prey species. High Prey availability Ongoing DFO conducts annual stock assessment activities for several Fraser River Chinook populations through a range of activities including in-season abundance estimates based on test fishery catch and post-season assessments, using a variety of methods including coded-wire tag analysis, mark-recapture methods, electronic counters, fence counts, and visual surveys (DFO 2014).
Stocks of Chinook from the west and east coasts of Vancouver Island region are also assessed using specific runs as indicators of marine survival and adult escapement (DFO 2015a).
Puget Sound Chinook Salmon are listed as threatened under the US ESA and are assessed regularly by NOAA/NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service 2011a).
26 Identify and monitor natural and anthropogenic factors affecting Resident Killer Whale prey over the long term (e.g. climate change, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, El Niño). High Prey availability Ongoing DFO conducts annual reviews of factors affecting ocean ecosystems through the State of the Ocean series of seminars and related technical reports. An independent science panel review of the threats to Chinook salmon was conducted in 2013 as part of the Southern BC Chinook Integrated Strategic Planning Initiative (Riddell et al. 2013).
27 Form a transboundary working group of representatives from DFO, NOAA, as well as other technical experts to ensure that Resident Killer Whale needs are considered in the management of fisheries (e.g. Canada's Policy for Conservation of Wild Salmon, Pacific Salmon Treaty). High Prey availability Underway A series of workshops was held in 2011/2012 to assess the impacts of Chinook Salmon fisheries on SRKW recovery. The Independent Science Panel that conducted the review found strong evidence of SRKW dependence on Chinook during summer; however, they were skeptical that reduced Chinook salmon harvesting would have a large impact on the abundance of Chinook salmon available to SRKW. The panel recommended that future research focus on further exploring the relationship between SRKW and Chinook (Hilborn et al. 2012).
A coordination meeting was held in March 2017 between NOAA and DFO Science to develop collaborations regarding future SRKW recovery actions, including monitoring of SRKW food requirements and prey availability.
28 Protect and preserve the freshwater habitat of important Resident Killer Whale prey stocks. High Prey availability  Ongoing DFO's Wild Salmon Policy (2005) was designed to support efforts that could lead to rebuilding of stocks, including those in the salmon's freshwater habitat. The current draft Southern BC Chinook Strategic Planning Initiative provides strategic direction for addressing threats to southern BC Chinook.
29 Continue to implement and support salmon recovery plans (e.g. Canada's Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon, Puget Sound Chinook Recovery Plan). High Prey availability Ongoing Such efforts are underway as part of the Southern BC Chinook Strategic Planning Initiative, the COSEWIC assessment (2017-18) and the Canadian Wild Salmon Policy (2005)
30 Continue to assess the potential impact of salmon enhancement and aquaculture operations on Resident Killer Whales, both directly and through effects on wild salmon populations, and develop actions to mitigate such effects, should impacts be detected. Medium Prey availability Underway Concerns have been expressed about potential risks to "wild" populations associated with high hatchery proportions in the enhanced populations, because it implies a correspondingly low proportion of wild salmon. There is also concern about the extensiveness of straying of hatchery fish into "wild" unenhanced populations all of which has implications for genetic diversity of wild chinook stocks. At this time, however, SRKWs appear to feed primarily on the following Fraser River stocks: the Middle-Upper Fraser River, Thompson River, and Lower Fraser CU groups. In these stocks, hatchery programs have been reduced to levels where risk is small. (Hilborn et al. 2013).
88 Use historical fishing records to identify potential Resident Killer Whale feeding areas. Medium Prey availability Underway Analyses of historic and recent Chinook fishing records relative to SRKW and NRKW distribution was initiated by DFO in 2017
89 Analyze historical data to identify environmental correlates with Chinook abundance and Resident Killer Whale mortality trends. Medium Prey availability Underway As noted in 88 above
10 Investigate the benefits of management actions (e.g. protected areas, fishery area boundary adjustments or closures) to protect important foraging and beach rubbing locations such as Robson Bight and other identified areas, and implement where appropriate. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Prey availability
Underway Study design has been initiated for assessment of fishing impacts in SRKW foraging locations and to assess disturbance responses of NRKWs at rubbing beaches. Field work to begin summer 2017. All results can be applied to SRKWs to provide insights into the effects of noise and physical disturbance on the population and may inform management actions.
