We’ve been working hard to establish critical research to save and enhance the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) population in the Salish Sea.  This study is focused on the potential benefits of slowing down ships.

SMRU Consulting North America’s team, based in Vancouver, Canada, worked closely with regional partners including Jasco Applied Sciences, to study how the 2017 voluntary vessel slowdown led by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s ECHO Program, may have benefited underwater noise and the foraging of SRKW. The results were published this month in Frontiers in Marine Science.

This work highlights the potential benefits of marine vessel ‘slowdowns’ on SRKWs. SMRU Consulting, who specializes in quantitative marine mammal science, found that the whale’s ability to effectively forage and communicate with each other were enhanced when ship speeds were lower. The results of a 61-day vessel slowdown trial found important underwater noise reductions in and adjacent to the shipping lanes with direct benefits to SRKW in regions of overlap with foraging hotspots.

Today there are only 76 SRKWs in existence, earning them protective status under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Much of their habitat in the Salish Sea has also been designated as ‘critical habitat’. This slowdown trial demonstrated that voluntary vessel slowdowns can improve conditions in SRKW critical habitat and hopefully improve the chances of recovery for this population of whales.

SMRU Consulting continues to work with regional partners on scientific evaluation of vessel slowdowns in the Salish Sea.