Mitigating Ship Strike Risk in Southern Resident Killer Whale Habitat

The number and size of commercial ships transporting goods to and from ports in the Salish Sea continues to grow. Additionally, there are considerable industrial developments being planned in the region, including a major port expansion, and an oil pipeline terminal under consideration. These trends suggest more ship traffic, and with this comes an increase to cetaceans in the risk these vessels pose for collisions. Key amongst these cetaceans is the endangered population of 76 Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW), for whom much of their designated critical habitat overlaps with these shipping lanes. The aim of this MITACS proposal is to collate data from different existing acoustic hydrophones operating in the Salish Sea, as well as visual observer data from experts in the field to develop an advance warning system of potential ship-SRKW overlap. The spatial and temporal SRKW data from the region will serve as the foundation for how best to build a real-time movement model for an advance warning system predicting the location and direction of movement of any SRKW in or towards a ship’s path, thus allowing time for pilots to reduce ship speed and adjust their path.

Alex Harris;Emma Cummings
Faculty Supervisor: 
Ruth Joy;Jeremy Venditti
British Columbia
Partner University: