University of Victoria (UVic) is leading a mission off Flores Island in Clayoquot Sound, north of Tofino, to deepen the knowledge of rare and threatened baleen whales and help protect them from ship strikes.
Over the next three weeks, a two-metre underwater ocean glider equipped with acoustic sensors, sonar and hydrophones will allow researchers to track whale movements by listening to and recording their sounds along the shelf break in Clayoquot Canyon.
The BC project led by UVic geographer David Duffus, director of UVic’s Whale Research Lab, is part of the national WHaLE project (Whales, Habitat and Listening Experiment) which seeks to define whale habitat and develop, test and implement a near real-time “whale alert” system to reduce the risk of ship-whale collisions, UVic wrote.
The project is funded by the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) based at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
“Ocean gliders are a new technique for gaining insights into whale ecology on Canada’s West Coast,” says Duffus. “Many species of concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act are termed ‘data deficient.’ We need more information on whale habitats and whale feeding ‘hot spots’ so we can put in protective measures, such as real time whale-alerts for shipping traffic.”
Since ocean gliders can monitor at night and in poor weather conditions, researchers will have more in-depth data to map baleen whale habitat and key feeding spots. The data will guide conservation efforts to protect whales from shipping traffic and noise in key marine locations, UVic added.