Ship strikes, vessel disturbance, underwater noise, and air pollution are key threats faced by whales, dolphins and porpoises off British Columbia’s coast. In partnership with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the Prince Rupert Port Authority, the Vancouver Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute has produced a new Mariner’s Guide to Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises of Western Canada. The guide intends to raise awareness among large vessel mariners on the risk of cetacean-vessel collisions and help mitigate vessel impacts on cetaceans along the B.C. coast.
On the B.C. coast, vessel collisions may involve many species, including fin whales, humpback whales, killer whales, and grey whales. Data collected by the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, supplemented by data sets from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Pacific Northwest LNG, have been used to create maps that give a sense of high-density areas off the coast of B.C. for various species of cetaceans. In turn, these maps will help indicate where encounters are likely to occur. The Mariner’s Guide will also help vessel crew members identify key cetacean and sea turtle species, understand the threats their vessels pose, and take action to minimize those threats.
“We are so fortunate in British Columbia; our coastal ecosystem is home to an incredible array of whales, dolphins, and porpoises,” said Caitlin Birdsall, marine mammal researcher with the Institute. “It’s also host to increasing marine traffic and this is a terrific example of agencies working together to address common threats to at-risk wildlife.”
The Mariner’s Guide was developed with input from ports and other partners from the marine transportation industry. Along with the ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver, contributors included Department of Fisheries and Oceans, B.C. Ferries, B.C. Chamber of Shipping, Shipping Federation of Canada, Pacific Pilotage Authority, B.C. Coast Pilots, ROMM (Réseau D’Observation De Mammifères Marins) and Cruise Lines International Association.
“We are very proud of the collaborative efforts that have led to the development of this guide. We also believe that the guide aligns well with the government’s recently announced Oceans Protection Plan, as it relates to preserving and restoring Canada’s marine ecosystems,” said Duncan Wilson, vice president, Corporate Social Responsibility at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
“The creation of the Mariner’s Guide is another vital component of our comprehensive approach to sustainability,” said Jason Scherr, manager of Environmental Sustainability for the Port of Prince Rupert. “The health of the ocean is integral to our success as a gateway for maritime trade. Close teamwork by partners that share this perspective helped make this project a success, and lays the foundation for future, similarly positive, initiatives.”
The guide has been distributed to commercial vessel captains, coastal pilots, B.C. Ferries, and other professional mariners. An electronic version is available online here.