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Canada increases protections for Pacific Northwest orcas

Canada will create orca sanctuaries in the Salish Sea and close coastal waterways to most vessel traffic for parts of the year to help protect the endangered whales.

Canada has approved measures designed to protect endangered orcas in the Pacific Northwest, with some policies going further than laws recently enacted by Washington state.

The Seattle Times reports Canadian agencies last Friday announced the policies aimed at improving access to food for orcas, including reducing chinook salmon fishing and vessel disturbances on the animals.

Canada also will create sanctuaries for orcas in the Salish Sea, closing coastal waterways to most vessel traffic from June through October.

Vessels in Canadian waters will be required to stay 437 yards away from orcas.

Also see | New boating laws aim to protect Southern Resident orcas

Vessels in Washington state waters must keep 300 yards away from orcas. The measure was among several bills that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed last week.

The measures Inslee signed also include requiring more oil shipments near the San Juan Islands to have tugboat escorts to prevent spills, allowing anglers to catch more walleye and bass that prey on young salmon, and giving state agencies the authority to ban toxic chemicals in consumer goods.

"These bills are helping to improve the ecosystems that sustain both salmon and orcas, quiet the waters in which the orcas hunt and provide them more prey," Inslee said as he signed the bills in Olympia. "While there will be more to do next session, these bills give me hope that we can protect these iconic species for decades to come."Other important parts include improving the state's ability to enforce permit requirements for work that hardens shorelines, such as by installing bulkheads near homes, and making vessels stay farther away from orcas and go slower when they're near them.

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