How Sightings Are Used

Conservation-Based Research

Each sighting report we receive helps to fill critical knowledge gaps about the occurrence and distribution of cetaceans and sea turtles in B.C’s waters.  Thanks to our dedicated network of citizen scientists, we are creating safer waters for some of B.C’s most iconic creatures.

Jessica Scott

Research Manager, Ocean Wise Conservation Association

 Information about the distribution and abundance of species is the key to both understanding the status of the species and whether the status of the population is improving, steady or declining.  However, the vast and remote nature of British Columbia’s coastline can make regular monitoring of cetacean populations via traditional scientific surveys particularily challenging.  For over 20 years, the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN) has built a diverse and dedicated network of over 7,000 coastal community members who regularly report their cetacean (whales, dolphin, and porpoise) and sea turtle sightings.  The mission of the BCCSN is to monitor the abundance and distribution of cetaceans in British Columbia (B.C)’s waters and reduce the risk of vessel strike and disturbance.

The BCCSN maintains a well-curated database containing over 130,000 cetacean and sea turtle sighting reports, submitted by a robust network of citizen scientists.  This database is the primary source of information on the occurrence of cetaceans and sea turtles in B.C’s waters, and spatial and temporal trends in their abundance. Subsets of the data it contains are provided to over 30 conservation-based research projects annually.

Our Research Initiatives

Designed for commercial mariners, the Mariner’s Guide to Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises of Western Canada was developed to increase awareness about the potential impacts of commercial vessel activities on cetaceans in British Columbia and how mariners can reduce these impacts.

The WhaleReport Alert System (WRAS) broadcasts pertinent details of whale presence to bridge crew and pilots of large commercial vessels so that they can implement speed reductions or other measures to reduce their risk of disturbing or striking whales.

The Whale Trail BC is a land-based whale watching initiative which establishes marine mammal viewing sites along the coast of  British Columbia.  The goal of this initiative is to inspire stewardship and appreciation of the marine environment while providing opporunities for zero-impact whale watching.