11 Assess cumulative effects of potential anthropogenic impacts on Resident Killer Whales using an appropriate impact assessment framework for aquatic species. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Not started
12 Develop and recommend implementation of best practices, guidelines, regulations, or other measures to minimize or eliminate physical and acoustic disturbance to Resident Killer Whales. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Ongoing Amendments to the Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations have been drafted and are pending approval Tourism industry associations operate according to updated codes of conduct/Best Practices Guidelines (PWWA 2014).
New vessel regulations around killer whales in the inland waters of Washington State were implemented in 2011 prohibit vessels from approaching within 200 yards of killer whales and from positioning within 400 yards of the path of killer whales (Protective Regulations for KW 2011)
13 Prioritize on-water enforcement efforts for compliance with legal protections for Resident Killer Whales and their habitat. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Prey availability
Ongoing Since 2003, there have been four successful convictions of individuals charged by DFO with disturbing killer whales under the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act. Numerous warnings have already been issued to boaters found to be potentially in non-compliance with whale watching guidelines.
14 Support Resident Killer Whale recovery during the planning, development, and implementation of marine protected areas by contributing to prey availability and threat abatement. Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Prey availability
Underway DFO Science has identified an area of special importance to SRKW off southwestern Vancouver Island and has recommended this area for designation and protection as additional critical habitat for SRKW (Ford et al. in press; DFO 2017).
15 Institute a communications plan around the Marine Mammal Regulations and ensure the message is transboundary. Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Not started (New Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act have not yet been finalized)
31 Expand transboundary coverage of calibrated hydrophones to quantify ocean noise budget throughout Resident Killer Whale range, giving priority to improving and utilizing existing hydrophone networks. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway Several initiatives are underway or completed, including:
Ocean noise workshop led by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2012 with transboundary participation. Actions identified included establishing baseline ocean noise levels and scenarios of possible change, integrating hydrophone networks and informing the placement for further hydrophones, as well as providing policy recommendations for noise mitigation (Heise and Alidina 2012).
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority's ECHO program including its Acoustic Working Group has coordinated and supported expanded acoustic monitoring of SRKW habitat in Canadian and US waters
MEOPAR-funded the NEMES (Noise Exposure to Marine Ecosystems from Ships) project at University of Victoria to assessing ambient noise in the Salish Sea
A coordination meeting was held in March 2017 between NOAA and DFO Science to develop collaborations regarding future SRKW recovery actions, including the identification of efforts to monitor underwater noise in future.
32 Standardize protocols and methodologies for data analysis, data presentation, and archiving of acoustic information obtained from hydrophones in the Resident Killer Whale range. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway Initial steps to address this were taken at the WWF workshop held in 2012 (Heise and Alidina 2012). More recent initiatives have included participations of partners such as ONC, ECHO, and JASCO.
33 Investigate Resident Killer Whale use of marine Navy ranges, geographically and temporally in order to help inform decisions around Naval exercise planning. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway DFO Marine Mammal Research deploys hydrophones in the Strait of Georgia to monitor whale vocalization and anthropogenic noise, including naval operations. Particular focus is being applied to monitoring SRKW use of the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Range (CFMETR) in central Strait of Georgia through on-water and acoustic monitoring.
34 Link hydrophone-detected noise events with vessel presence using the Automatic Identification System (AIS) for real time detection of acoustic disturbance in Resident Killer Whale critical habitat, and implement a response mechanism to mitigate potential impacts. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority's ECHO program has this as a goal and has made progress including setting up a system near the Port of Vancouver where the noise of individual ships can be monitored and linked to their AIS information. Similar efforts are also being undertaken through an Innovation Canada-funded pilot study involving Ocean Sonics Ltd and DFO Pacific Marine Mammal Management. This Whale Tracking Network (WTN) program involves development of a real-time detection system for SRKW in key areas within Canadian critical habitat. This will involve integration with AIS information on vessel presence and noise.
