Waves are lapping the rocks, home to a colony of (very vocal) sea lions, and seagulls dashing across the outer coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean. Suddenly, it happens: A black dorsal fin pierces the water, quickly followed by another, then another, and another, and...
Working with the Heiltsuk First Nation, Pacific Wild and the GBEAR Project have a team of volunteers monitoring the Great Bear Sea for killer whales and other cetaceans during all daylight hours.
This non-intrusive monitoring project, known as Great Bear LIVE, uses real-time audio and visual technology to bring the world unprecedented insight into the lives of some the planet’s most difficult to observe wildlife. This year, thanks to a grant from the Save our Seas Foundation the focus is on killer whales.
Currently, all four populations of killer whales found in B.C. waters are recognized under the federal Species at Risk Act. Northern residents, transients, and offshores are listed as “threatened,” while southern residents are listed as “endangered.” Thanks to decades of research performed by OrcaLab and Cetacealab, much is known about the lives of cetaceans to our north and south, but the central coast of B.C. has not been as extensively monitored – until now.
In addition to the classic Seal Garden view, this year Great Bear LIVE fans can look forward to glimpses of killer whales, humpbacks, and dolphins. If we’re lucky, we may see them spy hopping, breaching, feeding, and more. Meanwhile, the team back at Pacific Wild HQ will be working to determine the effectiveness of audio vs. visual tracking systems for killer whales and conducting broader population monitoring.
Put another way, our team is tracking every appearance of killer whale – audio or visual – to determine how often hydrophones capture killer whale activity missed by above-water visual recordings, and vice versa. Beyond that, we will also be tracking the distribution of cetaceans across the Great Bear Sea to identify the extent to which the survival of these threatened species depends on keeping this waterway free of tankers, fish farms, and other marine developments. Combined, this work will contribute to improvements in cetacean monitoring (here and elsewhere) and help to clarify for policymakers and industry the role the Great Bear Rainforest plays in the safety and wellbeing of these incredible marine mammals.
To get developments on the study, follow us on Twitter or join the Pacific Wild email list. You can also subscribe to Great Bear LIVE alerts to receive a short email or text message whenever there is some action on the cameras or hydrophones.
And, of course, if you happen to be watching online and spot something, shoot us an email at live [at] pacificwild [dot] org. (You can also email us there if you ever encounter technical difficulties with any audio or visual feed.)