The Port of Vancouver in British Columbia, in what is believed to be a world first, is asking vessels to lower their speed to 11 knots when travelling through the Haro Strait in order to reduce noise levels for endangered killer whales in the area.
Haro Strait, between Vancouver and Washington state’s San Juan Island, is an important habitat for the killer whales and their population is believed to be only 78 in the Salish Sea, an intricate system of waterways that includes the southwestern corner of BC and the northwestern corner of Washington.
Ship engine noise can disrupt the whales’ ability to hunt, navigate and socialize.
The port runs a program called Enhanced Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) which is trying to study the effects of vessel speeds and associated underwater sound levels on the whales’ behavior and population.
More than 30 firms have bought into this pilot scheme so far even though slowing to 11 knots could add between 30 minutes and an hour to their journey.
Among those who have agreed to participate are international shipping giants COSCO and Maersk.