35 Undertake systematic monitoring of ambient noise records for non-vessel related acute acoustic events that may cause harm to Resident Killer Whales. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Not started
36 Compile metadata on acoustic recordings from existing archives and current available sources (e.g. Navy, government agencies, individuals, consultants); identify format, calibration, temporal and spatial distribution, data gaps, and data collection protocols. Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway This measure was initiated by DFO in 2016 through collaboration with ONC and JASCO.
37 Undertake behavioural studies of Resident Killer Whales in the winter months. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Prey availability
Ongoing Studies are underway to collect these data using acoustic monitoring, by tracking of tagged whales and opportunistic boat-based encounters with SRKWs. (Ford et al. in press; Hanson et al. 2013)
38 Utilize D-tag data to create a 3D model of the Resident Killer Whale's immediate (received) acoustic environment. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway SMRU Canada modelled received noise levels from D-tag data collected by DFO from NRKW; results can be applied to the SRKWs as well.
39 Develop an acoustic model that incorporates effects of increasing ambient noise levels on communication signals of Resident Killer Whales. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway Several studies have estimated the effect of noise on SRKW communication space, vocal behaviour and echolocation masking (e.g. Erbe 2002; Au et al. 2004; Holt et al. 2009, 2011; Williams et al. 2014b).
40 Continue and expand existing behavioural monitoring programs involving vessel/whale interactions and increase support for data analysis and publication. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway There have been a number of peer-reviewed publication completed that report on these studies (e.g. Lusseau et al. 2009; Noren et al. 2009). Further studies are underway.
41 Maintain and improve the existing 24 hour hotline (BCMMRN/ORR) for acoustic incidents as a mechanism for timely response. Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Ongoing The 24-hour hotline and BC Marine Mammal Response Network continues but has yet to receive resources for improvement.
42 Increase transboundary communication of research methods and objectives to address disturbance issues with counterpart agencies in the US. Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway A coordination meeting was held in March 2017 between NOAA and DFO Science to develop collaborations regarding future SRKW recovery actions, including research and management of disturbance issues.
43 Improve interagency communication and coordination to ensure that new activities, projects and developments that may impact Resident Killer Whales are identified, and appropriate mitigation measures are developed and implemented (e.g. Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Fisheries Protection Program). High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway The new Oceans Protection Program announced in late 2016 has facilitated communication and coordination between DFO, TC and other agencies related to the mitigation of impacts from industrial projects and developments.
44 Review operational impacts of existing activities, projects and developments that may have acute or cumulative impact on Resident Killer Whales and work with stakeholders to develop and apply appropriate mitigation measures. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Ongoing The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority's ECHO program is contributing to this by supporting assessments of underwater shipping noise in the Salish Sea and its potential impacts, as well as potential means of mitigating noise exposure. ECHO involves representatives from DFO, TC, NOAA and various industry stakeholders and other agencies.
45 Encourage the development and use of methodologies that mitigate acoustic impacts (e.g. bubble curtains, ship quieting technologies). High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Ongoing The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority's ECHO program is contributing to this by supporting initiatives aimed at mitigating noise produced by shipping.
46 Review and improve 1) thresholds for disturbance and injury, and 2) measures to mitigate marine mammal impacts from acute noise (e.g. seismic surveys, sonar use, pile driving and at-sea detonation); and implement through inclusion in Standards and Statements of Practice (e.g. Naval Orders, Statement of Canadian Practice with respect to the Mitigation of Seismic Sound in the Marine Environment). High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway The Statement of Canadian Practices with respect to the Mitigation of Seismic Sound in the Marine Environment (DFO 2008) was reviewed in 2014 to determine its adequacy for avoiding prohibited impacts on SARA-listed cetacean species. Several recommendations were made for methods to increase the effectiveness of current mitigation measures (DFO 2015b). No changes to the SOCP have occurred as a result of these reviews.
Acoustic threshold levels for avoiding temporary and permanent hearing threshold shifts were updated for marine mammals in American waters in 2013 (NOAA Fisheries 2013).
47 Develop a means to assess individual ship noise and determine response strategies as necessary. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority's ECHO program is focused on understanding and mitigating the impacts of commercial vessel activities on at-risk whales off the southern BC coast. Goals include identifying vessel source levels and developing mitigation measures such as voluntary slow zones (Port of Vancouver 2017).
