Thanks to our dedicated observers, we receive thousands of live and healthy cetacean and sea turtle sightings each year.  But what do we do with reports of marine mammals that are sick, injured, dead, or entangled?  These types of sightings are reviewed by DFO.  DFO Marine Mammal Response Biologist Lisa Spaven shares with us the importance of the Response Network to marine mammal conservation, and why it is important to report your encounters with animals in distress. 

Do you know what to do if you come across a marine mammal in distress or even dead?
By Lisa Spaven, Marine Mammal Response Biologist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Seeing a whale swimming in the wild or hearing sea lions bark on a nearshore rock can be an exhilerating and awe-inspiring experience.  But sometimes a marine mammal encounter can leave you with a sense of concern, saddness or unresolved questions.  When a whale is found entangled in marine debris, a dolphin is stranded out of the water, a sea otter is shot, or a sea lion is found dead, we wonder what can we do to help or how can we prevent this from happening again.

It’s simple. The most important and helpful thing you can do is report it. 

The BC Marine Mammal Response Network is interested in any and all reports of marine mammals and sea turtles that are found dead, injured, sick or otherwise unhealthy or out of their habitat.  No-one can be everywhere all the time, especially with as much coastline as we enjoy here in British Columbia, and the BCMMRN relies on your eyes and ears to learn valuable information about the various threats to marine mammals thoughout BC waters. 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada along with various researchers, governement agencies, marine conservation and outreach groups and a few hundred volunteer responders,  make up the BC Marine Mammal Response Network.  The BCMMRN works coast-wide to investigate reports of marine mammal injury, illness and mortality and where possible, assist animals in distress.

Sometines animals die or are in distress from natural causes, but in other cases marine mammals are threatened by entanglement in fishing gear and debris, vessel strikes, toxic contamination, lack of available food, physical and noise harassment.  Of the total 34 species of marine mammals and sea turtles known to BC waters, 14 populations are designated at risk under the Species At Rick Act.  As such, DFO is mandated to work towards the recovery of these species.  Without the knowledge of what is threatening their survival there is little hope in resolving or minimizing the issue in hopes of recovering the population. Your reports make this possible.  Check out the national 2010-2011 Marine Mammal Response Program report here.

So, the next time you come across a marine mammal that is dead or in distress, please help by calling 1-800-465-4336 as soon as possible.  If you spot a live and healthy whale, dolphin or porpoise, please report it to the BC Cetacean Sightigns Network here.

Sharon Soderberg

Dead killer whale calf found near Sooke in 2010.

Fisheries and Oceans

A dead harbour porpoise found entangled in fishing gear.

Peter Golden