File photo (C. Emmons/NOAA Fisheries)

File photo (C. Emmons/NOAA Fisheries)

Ottawa has designated two new areas of the B.C. coast as critical habitat for endangered southern resident killer whales.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson made the announcement in Vancouver Wednesday, which makes the endangered southern whales and threatened northern whales key foraging areas protected from destruction.

The 6,419 square kilometres of newly protected areas include the waters off the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, including Swiftsure and La Pérouse Banks.

The other region is located near Prince Rupert in western Dixon Entrance, expanding already established critical habitat areas to 10,714 square kilometres.

Existing critical habitat included the Johnstone Strait, the southeastern Queen Charlotte Strait and the transboundary waters of southern B.C.

Courtesy Government of Canada.

Courtesy Government of Canada.

Ottawa says the announcement builds on a $167 million initiative to protect what it calls iconic and culturally important southern and northern resident killer whales.

Key threats to the southern resident killer whale population were targetted in a $61.5 million announcement in October to address a lack of available prey, disturbances from marine traffic and pollution in the water.

Washington recently announced $1.1 billion in spending to help the southern resident whale population and a partial whale-watching ban.

Fisheries says it is focused on addressing key threats to the southern resident killer whale population by next spring, with its population down to 74.

CHEK News