48 Develop a communication strategy to inform foreign vessel operators of the Canadian legislation protecting marine mammals and Canadian acoustic mitigation protocols. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway A Mariner's Guide recently developed in partnership between the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Prince Rupert Port and the Vancouver Aquarium is targeted at large vessel mariners and aims to inform them about the cetacean species along the B.C. coast, threats to these animals that may be associated with large vessels and shipping, and how mariners can minimize these threats (Mariner's Guide 2016).
49 Investigate area-specific shipping and boating guidelines and/or regulations (e.g., speed restrictions, vessel traffic routes and scheduling) that reduce acoustic impact as well as risk of collision in Resident Killer Whale habitat. Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Prey availability
Underway The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority's ECHO program is focused on understanding and mitigating the impacts of commercial vessel activities on at-risk whales off the southern BC coast. Goals include identifying vessel source levels and developing mitigation measures such as voluntary slow zones (Port of Vancouver 2017).
50 Improve boater education and tourism programs using the latest marine mammal regulations and guidelines (e.g. boater courses; marine safety courses, fishing licenses, vessel registration and licensing courses). Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway An ENGO, Soundwatch, promotes Be Whale Wise guidelines though on-water boater education programs in northern Washington State waters.
ENGOs conducted on-water boater education programs funded by DFO in Canadian waters of the SRKWs habitat 2001 to 2006 and then 2011 to 2014.
DFO fisheries officers provide information about whale watching guidelines to stakeholders, members of the fishing industry, and members of the public
51 Promote awareness of, and compliance with, guidelines and regulations to reduce acoustic impacts and vessel interactions (e.g. Be Whale Wise guidelines, stewardship programs, on-the-water education). Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway An ENGO, Soundwatch, promotes Be Whale Wise guidelines though on-water boater education programs in northern Washington State waters.
ENGOs conducted on-water boater education programs funded by DFO in Canadian waters of the SRKWs habitat 2001 to 2006 and then 2011 to 2014.
DFO fisheries officers provide information about whale watching guidelines to stakeholders, members of the fishing industry, and members of the public.
52 Investigate new methodologies and technologies to aid in compliance and enforcement of Marine Mammal Regulations and SARA. Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
 Underway (New Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act have not yet been finalized)
Since 2014, DFO has collaborated on an Innovation Canada project to implement a whale-tracking network using hydrophones in southern B.C. waters. (P. Cottrell pers. comm. 2017).
53 Ensure that the development and delivery of SARA enforcement training for DFO fishery officers includes content from whale experts. Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
54 Evaluate and revise whale watching guidelines and/or regulations to reflect most recent understanding of effects of chronic physical disturbance. Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Not started
55 Evaluate the efficacy of a license program and conditions for commercial whale watching as a means of mitigating potential disturbance (e.g. training standards for boat operators and naturalists, number and/or type of vessels, standard of practice). Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
56 Promote responsible advertising and documentaries that reflect the Be Whale Wise guidelines and demonstrate appropriate viewing practices. Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
90 Research the effects of other vessel-based impacts (e.g. fish finders, air quality issues related to engine exhaust, disposal of waste and bilge water). Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Environ. contaminant
Underway Atmospheric dispersion modeling was used to estimate SRKW exposure to exhaust gases from whale watching vessels; threshold doses of these gases were estimated for SRKW. Results indicated that there are situations where the concentrations of pollutants inhaled by SRKW may be causing adverse health effects (Lachmuth et al. 2011).
91 Develop a means of differentiating nutritional vs. disturbance-induced stress (via hormone response and other methods). Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway Fecal thyroid and glucocorticoid hormone levels were tested from SRKW fecal samples to assess the threats of prey limitation and disturbance on this population. Declines in fecal thyroid levels were observed in summer months. These could reflect changes in nutritional status, as well as responses to stress, photoperiod and temperature (Matkin et al. 2017).
