(Mike Gregory/Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle)

Summer-long marine survey the largest of its kind

Scientists to learn more about little-known whales

This summer, the federal government is conducting what it says is the largest marine mammal survey ever in Canadian Pacific waters. From July 3 until Sept. 6, scientists on two Canadian Coast Guard ships will travel up and down the coast, using microphones and high-powered binoculars to count and locate species at risk.

In a speech at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan announced the $1.3 million expedition, and said it was to learn about the population, distribution, and abundance of marine mammals like whales, porpoises and sea turtles.

“I was a little surprised that this hasn’t been done before,” said Sajjan. “It’s not just about the money, it’s about putting the resources in the right place and it’s the government sending a signal to our researchers and to Canadians that research matters.”

Linda Nichol, research biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said visual line transect surveys are done “fairly regularly,” but scientists typically only get a two-week window each year. This is the first time where they will have extensive coverage of all B.C. waters.

“It’s going to give us a much bigger picture of where blue whales are, fin whales, humpbacks, even some of the offshore killer whale species,” said Nichol.

The survey will be conducted on two ships. The CCGS John P. Tully will cover the off-shore Canadian waters, out to the 200 nautical mile limit, which includes the west coasts of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii and the western portion of the Dixon Entrance. Overlapping in time, another survey on the CCGS Tanu will tackle the internal waters, including the eastern Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, Queen Charlotte Sound, the Johnstone Strait, Strait of Georgia, and into Juan de Fuca.

Nichol said the survey will provide population estimates and more information about their habitats, particularly for mammals under the Species At Risk Act. Nichol also said a seabird biologist from Environment Canada will also be aboard to do bird surveys at the same time.

According to a media release, the study coincides with a similar survey of American marine mammals by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Misty Macduffee, Wild Salmon Program Director for Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said the survey was a good opportunity to build on Raincoast surveys started in 2004.

“If we can get a better understanding of the numbers and distributions of some of these at-risk whales, that would be great.”

Macduffee said there is less knowledge about baleen whales (fin whales, blue whales, Sei whales, etc.) as opposed to toothed whales (like killer whales and dolphins), so the survey will fill a knowledge gap.

Macduffee said “an ideal outcome” of the survey would be greater protection for these mammals using the data collected.

“With some of these baleen whales, [protection] looks like quality of life, including sound, vessel traffic, ship strikes, underwater noise, and food availability.”

Last year, the federal government announced increased following distances for all whales (from 100 to 200 metres), though they specifically targeted southern resident killer whales (SRKWs). Macduffee was glad of the change, but disappointed that it was not enacted sooner. She said Raincoast had been asking for that following distance since 2002.

“In the ensuing period of time, NOAA…have now come out and said 200 metres likely isn’t enough and it probably needs to be something like 400 metres.”

A Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat report will be published detailed the findings of the survey.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Woman thrown from mobility scooter in downtown Sidney collision

Pickup truck attempting a right turn struck woman in crosswalk

Greater Victoria hotels named best in Canada

Beacon Inn at Sidney ranks third in 3-star category, Magnolia and Abigail’s also named

Peninsula cab companies want level playing field with ride-hailing legislation

Taxi services concerned they’ll be undercut by Uber, Lyft

MLA Column: Better relationship needed with municipalities

Adam Olsen is the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands

Colwood’s Esi Edugyan wins $100K Giller prize for Washington Black

Edugyan won her first Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011 for Half-Blood Blues

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Students protesting Starbucks’ supplanting local coffee at UVic

The Finnerty Express’s and their Salt Spring Island coffee supplanted by Fall 2019

No deal in sight: Canada Post warns of delivery delays into January

Union holds fifth week of rotating strikes as both sides remain apart on contract negotiations

COLUMN: Higher interest rates will slow B.C. economy after ‘unusually robust’ show

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of BC

Jason Aldean, Old Dominion to headline Merritt’s Rockin’ River concerts next summer

Four-day music festival at Coldwater River from Aug. 1 to 4

Takedown of deranged, slashing man with knife earns Vancouver Island RCMP officers bravery honour

“The members feel they were just doing their job, I have to disagree. They went above and beyond.”

Courtenay’s new council cycles to its first meeting

Councillors kick off term on two wheels to make a statement

Nanaimo billing ‘drug and theft house’ for police calls

City takes steps under nuisance property bylaw

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

Most Read