Frequenting British Columbia waters, the southern resident killer whale population is estimated to number approximately 72 individuals. On January 14, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) announced the creation of a new Marine Mammal Desk, which will allow around-the-clock monitoring of the presence of southern resident killer whales. The first of its kind, this initiative is sparking enthusiasm as it paves the way to lowering the risk of collisions with vessels operating in these very waters.
The Coast Guard will send navigation tips in real time to boats based on their position to alert them to the presence of killer whales and other cetaceans. This will allow merchant vessels and pleasure craft to navigate without compromising the safety of the southern resident killer whales living in the temporary refuges in the area.
Infractions, if any, will be handled by Transport Canada and by law enforcement agencies such as the Conservation and Protection Branch of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada so that disciplinary measures may be applied as necessary.
Cetaceans may be further studied in this region via sighting reports compiled from information reported by CCG ships, lighthouses and aircraft operated by the Canadian government. On-the-water enforcement agencies will use these reports for marine mammal conservation purposes by transferring them to the BC Cetacean Sightings Network.
This initiative may inspire port organizations along the St. Lawrence and elsewhere in the Atlantic region to implement similar solutions to ensure cetacean safety.