92 Expand the Whale Wise flag program to notify other mariners when whales have been observed in order to reduce risk of collision and acoustic disturbance. Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
93 Improve public awareness of recovery activities for Resident Killer Whales through Parks Canada Agency's educational programs (e.g. the BC Ferries Coastal Naturalist Program). Medium Disturbance
Noise pollution
Prey availability
Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
57 Investigate diseases in stranded Resident Killer Whales and identify those caused by biological pollution (e.g. viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites). High Environ. contaminant Ongoing A review of pathology data of all Killer Whales that have stranded between 2002 and 2014 is underway, led by S. Raverty.
Necropsy protocols for Killer Whales have been updated; goals of the revised protocols include improving understanding of disease in Killer Whales and of the effects of contaminants and heavy metals on Killer Whale health (Raverty et al. 2014).
58 Collate and summarize information on marine mammal necropsy and disease reports. High Environ. contaminant Ongoing In a review of Killer Whale strandings along the west coast of North America from 2005-2010, disease was not identified as the cause of death for any RKWs; however, two Killer Whales (one Offshore and one Transient) were diagnosed with bacterial infections (Gaydos and Raverty 2010).
59 Evaluate the type and level of risk of biological pollutants from agricultural runoff, sewage effluent, wildlife rehabilitation facilities and other sources. High Environ. contaminant  Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
60 Investigate and monitor priority pathogens of concern in marine mammals as a means to identify risk to Resident Killer Whales (e.g. Morbillivirus spp.). Medium Environ. contaminant Ongoing SRKW exhaled breath samples have been analyzed to identify normal microbial flora, as well as pathologies in the respiratory tracts of these whales (Raverty et al. 2017).
61 Conduct research in support of evaluating risks associated with disposal at sea operations in coastal waters (e.g. with a focus on emerging concerns such as PBDEs). Medium Environ. contaminant Underway Sediment samples collected from disposal at sea sites at Point Grey and Sand Heads in 2010 were analyzed for PCBs, PBDEs, PCDDs, PCDFs, providing a baseline for future assessments (Ross et al. 2011).
Current Ocean Disposal Rejection/Screening Limits were evaluated to determine if they are sufficient to protect RKW critical habitat. Current CEPA Action Level exceeds the PCB levels recommended to protect RKWs from bioaccumulation of PCBs. A sediment concentration range was derived that would protect 95% of RKWs (Lachmuth et al. 2010).
Results of the above study resulted in development of Standard Operation Procedures' by ECCC and DFO in order to address risk associated with dredging and disposal of sediment materials in SRKW critical habitat.
PBDEs are not currently examined in ocean disposal assessments and should be because if even the current sediment quality guidelines available in Canada for PCBs are applied to PBDEs, it can be expected that PBDE concentrations in killer whales will exceed available toxicity reference values by a large margin (Alava et al 2016).
62 Quantify the background levels of natural and anthropogenic hydrocarbons to provide a baseline for assessing spill impacts in Resident Killer Whale habitat. High Environ. contaminant Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
63 Identify and monitor contaminants of concern (e.g. flame retardants, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, PBTs, hydrocarbons), and conduct a risk-based assessment of different chemicals of concern in Resident Killer Whales, their prey, and their habitat. High Environ. contaminant Ongoing Current and historical concentrations of PCBs and PBDEs were modeled in individual SRKW; future concentrations of these contaminants were predicted.
PCB concentrations not predicted to increase significantly over time, but PBDEs were predicted to increase over time and with age, with a doubling time of 3-4 years.
J pod had highest predicted concentrations of both PCBs and PBDEs (Mongillo et al. 2012).
POP concentrations in Chinook Salmon from British Columbia (BC) and WA were measured; the more southerly Chinook sampled had the highest concentrations of PCBs, PCDDs, PCDFs, and DDT. One of the four stocks sampled exceeded CCME tissue residue guidelines for the protection of mammalian wildlife consumers of aquatic biota, and another stock was approaching these guidelines (Cullon et al. 2009).
In 2015, the Vancouver Aquarium initiated "PollutionTracker," a monitoring framework with 51 stations along the coast of B.C. to provide coast-wide information about contaminant levels, types of contaminants, and response to regulations. Contaminant data are collected from sediment and mussels and will be analyzed and reported on every three years (P. Ross, pers. comm. 2017).
