With 2010 only a few weeks away, we thought we’d take a look back to reflect on the success of the BC Cetacean Sightings Network in 2009. It’s been a great year for the BCCSN, our number of observers has grown to over 2000 people and our database now has reached nearly 45,000 sightings! Thanks to all of you who have helped to make the BCCSN a success.

In 2009, we have received (to date) 5449 sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles. We should note that not all of these sightings occurred in 2009—some were archival sightings from previous years. Regardless, it is encouraging that so many of you are taking the time to record and report your sightings of cetaceans and sea turtles.

The breakdown of the sightings we received this year can be seen on the pie chart on the right. To date, 1948 of our 5449 sightings (36%) are of humpback whales. A number of these sightings were from the around the Georgia Strait and the Howe Sound area. As noted in our article on October 9th, this is very exciting news, and evidence of humpbacks making a comeback in this region after being wiped out by commercial whaling in the early 1900’s.

Some of the more exciting sightings in the “other” category included a leatherback sea turtle spotted off the coast of northern Washington, and a number Risso’s Dolphins near Bag Harbour in the Queen Charlotte Islands (detailed in this article).

The sightings data you send us is doing more than just sitting in a database. We receive frequent requests for our data from scientists, students and professionals. As usual, all data requests are approved by senior scientists at the Vancouver Aquarium and Fisheries and Oceans Canada based on their scientific or conservation merit. In 2009, our sightings played a key role in 10 different conservation and research projects.

In addition to collecting sightings, 2009 marked a successful year of outreach. The BCCSN is always trying to spread the word about the issues facing at-risk cetaceans and sea turtles in BC and what you can do to help! We travelled up and down the coast to Prince Rupert, the Queen Charlotte Islands, all over Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands to visit as many different schools, communities and festivals as possible. We were very encouraged to receive positive feedback from all of our outreach efforts and the increase of reported sightings from the areas we were able to visit has been very gratifying. Please keep it up!

We are continuing to try to make reporting sightings as easy as possible. As usual, observers can continue submit sightings via our webform, our toll-free number (1-866 I SAW ONE) or via email (sightings@vanaqua.org). In 2009, we introduced a new medium for reporting sightings: waterproof logbooks designed for sea-kayakers. These portable logbooks are ideal for sea kayakers who spend a lot of time on the water. The feedback has been very positive thus far. In addition, in early 2010 we will be unveiling our new paper logbooks. Our plan is to produce a sleeker, more user-friendly version of our current logbooks. If you are a frequent observer (or feel you could be one) please contact us about ordering a logbook. Our program is citizen science in action and we’d like to get as many keen observers involved as possible!

We want to thank all of our observers and for making 2009 a great year and we look forward to carrying the momentum into 2010. If you have any questions, comments or would be interested in receiving a logbook, please contact us at sightings@vanaqua.org.