Marine Mammal Program
What is the Marine Mammal Program?
The waters in and around the Port of Prince Rupert’s jurisdiction sustain diverse populations of whales, porpoises and dolphins, while also serving as a gateway for global maritime trade. The Port of Prince Rupert’s Marine Mammals Program is based in the understanding that a number of cetacean species are vulnerable to both vessel collisions and noise disturbance resulting from port-related activities. Launched in 2015 with involvement from members of the Port Environmental Stewardship Committee, the Marine Mammal Program is focused on reducing potential impacts to marine mammals. The program is a forum for engagement and collaboration with the various partners to work together through scientific research, information sharing, education, implementation of best management practices and real-time monitoring initiatives.
The Mariner’s Guide to Whale’s Dolphins and Porpoises of Western Canada was developed to raise awareness and provide information that will help mitigate vessel impacts on cetaceans along the B.C. coast. The Guide is designed to help mariners reduce their risk of striking and killing or seriously injuring a cetacean, and includes location densities and simple measures to greatly reduce the chance of an incident. Information in the guide also addressed minimizing vessel disturbance and vessel noise. Marine mammal identification is included as well as details on reporting sightings. The Guide was developed through a partnership and collaboration between the Port of Prince Rupert, Port of Vancouver, Vancouver Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Other partners in the guide include Department of Fisheries and Oceans, BC Ferries, BC Chamber of Shipping, Pacific Pilotage Authority, BC Coast Pilots, Shipping Federation of Canada and Cruise Lines International Association.
Relative Abundance of Marine Mammals Along the Approach to Prince Rupert
Strategies For Reducing the Impact of Large Vessels on Marine Mammal Populations
Reporting Marine Mammal Sightings
The Port of Prince Rupert is supporting the collection of cetacean sighting data. Port vessel crew and staff submit data to the BC Cetacean Sighting Network. Other port users are also supplying valuable data. A new app, WhaleReport, was released in 2016 making it easier to report sighting data. Information on reporting sightings and marine mammals in distress outlined below.
Reporting Vessel Strikes and Marine Mammals In Distress
Noise in the marine environment is a topic of increasing importance. The Port of Prince Rupert is working to understand noise in the region and find ways to mitigate potential sources of noise. This includes working with ship owners to find ways to reduce vessel noise (as outlined in an infographic published by the Port of Vancouver).
The Port of Prince Rupert worked with Ocean Networks Canada in the deployment of a hydrophone in the port, recording underwater noise and creating baseline data that will be used to measure any increases that may result from increased vessel traffic or future development.
The Port of Prince Rupert chaired a working group over several years to develop a new performance indicator in the Green Marine program for underwater noise. The working group brought together ports, ship owners, scientists, experts and environmental groups to lead to a better understanding of noise and implement mitigation measures. The development of this indicator shows the leadership by the marine shipping industry in collaboration with others on mitigating impacts to marine mammals.
The Port of Prince Rupert’s Green Wave program added criteria for underwater noise on January 1, 2017. The Port of Prince Rupert is leading the way as one of the first ports to implement incentives for quieter vessels through reduced harbour dues.
Science and Research
Understanding marine mammals in the Port of Prince Rupert region and along the coast of BC is vitally important. The Port of Prince Rupert, through the cooperation with partners in the Marine Mammal Program, is supporting continued research and science. Through collaboration with the Vancouver Aquarium, the Port helped deploy specialized equipment, C-Pods, to study harbour porpoise populations and activity in the Prince Rupert Harbour.