64 Evaluate contaminant concentration trends in Resident Killer Whales, based on both published and new measurements of different contaminants. High Environ. contaminant Ongoing A peer-reviewed publication reviewed findings from analyses of SRKW biopsy samples and found that levels of some POPs were higher in juveniles than in adult males, and that almost all sampled SRKW exceeded the threshold for PCB-related health effects for marine mammals (Krahn et al. 2009).
A series of workshops were conducted in 2013; topics included PBDE modeling in Puget Sound and the need to establish a PBDE toxicological threshold for SRKW.

Knowledge gaps toward establishing this threshold were identified and recommendations were made for future research to address these gaps (Gockel and Mongillo 2013).
The following is underway: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/rp-pr/ncag-gncc/projects-projets/014-eng.html. Health risk-based evaluation of emerging pollutants in killer whales (Orcinus orca): priority-setting in support of recovery.
65 Develop a monitoring program for pathogens and biological pollutants to evaluate long-term trends in Resident Killer Whales and their prey. High Environ. contaminant Underway A review of pathology data of all Killer Whales that have stranded between 2002 and 2014 is underway (Raverty pers. comm. 2015).
Necropsy protocols for Killer Whales have been updated; goals of the revised protocols include improving understanding of disease in Killer Whales and of the effects of contaminants and heavy metals on Killer Whale health (Raverty et al. 2014).
66 Undertake a workshop to identify source of persistent bioaccumulative contaminants presenting a risk to Resident Killer Whales. High Environ. contaminant Underway A series of workshops hosted by NOAA and the EPA were conducted in 2013; topics included PBDE modeling in Puget Sound and the need to establish a PBDE toxicological threshold for SRKW. Knowledge gaps toward establishing this threshold were identified and recommendations were made for future research to address these gaps (Gockel and Mongillo 2013)
The 2016–18 Biennial Science Work Plan of the Puget Sound Partnership Science Panel, includes numerous activities targeted at contaminants In marine, nearshore and Chinook salmon in Puget Sound
67 Undertake a workshop to identify source of biological pollutants presenting a risk to Resident Killer Whales. High Environ. contaminant Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
68 Collate information on remediation efforts for land-based PCBs. High Environ. contaminant Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
69 Work with the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan (FCSAP) to evaluate the potential contribution of persistent environmental contaminants to the contamination of Resident Killer Whale habitat. High Environ. contaminant  Not started
70 Pursue an interagency contaminants working group to identify roles and responsibilities with respect to potential impacts of contaminants on Resident Killer Whales and their environment. Environ. contaminant
71 Incorporate knowledge of distribution, foraging behavior and contaminant bioaccumulation in Resident Killer Whales into pesticide and chemical regulation development and implementation overseen by provincial agencies, Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada Environ. contaminant Ongoing Although not specific to the Southern Resident Killer Whale or their prey, the potential for bioaccumulation in organisms is assessed for all pesticides (new and re-evaluation) and for industrial chemical risk assessments as required under existing policies and regulations.
72 Determine the efficacy of regulations for PBDEs under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) taking into account trends in indicator species in Resident Killer Whale habitat, and develop additional source control strategies if warranted. High Environ. contaminant Underway DFO is supporting performance measurement through a health risk-based evaluation of emerging pollutants in killer whales to help priority-setting in support of recovery: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/rp-pr/ncag-gncc/projects-projets/014-eng.html.
73 Identify and support programs that identify and mitigate small scale and/or chronic contaminant spills and leaks. High Environ. contaminant Underway Transport Canada/ECCC Marine Aerial Reconnaissance Team (MART), flies coastal regions of BC and uses high resolution visual monitoring equipment to detect and measure spills
An oil spill response plan specific to Killer Whales was developed in the US during a workshop held in 2007; plan has now been adopted as part of the Northwest Area Contingency Plan (Region 10 Regional Response Team and Northwest Area Committee 2015).
74 Reduce the risk of lifetime contaminant exposure in Resident Killer Whales by incorporating knowledge of distribution, foraging behavior and their food web into assessment and remediation plans for contaminated sites. High Environ. contaminant Underway A PCB food web bioaccumulation model was developed that allowed for evaluation of current sediment quality criteria in BC; indicated that current standards are not protective of Killer Whales (Alava et al. 2012).
