It is estimated that British Columbia’s coastline is home to approximately 18 species of cetaceans – including the killer whale, harbour porpoise, and Pacific white-sided dolphin – as well as two species of sea turtles. Alarmingly, six of the 18 species of cetaceans that live along the coast of British Columbia (B.C.) are either endangered or threatened under the Species at Risk Act.
The good news is that you can help these endangered cetaceans by reporting cetacean sightings to Vancouver Aquarium’s B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network? This program collects sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises and turtles from all over the coast. The information is then used to monitor the species’ movements and activities along B.C.’s expansive coastline to better understand their distribution and help inform important research, conservation and recovery actions.
Thanks to a group of over 3,500 observers across B.C., the Aquarium is able to gather critical information to further marine science. In addition to coastal residents, this group of observers include whale watching operators, lighthouse keepers, charter boat operators, tugboat captains, B.C. Ferries personnel, researchers, government employees, and recreational boaters.
Some species, such as the killer whale, are large, distinctive and easy to identify. Other species, however, are more difficult to distinguish. To help you identify the species when you are out on the water, make sure to check out the Species ID Guide available online. It provides observers with details, such as body shape and colour, behaviours and group size, to determine which species were seen.
When out on the water, the following are key observations to note:
- Number of animals
- Sighting distance
- Behaviours, such as breaching, fluking, and feeding
- If possible, photos/video to accompany a sighting
When analyzed, these sightings help researchers better understand cetacean behaviour and habitat use, which in turn can be used to educate boaters and coastal citizens about the threats these species face in their natural habitats, as well as to conduct scientific research.
Enjoy your summer!