Maritime partnership to observe whales expands

The partnership formed to collect data on cetacean observations in Eastern and Northern Canada is widening its scope. The voluntary program originated from the collaboration of Desgagnés and the Observation of Marine Mammals Network (ROMM) in May 2015. For almost two years now, 18 vessels within the Desgagnés fleet have been participating in the gathering of information about the whales of Quebec, as well as those in Northern and Eastern Canada. A Canada Steamship Lines vessel was also part of a pilot project to collect data on marine mammals. Building on the positive results achieved by these collaborations, Green Marine is joining the team to facilitate exporting this successful model to other regions of North America.

To date, nearly 635 whale observations have been made by the earlier trained crews aboard Desgagnés vessels, significantly enriching ROMM’s database and reporting on territories previously uncovered by its observing members. The public can access the data at the St. Lawrence Global Observatory website here.

“Even though we haven’t yet compiled all of the 2016 observation data, we can affirm that we have significantly exceeded the results attained in 2015 in terms of amount of data collected. This scenario demonstrates the keen interest of the seafaring personnel in participating in this process,” said Daniel Côté, Environmental Advisor for Desgagnés.

Thanks to a grant from the Government of Canada Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, a training and data collection program is planned to build on the positive experience with Desgagnés. The plan is to consolidate and improve upon the existing program, as well as extend it to other maritime industry representatives.

“We want to review some elements of the data collection protocol so that the data can be used by scientists to reduce the risk of collisions between whales and ships and, thereby, directly help the recovery of species at risk, such as the blue whale and the right whale,” said Esther Blier, ROMM’s Executive Director.

Green Marine’s participation in the project will help to develop training and data collection tools adapted to the reality of different shipowners, improving them in the process so they can be integrated into the recognized environmental certification program.

“Green Marine is pleased to be associated with this participatory approach toward achieving a better coexistence between ships and whales,” said David Bolduc, Green Marine’s Executive Director. “In partnership with ROMM and other organizations outside Quebec, we will work to promote this project in order to make it accessible to other participants in the Green Marine program throughout North America.”

The current project constitutes a continuation of the original initiative completed by ROMM in collaboration with the Shipping Federation of Canada, which resulted in the publication of “A Mariner’s Guide to Whales in the Northwest Atlantic.” A tool greatly appreciated by the maritime industry, this guide has been distributed free of charge since 2014 with the aim of raising the awareness of seafaring personnel to the presence of whales and the consequences of ship collisions with them.

Maritime Editorial