Federal Whales Initiative – Freshwater and sediment data (Pacific Region)
The Initiative to Protect and Recover Endangered Whale Populations from anthropogenic threats (aka Federal Whales Initiative) was announced on June 22, 2018, by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Transport Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). This 5-year initiative (2018-2023) focuses on three endangered whale species listed in the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) including the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) (Orcinus orca), as well as their primary prey, Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Threats identified under the 2018 SARA recovery strategy for northern and southern resident killer whales include several anthropogenic factors such as acoustic and physical disturbances, prey availability and quality, and environmental contaminants (“Recovery Strategy for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in Canada” https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/species-risk-public-registry/recovery-strategies/northern-southern-killer-whales-2018.html ).
SRKW and their prey are at risk from a range of contaminants that may be present in the Fraser River and smaller freshwater streams draining into the Salish Sea. Contaminants of concern (CoCs) are typically persistent in the environment, with the potential to bioaccumulate and biomagnify in the food web. These contaminants can also reduce salmon survival by making them more susceptible to disease, which in turn means less prey abundance for the killer whales. Exposure to certain toxic contaminants can also reduce immunity and cause reproductive disruption in the whales (Garrett and Ross, 2010).
SRKW critical habitat covers a large portion of the Salish Sea off the Southwest coast of British Columbia. The Fraser River represents the largest source of freshwater discharge into the Salish Sea as well as the primary migratory pathway for Chinook salmon during the freshwater habitat component of their life cycle.
Fresh water and sediment sampling is being conducted as a part of the Federal Whales initiative in order to identify concentration and frequency of CoCs. The sampling sites included in this dataset are located primarily in the Fraser River (e.g Fraser River at Hope, Fraser River at New Westminster, Fraser River at Gravesend Reach) and key tributaries to the Fraser River (e.g. Thompson River and Harrison River) and in a more localized watershed that directly discharges to the Salish Sea (e.g. Serpentine River). Sampling began in late 2018 and sampling sites and the CoCs list expanded/modified as the program developed. Please note that there are data gaps due to impacts from COVID-19, forest fires and BC floods. The freshwater sites are sampled multiple times through the year while sediment sites are sampled annually during seasonal low water/low flow periods following the annual freshet, allowing for sediment deposition (accumulation) in the streams before the next freshet period.
- Publisher - Current Organization Name: Environment and Climate Change Canada
- Licence: Open Government Licence - Canada
Data and Resources
|Federal Whales Initiative – Freshwater and sediment data (Pacific Region)|