Mayne Islanders interested in watching, monitoring, and protecting whales are invited to participate in a citizen-science project. The Southern Gulf Islands Whale Sighting Network is a land-based, volunteer-led organization for monitoring and gathering field data on whale movements and boating infractions around Saturna, Pender and Mayne Islands. Whale sightings are reported to the BC Cetacean Sighting Network. They support efforts to reduce human-caused underwater noise, which disturbs feeding activity and the health of the whales.
Volunteers for the Sighting 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background – Local Sighting 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 in 2019. The Saturna Island community, while supporting protection of the Southern Resident Killer Whales 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 Southern Resident Killer Whales 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.
In addition to joining the Southern Gulf Islands Whale Sighting Network as a volunteer, you can show support for this great initiative by donating to their current equipment campaign. The Network is hoping to purchase four professional grade rangefinders and four quality zoom cameras to support their whale conservation work. These tools will help sighters in their efforts to keep the Interim Sanctuary Zones free from vessel disturbance.
The campaign is supported by the Saturna Island Marine Research and Education Society and Pender Pod (Pender Ocean Defenders). Donations of $20 or more will be eligible for a charitable tax receipt. To donate, visit their campaign page.