About Wild Whales
Wild Whales is the home of the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, a research and conservation program of the Vancouver Aquarium, in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Our goal is to increase public awareness of British Columbia’s whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles, and the threats to their survival. You can help by reporting animals you see in B.C. waters and by learning more about how to minimize your impact to marine mammals in our Threats section.
Who we are and what we do:
The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network is a network of over 3,600o bservers across British Columbia, including whale watching operators, lighthouse keepers, charter boat operators, tugboat captains, BC Ferries personnel, researchers, government employees, recreational boaters and coastal residents. Our observers report their sightings of cetaceans and sea turtles via our website, toll-free hotline, email, or our logbook program.
By soliciting sightings from mariners and coastal citizens, Wild Whales works to both gather data on the occurrence of whales, dolphins and porpoise in BC waters and to educate boaters and coastal citizens about the threats these species face. Data are available for sharing. We consider data requests for i) academic research on ecology, basic biology, habitat use or related subjects; ii) conservation assessment and planning; iii) species recovery planning including critical habitat determination; and iv) environmental impact assessment, evaluation and mitigation. Please contact us at email@example.com for data request forms and information.
Wild Whales does presentations to thousands of British Columbians at schools, community groups, professional associations and festivals throughout the year. If you are interested in having Wild Whales staff talk to your group, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wild Whales has participated in the development of the Be Whale Wise Marine Wildlife Guidelines for Boaters, Paddlers and Viewers (Revised 2006) and is a member of the BC Marine Mammal Response Network.
How we got started:
In the early 1970s, Dr. Michael Bigg of Fisheries and Oceans Canada was asked to count the number of wild killer whales along the coast of B.C. to ensure that the roughly 20 killer whales captured each year for display in aquaria was not impacting the population. At the time, the number of killer whales in B.C., Washington and Alaska was estimated to be in the thousands. To solve this problem, Dr. Bigg utilized two novel methods.
Dr. Bigg quickly realized that each killer whale has markings on its dorsal fin and saddle patch that are unique to each individual. He began a catalogue of killer whales documenting almost every killer whale in B.C.; a catalogue that is still evolving today.
However, to get a quick estimate of the killer whale population, Dr. Bigg took the suggestion of the first Vancouver Aquarium president, Dr. Murray Newman, who envisioned a one day public census of the killer whales across B.C. During 1971 and 1972, Dr. Bigg advertised the census through newspaper ads and radio broadcasts, and sent over 17,000 questionnaires to the boating public, asking for reports of killer whales across the province, in Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska. The public response was hugely successful. In 1971, over 550 questionnaires were returned and Dr. Bigg established an estimate of approximately 550 killer whales from southeast Alaska to California; an estimate that was proven to be highly accurate. The results put a permanent end to the capture of killer whales in Canada and the U.S.
Since then, keen members of the public have continued to report sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises as well as sea turtles in B.C. to both the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo and the Vancouver Aquarium. In 1999, the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network was established to keep these data in one place, and in a consistent format that makes it valuable and available to researchers, NGOs and government.
Wild Whales, the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, continues as a collaborative effort of the Vancouver Aquarium and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.