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

 

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

A rockfall closed Finlayson Arm Road and West Shore Parkway on Friday (March 5) afternoon. (Twitter/BC Transportation)
UPDATED: Malahat reopens following rockfall

Section of Trans-Canada Highway was scheduled for intermittent closures today for rock scaling work

The Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tsartlip First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA revealed COVID-19 outbreak

Chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA Adam Olsen apologizes

A man holds a picture of Chantel Moore during a healing gathering at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on June 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘Police have killed more Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members than COVID’

First Nation demands transparency in probe into Tofino RCMP shooting of Julian Jones

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of deceased Hells Angels prospect from Sooke to be divided between wife and secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A Port Alberni RCMP car blocks access to Anderson Avenue at Burde Street. (RCMP PHOTO)
Replica firearm prompts police incident in Port Alberni

RCMP had blocked off a neighbourhood while searching for ‘man with a gun’

A Victoria resident was scammed out of $1,700 after a fraudster impersonated a police officer and convinced the victim to pay a non-existent fine in Bitcoin. (Unsplash)
Fraudster impersonates Victoria police officer, steals $1,700 in Bitcoin

Phone call showed up as VicPD’s non-emergency line

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

Walkers ascend Mount Douglas Park on Sunday, Feb. 7. Visits to Saanich Parks are up 46 per cent compared to pre-pandemic statistics this time last year. (Darrell Wick Photo)
Oak Bay, Saanich parks peak in popularity during pandemic

Oak Bay spent an extra $5,000 on park toilet paper in 2020

On Feb. 27, a construction vehicle remained on the site of the former encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue as part a clean-up effort. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Encampment between Pat Bay Highway, McKenzie Avenue cleared, all residents relocated

Efforts to disband encampment resumed after January fire

Holly the stuffed Rottweiler has been missing from the front of Lucky Dog U-Bath since Feb. 24. (Submitted photo)
Holly the stuffed Rottweiler is missing from Duncan shop

Toy dog missing from front of Lucky Dog U-Bath since Feb.24

Most Read