75 Work with other government departments, non-governmental organizations, and industry to promote best practices, green design, mitigation protocols and outreach efforts for the protection of Resident Killer Whales and their habitat from urban pollution (e.g. sewage treatment, source control, combined sewer overflows, runoff). High Environ. contaminant Underway The Puget Sound Partnership's Action Agenda includes targets for reducing the contaminants and toxic chemicals in fish and marine sediments in Puget Sound, as well as strategies to achieve these targets by 2020 (Puget Sound Partnership 2009).
Outreach and stewardship programs, including Killer Whale Tales (http://killerwhaletales.org), school curricula and the Pacific Region Contaminants Atlas (http://www.pacifictoxics.ca) raise awareness of the threat of contaminants to Killer Whales, and provide members of the public with ways to reduce the introduction of pollutants into the marine environment.
The Vancouver Aquarium established a new, independent, multidisciplinary, collaboration-based, institute to fill a major gap in understanding and managing our coastal ocean environments. The Ocean Pollution Research Program is a major new Vancouver Aquarium research initiative that will conduct international-caliber scientific research on ocean pollution.
76 Work with individuals, industries, agricultural operations, and other sectors in order to reduce the release of agricultural chemicals of concern into the habitat of Resident Killer Whales and their prey. High Environ. contaminant Ongoing Although not specific to the Killer Whale or their prey in coastal BC context, Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) decisions for registration of pesticides routinely include conditions of use (e.g. buffer zones, restrictions regarding aquatic habitats, etc.) to reduce agricultural run-offs in general.
77 Ensure that the protection of Resident Killer Whales and their habitat is included as a high priority in spill response and monitoring protocols within the Canadian Coast Guard's Incident Command Structure. High Environ. contaminant Not started
78 Prepare for oil or chemical spills to minimize impacts to Resident Killer Whales through the development of a spill response plan, including deterrence methods, training, drills and equipment. High Environ. contaminant Not started There is no marine mammal response plan in the event of an oil spill in Canada.
79 Review and, if appropriate, recommend refinement of policies and best management practices for ocean dredging and disposal at sea. Medium Environ. contaminant Ongoing Joint DFO-ECCC Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) were developed in keeping with Lachmuth et al (2010) for use by ECCC and DFO when reviewing any proposed dredging and/or disposal activities within SRKW Critical Habitat. In applying the SOPs, permits are only considered for disposal at sea within SRKW critical habitat (e.g., Sand Heads disposal site) under very limited circumstances. However, EPOD's Marine Programs Division continues to work with killer whale experts and DFO in addressing any emerging issues and new management approaches.
80 Refine and expand existing monitoring programs of municipal and industrial waste to minimize Resident Killer Whale exposure to legacy and emergent pollutants. Medium Environ. contaminant Underway ECCC has a national wastewater monitoring program under the Chemicals Management plan where legacy and emerging pollutants are measured.
Under this program an examination of parameters affecting the occurrence and removal of PBDEs in 20 Canadian wastewater treatment facilities was undertaken (Kim et al. 2013).
81 Reduce the release of biological pollutants into the habitat of Resident Killer Whales and their prey by working with municipal, provincial and federal agencies tasked with domestic, agricultural and industrial discharges (including ballast water). Medium Environ. contaminant Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
82 Mitigate the release of biological pollutants into the habitat of Resident Killer Whales and their prey by working with individuals, industries, agricultural operations, and other source sectors to develop or improve protocols and guidance. Medium Environ. contaminant Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
94 Develop, evaluate, and apply new tools to assess the effects of contamination and pollution on the health of free-ranging Resident Killer Whales. Medium Environ. contaminant Underway Necropsy protocols for Killer Whales have been updated; goals of the revised protocols include improving understanding of disease in Killer Whales and of the effects of contaminants and heavy metals on Killer Whale health (Raverty et al. 2014).
Atmospheric dispersion modeling was used to estimate SRKW exposure to exhaust gases from whale watching vessels; threshold doses of these gases were estimated for SRKW. Results indicated that there are situations where concentrations of pollutants inhaled by SRKW may be causing adverse health effects (Lachmuth et al. 2011).
