Government Canada Announcement “Killer Whales Mandatory Distance”

The Government of Canada is taking important steps to protect and recover the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) population. The SRKW is a vital component of the local marine ecosystem and has cultural significance for Indigenous peoples and coastal communities in British Columbia. The Government of Canada recognizes that SRKW face imminent threats to their survival and recovery, and that immediate action is required.

On May 10, 2019, the Government of Canada announced 2019 SRKW recovery measures. New measures for vessels to follow include: 

Effective June 1 – October 31, 2019:

  • A mandatory 400 metre approach distance for all killer whales throughout SRKW critical habitat, with the ability of the Minister of Transport to authorize commercial whale watching companies to approach other killer whale ecotypes to 200 metres, subject to certain conditions.
  • Mandatory interim sanctuaries with restrictions on fishing and vessel activity in Swiftsure Bank, south Saturna Island and west of Pender Island.

Effective August 1 – October 31, 2019:

  • Mandatory area-based fisheries closures for recreational and commercial salmon in key foraging areas.

Other actions to take while SRKW are present in BC waters in greater numbers:

  • A voluntary go slow and fishery avoidance zone, asking boaters to reduce their speed to less than 7 knots and avoid fishing when within 1,000 metres of a whale in the Enhanced Management Areas that have been identified through the Gulf Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Mouth of the Fraser River.
  • Voluntary measures asking vessel operators to reduce noise by turning echo sounders off when not in use and turning their engines to neutral idle when within 400 metres of a whale.

We are seeking your help in getting information on these measures out to those who are operating vessels in the area. Attached you will find a 2019 SRKW recovery measures education brochure. We encourage you to print this document for reference and share it broadly. To request printed copies to share in your community, please contact

For more information on the 2019 measures and how the Government of Canada is keeping its promise to protect and support the recovery of this endangered, iconic whale population, please follow these links:

Interim Order for the Protection of Killer Whales

Frequently Asked Questions: Interim Order

Whales Initiative: Protecting the Southern Resident Killer Whale

Protecting species at risk is a responsibility shared by all Canadians and the federal government is committed to working with Indigenous people, provincial and territorial governments, and relevant industry stakeholders to achieve this goal.


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