In the Spring 2014 edition of Northern Routes, The Greatest Show on Earth by Debbie Davis highlighted the amazing opportunities for grizzly bear and whale watching found on the North Coast. Because of this same incredible diversity and richness, in 2014 the Vancouver Aquarium’s whale research program set up a North Coast Field Offi ce in Prince Rupert to begin studying whale, dolphin, porpoise (collectively known as cetaceans) and sea turtle populations in and around the North Coast and Haida Gwaii.
The North Coast is a special area for cetaceans and sea turtles. Hoards of humpbacks bubblenet cooperatively in areas like Work Channel, large porpoise aggregations can be found in inland waters, and resident killer whales take advantage of the plentiful salmon runs that use the Skeena and Nass Rivers early in the summer. Even rare species can be found here — mighty fin whales, once hunted to near extinction, are making a comeback in this area and critically endangered leatherback sea turtles can be found in the waters around Haida Gwaii.
Studying whales and rare sea turtles in British Columbia can be a tricky task due our vast coastline, so the Vancouver Aquarium relies on a network of volunteer observers to report their sightings. Many species are already listed “at-risk” in Canada and the reported observations help researchers better understand the distribution and occurrence of these animals which in turn helps with planning, management and conservation of our oceans.
With the establishment of the new field office, the Aquarium research team is looking to learn more about the North Coast and needs your help. Whether you are a visitor or local they want you to become part of their observer network. If you see a whale, dolphin, porpoise or sea turtle in northern waters, report it.
To report, use the online form found at wildwhales.org, call the tollfree number (1 866 I SAW ONE) or email email@example.com. If you’re a boater, you can even request a free log book that you can leave on your vessel.
To learn more about cetacean in B.C. and find a downloadable Identification Guide, check out the website wildwhales.org
By Caitlin Birdsall
Caitlin Birdsall is a biologist and educator specifi cally interested in citizen science. She has worked with the Vancouver Aquarium’s Cetacean Research Program since 2008 and recently relocated to Prince Rupert to head up the newly establish North Coast Field Office. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org