In 2019 we received 6 applications totaling $46,951.50 in requested funds and contributed $32,851.50 to the 5 projects given the highest evaluations by NIMMSA directors and staff. Listed below are the successful 2019 applicants:
- Sayward Futures Society received $1,912.50 for Kelsey Bay hydrophone maintenance and live-streaming.
- Bere Point Research received $2,100.00 for the purchase of field equipment.
- OrcaLab received $8,192.00 for installation of a live-streaming video camera at Strider rubbing beach inside Robson Bight Ecological Reserve.
- Marine Education and Research Society received $9,850.00 for humpback whale fishing gear entanglement data collection, analysis, and publication.
- University of Victoria received $10,807.00 for humpback whale prey selection fieldwork and data analysis.
In 2018 we received 9 applications totaling $74,008 in requested funds and contributed $35,008 to the 5 projects given the highest evaluations by NIMMSA directors and staff. Listed below are the successful applicants along with submitted project updates & final report summaries.
University of Victoria received $7,150 for the project “The vocal behaviour of minke whales off northern Vancouver Island”
This project represented the culmination of an acoustic study conducted in 2012 in Cormorant Channel, BC. Our goal was to complete a scientific publication in order to share the results of our research. With the funds provided by NIMMSA, this goal was met. We submitted a scientific manuscript for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Bioacoustics on July 19, 2018 (see proof title page, below). The title of the manuscript is ‘Vocalizations of common minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in an eastern North Pacific feeding ground’, and it describes call types identified from underwater acoustic recordings made in the presence of minke whales in Cormorant Channel. We placed a hydrophone and sound recording device in Cormorant Channel in the summer (June-August) of 2012, accompanied by daily observations from the shore of Cormorant Island. Observers recorded when minke whales or other marine mammals were in the area. The acoustic recordings were examined during times when minke whales were observed close to the hydrophone, resulting in about 64.5 hours of recordings to be manually searched for vocalizations, then re-analyzed a second time for quality assurance (over 100 hours of data analysis). Any potential minke whale calls were identified, and those found at times when only minke whales were in the area were used in further analysis. The selected calls were classified into four call types: pulse chains (111 calls), downsweeps (5 calls), broadband pulses (2 calls), and tonal wavers (22 calls). Considering the number of hours of data that were carefully analyzed, fewer calls were found than we expected from previous reports of minke whale vocal behaviour. We hypothesize that minke whales were not more vocal in this area due to predation risk, sexual segregation, and seasonality, and that some calls may have been missed because of acoustic masking. This study is the first to describe the vocal behaviour of minke whales in the eastern North Pacific on their feeding grounds. The results will allow acousticians to better detect minke whale presence in an area when they may not be easily seen at the surface, and to assess the potential impact of increasing noise from vessels and industry on their ability to communicate. We hope that our findings will provoke further study leading to a better understanding of the acoustic ecology of minke whales off the west coast of North America.
MERS Marine Education and Research Society received $10,008 for the project “Updated catalogue of the individual Humpback Whales documented off northeastern Vancouver Island”
Through support provided by NIMMSA’s Conservation Fund, the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) was able to update the catalogue of Humpback Whales documented from the northern Strait of Georgia to the north end of Vancouver Island (study area). The aim had been to provide one updated catalogue but we were able to surpass this goal and produce two updates. The first was delivered to NIMMSA and its members on July 24, 2018 and the second on February 28, 2019. The latter included whales documented in the study area up to December 31, 2018. MERS also delivered a summary of all Humpbacks sighted in the study area and information about whether they were newly documented or whales already known in BC. These updates were made available to NIMMSA members at no charge. The Humpback Whale photographs taken by MERS and data contributors (many who are NIMMSA members) were processed by MERS as follows: • Identification of individual whales was determined and catalogue numbers were assigned. If the whale was not already known to MERS, team members cross-referenced the photo(s) with the Fisheries and Ocean Canada (DFO) Humpback catalogue. If concluded that the whale had also not been documented by DFO, the whale was assigned a MERS catalogue number. • Every photo was graded for quality. For previously undocumented whales, the best fluke and dorsal fin identification photos were added to the catalogue update. For whales already catalogued, new photos were compared to those in the catalogue, and if of higher quality, they replaced the photo(s) in the catalogue. • Every sighting was also entered into the MERS database.
