The federal government is laying out a multi-million dollar protection package to curb the decline of B.C.’s iconic southern resident killer whales. 

Speaking in Vancouver Thursday, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Dominic LeBlanc announced $9.1-million to develop technology which could detect the presence of orcas in southern B.C. waters.

The minister also announced $3.1-million for underwater noise testing. The University of Victoria will receive nearly $1-million to examine the behaviour and vulnerability of southern resident killer whales and their prey.

Southern resident killer whales occupy the waters off Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle.

Only 76 of the whales remain in existence, and biologists say serious issues with food abundance, pollution and marine traffic have significantly impacted the species' ability to reproduce.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is also considering wide-spread and historic fishery closures this spring in hopes of offering the endangered killer whales a better chance at a good meal.

Fisheries stakeholders and environmentalists have been meeting with federal representatives for several weeks discussing the possibility of closing prime salmon fishing grounds near Vancouver, Pender Island and southwestern Vancouver Island.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada wants to study the impact of giving the orcas unfettered space to hunt.

The funding announcement is part of the federal government’s $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan.