The area of focus in this study will be the Haro Strait and Strait of Georgia around the southern point of Vancouver Island. This island is located off the western coast of Canada in the province of British Columbia. It is the largest island off of North America with an area of 32,000 square kilometers (Destination BC, 2017). The Vancouver area is also home to many major shipping routes from a variety of different business sectors. The Port of Vancouver is the largest cargo shipping port in Canada and the third largest port in North America, with boating activity predicted to increase under the proposal of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline extension (Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, 2017). Currently the pipeline extends from Edmonton, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia, carrying oil from the oil sands 1,150 km to then be shipped out to distributors (Government Canada, 2017). The pipeline expansion would add a secondary pipeline paralleling the existing one, which would more than double the number of barrels produced and shipped (Kinder Morgan, 2015). Statistics from 2008 to 2015 show that on average 223 cruise ships visit the Port of Vancouver area alone (Port of Vancouver, 2017). Table 1 and Table 2 are provided below to illustrate the high shipping volume in the Port of Vancouver. All of these activities occurring in the same small geographic region increases the need for risk assessment, awareness, and conservation efforts to minimize the potential negative impacts on existing cetacean populations. Currently there are 12 species of endangered, threatened, or of special concern in British Columbia (Vancouver Aquarium, 2017). This project is aims to provide routes and area weightings to move the flow of shipping traffic away from the most active marine mammal areas.
Table 1: Twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) count for Port of Vancouver between the years of 2013 and 2016 (Port of Vancouver, 2017).
Table 2: Container count for the Port of Vancouver between the years of 2013 and 2016 (Port of Vancouver, 2017).
These bodies of water depicted in Figure 1, are home to 31 different cetacean species, including dolphins, porpoises, and whales, which can be found in small bays, channels, and the open North Pacific Ocean (Ford & Nichol, 2011). An increase in large ships in this area creates more opportunities for surfacing and breaching cetaceans to be hit or negatively impacted by passing vessels. Vancouver Island also has large numbers of recreational boaters, cruise ships, ferry boats to the mainland, and tourism boats for ecotourism (BCFS, 2017; VFPA 2017). All of these activities contribute to a very high traffic area.
Figure 1: Map of study site, generally covers the bodies of water off the coast of British Columbia and surrounding Vancouver Island.
Figure 2: Map of individually reported sightings data, highlighting reported sightings of threatened species.
Figure 3: Map of commercial shipping vessel routes from 2011.