For NIMMSA members and other ecotourism operators, the MERS catalogue helps to enhance the experience of guests by providing information about the individual Humpback Whales sighted during trips. This creates increased public interest and engagement, leading to greater awareness of the presence of Humpback Whales and the threats they face, and further contributions of Humpback data and reporting of incidents of entanglement, vessel strikes, and disturbance. The updated MERS Humpback catalogue is also being compared to Humpback catalogues maintained by other researchers coast-wide, to reduce knowledge gaps regarding the abundance, population structure, movements, threats, and behaviours of Humpback Whales in BC. MERS intends to continue to update our catalogue annually, thus sustaining these benefits to research, conservation, and public engagement. The support of the NIMMSA Conservation Fund also covered moorage for a MERS research vessel and 5 days of surveying for Humpbacks for the purposes of: cataloguing the whales; photographing whales to look for evidence of entanglement scarring; and documenting feeding strategies, site fidelity, social associations, and other population and behaviour data. MERS is grateful to NIMMSA for the support that made these catalogue updates possible. In addition to the financial support from the NIMMSA Conservation Fund, the photos and sightings data contributed by NIMMSA members greatly increase what MERS is able to achieve in documenting and understanding Humpbacks.
Pacific Orca Society OrcaLab received $3,675 for the project “Acoustic monitoring and land-based observations of cetaceans in northern Vancouver Island”
Thanks to a grant from the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association (NIMMSA), OrcaLab was able to purchase a Cetacean Research Technology SQ26 hydrophone. On 21 August 2018, this was attached to the underwater camera frame in the shallows at MRB. This hydrophone has a frequency response to 50khz and is adequate for detecting orca, humpback and dolphin vocalizations. The transducer was connected to a digital recorder that in turn was connected to a Barix encoding device that transmitted the data to the Lab on Hanson Island via our wireless network. At the Lab, data were decoded with another Barix device and connected to our recording system. The new hydrophone was “piggybacked” onto the existing battery/fuel cell system already in place for operating the camera systems, therefore providing a reliable power source. The transducer and underwater camera are typically vulnerable to some sea state conditions. Damage by rolling waves during storms has harmed previous hydrophones. Erring on the side of caution, the hydrophone and underwater camera were removed 31 October 2018. OrcaLab plans to reinstall this hydrophone in 2019 after weather conditions improve and before the start of the new season. The total grant funds from NIMMSA are sufficient for us to install two hydrophones, and our intention is to install another at a second location in Blackney Pass adjacent to the Sea Lion haul out. The location is called “Local Right”. We anticipate this installation will be accomplished before the 2019 Resident orca summer season. We are very grateful to NIMMSA for making these improvements to our project possible!
Salmon Coast Field Station Society received $6,000 for the project “Broughton Salmon Population Analyses”
Awaiting submission of Final Report Project Summary
CETUS Research and Conservation Society received $8,175 for the project “Rebuilding of the structure at Eagle Eye”
Interim Report: Thanks to support from NIMMSA, Cetus Research & Conservation Society has been able to initiate a critically necessary rebuild of our research observation station, Eagle Eye, on West Cracroft Island. Throughout the summer season Cetus provides stewardship and education to thousands of residents and visitors to the Vancouver Island North Region, focusing on Robson Bight and surrounding areas. From Eagle Eye, our observers work in conjunction with our marine based wardens to ensure that vessels comply with the reserve boundaries and the Be Whale Wise (BWW) guidelines and promoting marine environmental stewardship practices.
Our primary objectives for the project were to ensure a safe work environment for researchers that is conducive to their technical requirements and which would not disrupt the natural environment. Being 50m up, the project presented significant logistical challenges. Cetus was fortunate enough to find a carpenter who was creative enough to adapt to working with the available materials and the difficult topography and was particularly adept at forming the trusses and other underlying pieces of the floor to accommodate rocks and the uneven terrain without altering it. Although some elements of the project are still underway, we now have an improved base that is already being utilized by our observers and we’ve achieved our main objectives: to create a sufficiently stable platform for use with optical equipment and tripods (one that would be sturdy with minimal vibration) as well as being physically less taxing for our team as they work.
Thanks to funding from NIMMSA, we have been able to drastically overhaul and enhance our facility and the foundation of our research efforts in Johnstone Strait. With such an improved base, we hope to continue to contribute significantly to recovery and conservation efforts of at-risk marine mammals in the North Island region.