Using a new tool from the BC Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN), the residents of Saturna Island have taken whale research and conservation into their own hands! This year the Saturna Island Marine Research and Education Society (SIMRES) initiated a pilot project to monitor all cetacean activity in nearby waters. Citizen scientists across the island are reporting cetacean sightings along their coast which are then collected in a new BCCSN Sightings Portal. This allows various organizations, companies, and other groups to easily access sightings submitted to the BCCSN by specified individuals.
The catalyst for this research project was the implementation of an Interim Sanctuary Zone on the east side of Saturna island. The Interim Sanctuary Zone was established to provide a safe and protected foraging area for Southern Resident Killer Whales, an endangered population consisting of only 74 individuals. The research project will allow SIMRES to collect consistent and accurate data on the number of whales transiting through this zone as well as other areas around the island. SIMRES plans to provide these data to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to aid in research about compliance in and around the sanctuary zone and eventually use the data for their own research. The project has great support from the community with sponsorship not only from SIMRES, but also from the Saturna Island Parks Liaison Committee and the Saturna Environmental Education Centre.
SIMRES is one of the first groups to use the Sightings Portal to compile BCCSN reports. The system makes it much easier for organizations to collect cetacean sightings data by providing a framework for reporting as well as an easy way to view and access data. Members report their sightings through the BCCSN’s WhaleReport app, a free to download smartphone app that collects accurate data in real-time. While anyone can report via this app, only members of a specific Sightings Portal will have their reports collected for use by their organization. Administrators can access these sightings through an interactive online map which can display reports based on specific areas, individual species, or selected date ranges. If administrators require more detail, they can download the sightings data as a spreadsheet to view more specific details of sightings reports including animal behaviours, sighting conditions, or sighting platform. This information can be used to discover patterns and trends in whale sightings, create maps, identify top reporters in an organization, or conduct research, as is the case with SIMRES.
Would you or your organization like to easily access your BCCSN sightings reports? You can learn more about the BCCSN Sightings Portal by visiting www.wildwhales.org/sightingsportal. To request an account, send an email to [email protected]. And remember, even if you’re not part of a Sightings Portal, you can always report your sightings to the BCCSN to contribute to whale conservation and research at www.wildwhales.org/sightings.