Ocean Wise’s cetacean photogrammetry research program uses aerial images collected by boat-launched drones to measure the body condition of whales. (Ocean Wise Marine Mammal License MML-18 photo)

Ocean Wise’s cetacean photogrammetry research program uses aerial images collected by boat-launched drones to measure the body condition of whales. (Ocean Wise Marine Mammal License MML-18 photo)

LNG Canada commits $750K to whale research, conservation initiative

Ocean Wise education team will work alongside educational and Indigenous leaders in the area

A new whale research initiative is expanding its conservation, research and education program in northwest B.C.

Committing $750,000 over a three-year span, LNG Canada is joining forces with marine research organization, Ocean Wise, to help them continue investigating and observing the habitat requirements of North Coast killer whales and humpbacks.

The whale research initiative will include: surveys of the relative abundance and distribution of cetacean species in the Chatham Sound region; a collection of environmental DNA; implementation of a real-time alert system informing commercial mariners of nearby whales; drone-based aerial photogrammetry to assess the body condition of humpback and killer whales; and promotion of BC Cetacean Sightings Network, and the Whale Report App, for communities along the North Coast.

“Humpback whales and killer whales are among the most iconic species of the North Coast region but their populations are susceptible to threats such as prey availability, underwater noise and physical disturbance, and contaminants,” Karina Dracott, research manager of the North Coast Cetacean Research Initiative at Ocean Wise, said. “By addressing critical knowledge gaps and through solutions-oriented research and education we hope to help support B.C.’s North Coast communities and industry with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect critical ecosystems and the iconic species that rely on them.”

With Ocean Wise’s North Coast cetaceans conservation research programs taking place since 2014, the not-for-profit organization also plans on using their findings to work with local educators, Indigenous leaders, school boards, researchers and community leaders on ocean literacy programs specific to students in the Kitimat and Terrace regions.

Thus, in hopes of creating, establishing and delivering programs that will help the next generations of ocean leaders in the region, the Ocean Wise education team will work alongside educational and Indigenous leaders in the Kitimat and Terrace area by focusing on three themes:

Enhancing the educational capacity of the community; delivering quality programs relevant to students living in the Northwest; and engaging youth in skill buildings programs so they can become future community leaders.

“We understand the importance of marine stewardship to local and Indigenous communities in the northwest and are keen to continue our support of marine research and educational opportunities in recognition of these shared priorities,” Denita McKnight, Director Corporate Affairs at LNG Canada said. “Ocean Wise is a leader in B.C. marine research delivering science in support of healthy aquatic species and healthy oceans. We are pleased to provide funding that will expand on the important work Ocean Wise researchers are doing and help preserve the health and well-being of northwest B.C.’s coastal ecosystem.”

Ocean Wise is also supported by funding from the Port of Prince Rupert and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

READ MORE: Coast Guard ramps up protections for B.C. whales



jacob.lubberts@northernsentinel.com