In 2022, passionate citizen scientists – interested members of the public who contribute to science – across British Columbia and Washington State reported an astounding 7,100 whale, dolphin, porpoise, and sea turtle sightings through the Ocean Wise WhaleReport App. These contributions help safeguard these marine species from harm.
Among the numerous contributors, 15 standout reporters have been recognized by Ocean Wise via the Ocean Wise Sightings Network, a pioneer in Canadian citizen science initiatives. Their combined efforts have fueled vital conservation projects and protection measures for cetaceans along the Pacific Coast, particularly via the WhaleReport Alert System. Which alerts mariners of whale presence to prevent vessel strikes.
Meet the 2022 Ocean Wise Sightings Network Top Reporters (Listed Alphabetically):
Government and Industry
Canadian Coast Guard
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Washington State Ferries
Mitlenatch Island Stewardship Team
Soundwatch – The Whale Museum
Southern Gulf Island Whale Sightings Network
Straitwatch – Cetus Research & Conservation Society
Eagle Wing Whale & Wildlife Tours
Five Star Whale Watching
Prince of Whales
Vancouver Island Whale Watch
These contributors will receive certificates of recognition, and their achievements will be celebrated on the Ocean Wise website.
The Ocean Wise Sightings Network, formerly known as the BC Cetacean Sightings Network, has been a cornerstone of citizen science in Canada. It encourages community participation in conservation by collecting whale sightings data, an integral component in safeguarding these iconic creatures from harm.
very reported sighting plays a crucial role in protecting at-risk species in two key ways:
- Preventing Collisions: Sightings reported via the WhaleReport App trigger immediate alerts to commercial mariners within a 10 nautical mile radius of the whale, enabling them to take mitigation measures such as slowing down or altering course to avoid collisions and disturbance.
- Informing Research: Each sighting contributes to a valuable database used by researchers and policymakers. With over 50 years of data, it provides critical insights into species distribution and health, essential for understanding their status and conservation needs.
The WhaleReport App, available for iOS and Android, has recently been updated to provide a user-friendly, two-minute reporting experience. Users can also explore whale regulations and guidelines in their area through an interactive map. Reports can be submitted via the app or an online form.
The Ocean Wise Sightings Network is made possible through funding and partnership with the Government of Canada.
Lasse Gustavsson, CEO and President of Ocean Wise, commented: “Of the 25 species of whales, dolphins, porpoises, and sea turtles in BC waters, 11 populations are at risk. Each report directly contributes to turning the tide on these troubling numbers. Ocean Wise is grateful for the hard work and contributions to community science made by our list of top whale reporters. With their commitment to reporting whale sightings, these organizations have made – and continue to make – a big difference in our efforts to conserve these animals for generations to come.”
About the Ocean Wise Sightings Network
The Ocean Wise Sightings Network, previously named the BC Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN), is one of the longest-standing and most successful citizen science programs in Canada having gathered cetacean (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) sighting reports from volunteer observers of diverse backgrounds for over 22 years. The OWSN employs a variety of outreach events to encourage community members to contribute to our conservation projects and report their sightings. This data plays an integral role in various conservation projects concerning cetacean health and monitoring, and can be useful in identifying critical habitat, developing species-specific recovery strategies, and implementing regulations related to cetaceans and harmful human activities. Individual sighting reports are also relayed in real-time to Ocean Wise’s WhaleReport Alert System (WRAS), a tool developed for ship captains of large commercial vessels (e.g., ferries, tugs, and freighters) to alert them of the presence of whales within 10 nautical miles of their location. The WRAS functions to provide advance warning to mariners to reduce their impacts on nearby cetaceans by slowing down, re-routing, or halting their vessel.