The timing couldn’t be more fortuitous with whales spotted in Burrard Inlet yesterday as we announce the launch of WhaleReport, the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network’s new smartphone reporting app. Monitoring the distribution and occurrence of B.C.’s cetaceans and sea turtles helps scientists develop conservation measures to protect them, but with more than 25,000 kilometres of coastline to keep an eye on, it’s a big job. For the past several decades researchers have been asking the public to help out by reporting their sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles.
Developed with funding provided by Mountain Equipment Co-op, this new app provides an innovative and easy way to report your sightings. Information collected will help identify areas most important to these species at different times of the year, and changes in their distribution over time. In turn, those discoveries will inform measures taken to aid the recovery of species most at risk.
Now in its 15th year, the Sightings Network has collected sightings from over 4,000 citizen scientists and manages a database over of 84,000 sighting reports. Sightings in the past have been reported on a toll-free phone line, a web form, in email or using paper logbooks. All of these options will remain in place, but the new app will make it easier than ever for observers to send in a sighting as it automatically records the time, date, and the location. The app also includes a species identification guide and a wealth of other information.
Sightings can happen at any time and can be made from any location or viewing platform including recreational boats, ferries and even the shoreline. This was an important factor to consider, according to the Sightings Network’s coordinator, Tessa Danelesko.
“What I’m most excited about is that for the first time ever, anyone can report sightings using smartphones or tablets; devices most people carry with them almost everywhere. This means reporting is more convenient than ever, which is especially important since many sightings occur unexpectedly,” said Danelesko.
Mountain Equipment Co-op’s funding allowed the Sightings Network to include a variety of exciting features in the WhaleReport app including the ability to take a photo or choose an existing one, load vessel and weather information, the ability to select the sighting location from a map or via GPS, and the option to see everything you’ve reported using the app with a personalized sightings summary map.
All of this information will be at your fingertips whether you’re on a boat, walking along the cliff tops or paddling your kayak out on the water. You don’t even need an active phone signal to access the app or send in your reports, as you can log your sightings offline and submit when back in mobile range.
Additional funding for the project was kindly provided by Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk and BG Canada.
With both boating and ecotourism ramping up for summer, we encourage everyone to download the free app today from the iTunes app store or from the Google Android store. Do your part to protect B.C.’s cetaceans and sea turtles by reporting what you see – you never know when you your next sighting will be!