REPORTING · 5th December 2014
There was a presentation at the Kitimat Public Library on recent research on Killer whales by the Vancouver Aquarium on Tuesday, December 2nd. The presentation also introduced the different species of Killer Whale and their populations on the North Coast.
“We also used the event to publicize, we have a citizen science program where we invite members of the public to help us with our research,” said Doctor Lance Barrett-Lennard. “We like to get sightings reports of whales, dolphins, pourpus and if anyone is lucky to get them, sea turtles so we understand how frequently the animals are seen in the area, what the trends are, particularly what goes on. Our research tends to be concentrated in the summer, so we can find out how the animals are using this area in the fall and winter and spring, that’s very useful to us.”
He hoped people would take away a better understanding of the threats which the whales faced and the things they could do to reduce the threats. The top threats are food shortages, disturbances and contamination. Disturbances include noise from vessels which make it difficult for the whales to hear.
Barrett-Lennard also talked about the important role which having healthy salmon populations in the North, as both whales and fishermen depend on them. He stated chinook populations are lower then they have been historically and they need to be rebuilt.
He expressed because the Killer Whales are at the top of the food chain, the eco system has to work for them to be able to function. “They are indicators of a healthy environment. If the Killer Whales can’t prosper, it means something’s gone wrong and we need to figure out what it is,” said Barrett-Lannard
At the moment, the Vancouver Aquarium is using aerial platforms to monitor the Killer Whale Population. This allows them to see changes in the whales over time and allows them to predict when they are in dire situations due to lack of food before they see mortalities.
“That will put pressure on fisheries managers and politicians in particular to work towards the enhancement and restoration of thriving salmon populations,” said Barrett-Lennard.