Have you been lucky enough to see a whale? Or dolphins on a nearby paddle? If so, your sightings can support research efforts that in turn help these marine animals, and can be shared with our B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network.
Many cetaceans (the group of aquatic animals that include whales, dolphins, or porpoises) can be found year-round in the Strait of Georgia, including killer whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, and harbour porpoises. Other cetaceans such as humpback whales and grey whales mainly migrate through our coastal waterways in the spring and summer, sometimes lingering into the winter months.
While it’s a thrill to spot these animals in our marine backyard, many cetacean species are still poorly understood and are facing significant challenges. Pollution, ship strikes, underwater noise, declining prey and entanglement in fishing gear are all issues facing cetaceans in B.C. In fact, eleven of these species in B.C. are categorized as Special Concern, Threatened, or Endangered, according to the Species at Risk Act.
This is where you come in. The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, a program of the Vancouver Aquarium, in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, works to collect sightings from a network of volunteer observers (such as yourself!) to better understand and protect these animals. So far over 3,300 people in B.C. have contributed to the project, and you can too.
Observers come from diverse backgrounds – coastal residents, fishermen, professional mariners, recreational boaters, avid naturalists, and everyday citizens, to name a few. These observers act as citizen scientists, reporting where and when they see the animal(s), which in turn helps researchers and government agencies learn more about their occurrence and habitat use. For example, decades of opportunistic Pacific white-sided dolphin sightings reveal that these dolphins have shifted from offshore areas to coastal waters.
Observers are asked to provide as much information as possible, including:
• Number of animals
• Sighting distance
• If possible, photos/video to accompany a sighting
To learn more about identifying species and tips on what to look for, visit our Sightings Network website.