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

In a letter to Fraser Health board chair Jim Sinclair and president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee Jan. 28, Delta Mayor George Harvie pitched the City of Delta become the lease holder of the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care building after it is vacated by the Delta Hospice Society. (The Canadian Press photo)
Delta Hospice Society must vacate premises by March 29: Fraser Health

The health authority served the society a notice of breach of lease on Feb. 25

(Black Press - file photo)
WEATHER: Enjoy the sun today, prepare for a week of rain

Clouds and rain to arrive by evening, Environment Canada forecasts

RCMP are looking for “an unknown man who wrapped his arms around” a female youth in Clayton Feb. 26. (Black Press file photo)
Youth assaulted by unknown man in Cloverdale

Mounties looking for ‘tall and thin’ Caucasian man in his 40’s with short dark brown hair

St. John Ambulance is looking for financial support in its bid to install 1,000 publicly accessible AED devices throughout British Columbia. The stands which hold the defibrillator also contain naloxone and first aid kits. Cost to equip and install each stand is around $8,000. (stock photo)
St. John Ambulance aims to install 1,000 publicly accessible AEDs across B.C.

First of two defibrillators planned for Crescent Beach already in place

Framed photos of Travis Selje and other items fill the top of a dresser in his bedroom. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Crown says defence case epilepsy caused fatal Surrey crash fails on balance of probabilities

‘She very clearly had some form of control over that vehicle,’ Crown argues

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Five-year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter school during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Variant of concern linked to COVID-19 outbreak at three Surrey schools

Cases appear to be linked to community transmissions, but schools will remain open

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Most Read