A northern resident killer whale shows injuries sustained by a collision with a vessel in B.C. waters. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)

A northern resident killer whale shows injuries sustained by a collision with a vessel in B.C. waters. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)

Coast Guard ramps up protections for B.C. whales

First-ever Marine Mammal Desk will enhance cetacean reporting and enforcement

The Canadian Coast Guard has established a first-of-its-kind division to elevate safeguards against human-caused deaths and injuries to whales in B.C. waters.

Staffed 24/7, the Marine Mammal Desk will report sightings in real time to advise vessel traffic on the activities of whales to help reduce collisions and net entanglements. The information will be shared with enforcement agencies for rapid responses to vessels in restricted areas like the Southern Resident Killer Whale Interim Sanctuary Zones.

“I’m so proud that today Canada will be home to the first Marine Mammal Desk. This is an exciting innovation that will allow us to track and report of whale sightings in real time. The Southern Resident Killer Whale is an icon of our pacific coast, and we want to see its population protected – and revived – for generations to come,” Bernadette Jordan, minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard said.

Data is channeled to the desk from an array of sources, including radar, real-time vessel movement information and the Automatic Identification System, in addition to on-water CCG vessels, light stations and aircraft of three government agencies, CCG, Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

READ MORE: Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo’s Rocky Point

The Marine Mammal Desk became operational at the end of October, 2020, and is staffed by five specially trained officers. It is located in Sidney, B.C. within the CCG’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre (MCTS).

Ocean Wise Conservation Association collaborated on the project’s development and is contributing its B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN) to the streams of data. The 20-year old network is today driven mainly by a citizen-action app called the Whale Report Alert System (WRAS) that allows mariners to send and receive data on whale locations.

Jessica Scott, Ocean Wise’s BCCSN manager and applied research biologist said it’s critical authorities have the tools to enforce compliance of restricted areas, as noise from vessel traffic interferes with the animals’ echolocation causing them to avoid eating and sometimes mating.

“They need quite places to take a break,” she said. “This is going to be an amazing tool for everybody.”

With ship strikes, she said humpbacks are affected especially hard in B.C.

“They’re slow and spend a lot of time on the surface. It’s quite under-reported because these ships are so big they won’t even know necessarily that they struck a whale, and then the carcasses sink.”

Between 2004 to 2011 there were about 30 humpback collisions reported in B.C. waters. The bulk of the reports came from small vessels less than 15 metres in length.

Scott said it’s rare for vessels to strike a killer whale.

“But with the endangered southern residents, there’s only 74 individuals left. So even the loss of one could have major implications on the recovery of that species.”

Vessels are required to keep a minimum distance of 400 metres from killer whales.

The public is asked to call the DFO Marine Mammal Incident Reporting Hotline at 1-800-465- 4436, to report whale sightings or instances of whales being harassed or disturbed. Mariners unable to reach the incident reporting hotline can call CCG’s Marine Mammal Desk at 1-833-339-1020 or CCG radio.

READ MORE: Federal government announces new measures for killer whale protection

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Humpback whale BCY0177 (nicknamed Slash) shows visible scarring across her back from a boat propeller. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)

Humpback whale BCY0177 (nicknamed Slash) shows visible scarring across her back from a boat propeller. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)

Just Posted

Pacific Coastal Airline flights 8P1543 on Feb. 22 and 8P1538 on Feb. 24 had cased of COVID-19 onboard, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. (Pacific Coastal Airlines photo)
Two flights between Kelowna and Victoria report COVID-19 exposures

Pacific Coastal Airlines flights on Feb. 22 and Feb. 24 affected

Organizers say some 100 vehicles rallied against plans by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Victoria to sell 40 acres of its 98-acre property in Metchosin. (Barb Sawatsky/Submitted)
Proposed subdivision of green space in Metchosin draws 100 vehicles in protest

Plans for land owned by Boys Girls Club of Greater Victoria affects entire region, say residents

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice and Mayor Fred Haynes are calling on the province to develop new solutions for emergency response to mental health crises with the consideration of a potential new 911 category. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich mayor, councillor call for new solutions to mental health emergencies

Shifting response from police to trained mental health team the best option, mayor says

Aerial view of the Capital Regional District residuals treatment facility at Hartland Landfill where residual solids are turned into Class A biosolids. (Photo courtesy CRD)
Plant closure sends more biosolids to Hartland Landfill

Saanich residents are concerned they were never consulted

Robert Schram, here seen in January 2016, died Saturday, according to a friend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney, Saanich Peninsula mourn the death of Mr. Beads

Bead artist Robert Schram was a familiar, well-loved figure in Sidney and beyond

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent comes first and last for B.C. industrial projects

Environment minister can still approve permits without consent

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

Nootka Sound RCMP responded to a workplace fatality report south of Gold River on Monday morning. (Campbell River Mirror photo)
One dead in workplace accident at Gold River logging site

The RCMP and Work Safe BC are investigating the incident at Western Forest Product’s TFL 19

Ladysmith’s famous Festival of Lights decorations are still up as of March 1, 2021. (Cole Schisler photo)
PHOTOS: It’s still looking a lot like Christmas in Ladysmith

Festival of Lights volunteers cannot remove the holiday roof top displays due to COVID-19

An investigation is underway after two VPD officers were recorded posing for pictures near a dead body at Third Beach on Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
Vancouver officers placed on desk duty after filmed posing next to dead body

Pair put in ‘non-deployable, admin positions’ as the investigation into their conduct continues

(Black Press file photo)
Homicide team to look into death of 11-year-old Agassiz boy

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

A publicly accessible defibrillator as well as naloxone and first aid kits are included in a stand that has been installed at Crescent Beach. It is one of two planned for the South Surrey neighbourhood as St. John Ambulance works to install 1,000 of the life-saving devices around the province. (Contributed photo)
St. John Ambulance aims to install 1,000 publicly accessible AEDs across B.C.

Sponsors sought for stands that cost about $8,000 to equip and install

Most Read