The following is underway: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/rp-pr/ncag-gncc/projects-projets/014-eng.html. Health risk-based evaluation of emerging pollutants in killer whales (Orcinus orca): priority-setting in support of recovery.
95 Quantify the current levels of contaminant concentrations in Resident Killer Whale prey and refine the analysis of contaminant intake by Resident Killer Whales using current information on their feeding ecology. High Environ. contaminant Underway POP concentrations in Chinook Salmon from British Columbia (BC) and WA were measured; the more southerly Chinook sampled had the highest concentrations of PCBs, PCDDs, PCDFs, and DDT. One of the four stocks sampled exceeded CCME tissue residue guidelines for the protection of mammalian wildlife consumers of aquatic biota, and another stock was approaching these guidelines (Cullon et al. 2009).
96 Evaluate the risks of bioaccumulation related to mercury (Hg) contamination in Resident Killer Whale food webs. Medium Environ. contaminant Not started
97 Support new, proposed, or existing bans on the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes, and re-establish a comprehensive inventory of pesticide sales and use in British Columbia. High Environ.
contaminant
Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
98 Incorporate knowledge of Resident Killer Whale distribution, foraging behavior and contaminant bioaccumulation into federal technical reviews on chemicals of concern. High Environ. contaminant Uncertain Information available at the time of this review did not allow determination of the status of this recovery measure
16 Analyse new acoustic and sightings data to identify additional areas of habitat necessary for the survival and recovery of Resident Killer Whales. High Prey availability Ongoing DFO Science has identified an area of special importance to SRKW off southwestern Vancouver Island and has recommended this area for designation and protection as additional critical habitat for SRKW (Ford et al. in press; DFO 2017).
17 Review and assess project impacts on Resident Killer Whales and their habitat, and provide advice on avoidance and mitigation measures as required. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Ongoing DFO's Fisheries Protection Program undertakes these reviews and requests advice from DFO Science which is delivered through DFO's Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat.
83 Continue to undertake research activities to identify areas of habitat necessary for the survival and recovery of Resident Killer Whales. High Prey availability
Disturbance
Noise pollution
Ongoing DFO Marine Mammal Research program leads research involving photo-identification, acoustic monitoring and diet studies using focal follows etc. and has thus far contributed to the identification of current SRKW Critical Habitat (Ford 2006) and to new candidate areas (Ford et al. in press; DFO 2017).
NOAA also leads work to complete surveys, identify prey, and assess distribution of SRKWs (e.g. Hanson et al. 2010a; Hanson et al. 2010b: NWFSC 2013b)
84 Identify and account for the likelihood that changes in the relative strength of major salmon stocks may cause corresponding shifts in the geographic location of critical habitat for Resident Killer Whales. Medium Prey availability Ongoing During the time available for this review, it was not possible to determine specific information about this measure
85 Refine understanding of the functions, features and attributes of Resident Killer Whale habitat and identify what may constitute critical habitat destruction. Medium Prey availability
Disturbance
Noise pollution
Ongoing Salmon stock composition is included as one of the criteria for identification of additional habitats in Canada that are important to the survival and recovery of RKWs (e.g., Ford et al. 2017).
DFO Marine Mammal Research program leads research involving photo-identification, acoustic monitoring and diet studies using focal follows to inform a better understanding of functions, features and attributes of critical habitat.
86 Continue efforts outlined in Broad Strategy 3 to ensure disturbance from human activities does not prevent access of Resident Killer Whales to their critical habitat. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Underway See various achievements on measures under Broad Strategy 3 above
87 Continue dialogue with the NOAA to encourage transboundary consistency of Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat protection. High Disturbance
Noise pollution
Ongoing A formal international agreement has not been implemented; however, NOAA and DFO have collaborated on several studies and workshops focused on RKW recovery including the workshops focused on assessing the effects of salmon fisheries on SRKW recovery in 2011/2012.
A coordination meeting was held in March 2017 between NOAA and DFO Science to develop collaborations regarding future SRKW recovery actions, including critical habitat identification and protection.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:
Date modified: