Whales Initiative, GoC- Program evaluation Design

Initiative Description

This program is a part of the government of Canada's commitment to protecting its coasts, oceans and marine wildlife. It is part of the 2016 Ocean Protection Plan, defined as follows on the Government of Canada website:

"On November 7, 2016, the Prime Minister launched a $1.5 billion national Oceans Protection Plan that improves marine safety and responsible shipping, protects Canada's marine environment, and offers new possibilities for Indigenous and coastal communities."

The initiative will not cover all of the Oceans Protection Plan, but it will take particular focus and scrutiny with regards to the Whale Initiative, and its efforts to protect the Southern Resident Killer Whales, as well as the St. Lawrence Estutary Beluga and the North Atlantic Right Whale.

The government of Canada has pledged $1.5 billion over the next 5 years in an effort to provide protection and inspire responsibility for any context which contains the coastlines. The primary stakeholders and players in this program are communities, authorities, businesses, individuals and related governmental personell, essentially any body which interacts in some capacity with Canada's waters and coastline. As previously stated, this PED will cover the Whale Initiative, but for the sake of context I will list the main components of the plan as follows:

    • World Leading Marine Safety System
    • Better information sharing of marine traffic with coastal communities
    • Safer navigation in Canada’s waters through better information in the hands of mariners
    • Safer resupply in Arctic communities
    • Tougher requirements for industry response to incidents
    • Proactive monitoring and response capacity on water
    • Develop comprehensive response systems for spills on water
    • Preservation and restoration of marine ecosystems
    • Develop a coastal environmental baseline and cumulative effects program
    • Coastal habitat restoration fund
    • New whale protections*
    • Baseline data for Northern British Columbia coast
    • Negotiating meaningful Indigenous partnerships
    • Reduce abandonment of ships, and clean up existing ship wrecks
    • Better Indigenous capacity in design and delivery of marine safety
    • Indigenous community response teams
    • Multi-partner oil spill response technology research for spill clean-up
    • Improve localized ocean circulation knowledge to inform oil spill trajectories
    • Better ability to predict behaviour of oil in water

* The OPP's description of the Whale Initiavte:

The Oceans Protection Plan is an important step forward in addressing the threats to marine mammals. The key threats include contaminants, prey availability and noise in the marine environment.

The Government of Canada will:

• Address priority issues on each coast through the coastal habitat restoration fund.

• Take action to better understand and address the cumulative effects of shipping on marine mammals, such as the southern resident killer whales pods, belugas, and northern right whales. This includes work to better establish baselines for noise and consideration of options to mitigate these effects.

• Work with partners to implement a real-time whale detection system in specific areas of the species’ habitat to alert mariners to the presence of whales, which will allow them to better avoid interactions with this and other marine mammal species.

• Will immediately launch a science based review of the effectiveness of current management and recovery actions under way for the southern resident killer whale, the northern right whale and the St. Lawrence beluga. The review will be completed by Summer 2017 and will seek to identify areas for immediate improvement in recovery efforts and priorities for new or enhanced action efforts.

Program Context

The initiative is a subset of The Government of Canada's Fisheries and Oceans department. I am unaware of the staff size of the department nor of the Whale Initiative. However, at this early juncture in time I would venture to guess that FaO department is quite large, seeing as we have the largest coastline in the world. There are three key legislations at work here: The Oceans Act, The Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act. I would assume that specialists in these areas work together congruently on the Whale Initiative. Some aspects listed on their reference site list: Ongoing research, Whale Watching Tips, Fisheries Management, Whale Spotting and Cataloguing, Community Education, Working with Partners.

Evaluation Intent

The program then, is multi-faceted and immense. It will be a difficult process to come to understand the main translators and pushers of knowledge as well as the effectiveness of what is being carried out. I am immensely interested in the government's work to protect the whales of Canada. I would like to see if, 3 years on, the governemnt has lived up to their promises to protect the most at risk marine species in our waters and how the efforts surrounding their conservation have developed. I will be looking at resources from a number of sources and reporting on the organization, effectiveness and overall ability of the program operators with regards to the three main whales which are covered in the act- Southern Resident Killer Whales, St. Lawrence Estutary Belugas and North Atlantic Right Whales. Some perliminary questions are as follows:

  1. With the Ocean Protection Act being so large and comprehensive, is enough attention being given to The Whale Initiative?
  2. What is the timeline associated with The Whale Initiative? How was it projected and how is it performing thus far?
  3. Where is it succeeding? Where is it failing? Can success be translated and failure be nullified?
  4. What are the actual and percieved problems with the Whale Initiative?
  5. In order to succeed in its goals does the Whale Initiative need to subvert or perform any action that would be counter intuitive to other goals in the Oceans Protection Plan?
  6. Is engagement with stakeholders, change makers and communities relevant? Is it meaningful? Will it lead to change?
  7. What are some other examples of similar programs which have succeeded or failed? What can we learn from them?
  8. Based on research, goal attainment so far, will the necessary goals be met by the end of the OPA?
  9. Are the partners holding up their end of the agreement? How are they benefitting the agreement?
  10. Is this program a serious effort on behalf of the Canadian government to save whales or is this aspect of the OPA meant for publicity and to garner more support, as a piece of progpoganda or false hope without true intention?