Mayne Islanders interested in watching, monitoring, and protecting whales are invited to participate in a citizen-science project. If you are interested, this would involve joining an online training session Saturday January 22nd at 1pm on how to use a whale sighting reporting app. Members of the network will have access to all the whale sightings data in the Southern Gulf Islands zone, as well as identification sheets and patterns over recent months and years. The data you help input will be available immediately to BC Ferries and helps inform Government policies around vessel traffic and fisheries, as well as academic studies that help us better understand whales and how to protect them. If you are interested in participating in this citizen science project, please contact Yves Tiberghien at yvestibe@gmail.com.

Photo by Frank Gloystein

Background – Local Sightings Network

This program began on Saturna, then spread to the Penders, and we’re pleased the Mayne Island community will now be involved. The Saturna Island community has a long-standing commitment to protecting marine mammals. Building on this commitment, in early 2020 a group of citizen scientist volunteers (Saturna Sighting Network), sponsored by the Saturna Island Marine Research and Educational Society (SIMRES) and the Saturna Parks Canada Liaison Committee, started a pilot program to monitor the abundance, frequency, distribution and types of whales around East Point. They started from the premise that there is considerable local knowledge about the marine ecosystem that surrounds us and that by structuring a monitoring program they could, over time, observe the social associations, traveling and feeding strategies of whales in the area. 

The catalyst for this project was the implementation of the Interim Sanctuary Zones (ISZ) in 2019. The Saturna Island community, while supporting protection of the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW), questioned federal government decisions about the size, location, duration and enforcement of these zones. Moreover, they were concerned about the lack of baseline data regarding the SRKW and other cetaceans at the eastern end of Boundary Pass.

From the outset, Saturna Sighters have been determined to collect robust and accurate data. They collaborate with the BC Cetacean Sighting Network which has an interactive whale reporting platform on the web and mobile phones.

They adapted their program as needed to meet challenges, using a range of social media tools to help organize and become more informed. However, technology doesn’t build a citizen science research program, it is the people and their dedication that do. That is what makes citizen science unique.

Contact Yves Tiberghien at yvestibe@gmail.com to be added to the contact list for the upcoming training session.


3 Comments

Sue Miyazaki · December 14, 2021 at 10:06 pm

I am close to Lighthouse, Oyster Bay, Reef Bay, David Cove but not on waterfront or waterview..do I still quaalify for sightings?

    Rob Underhill · December 15, 2021 at 8:47 am

    Hi Sue, I believe participation is open to everyone, thanks for your interest! Contact Yves at yvestibe@gmail.com, he is the local coordinator for the program.

    Yves · December 17, 2021 at 6:42 pm

    Dear Sue. Rob is right. anyone can join, as everyone is close to the sea on the island!! I will just need your email to organize the training.

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