Who We Are
The Southern Gulf Islands Whale Sighting Network (SGIWSN) is a land-based citizen science organization established to monitor and gather data on the whales inhabiting the waters around the Southern Gulf Islands, ancestral territory of the Coast Salish people.
We work with the Saturna Island Marine Research and Education Society (SIMRES) who monitors underwater sounds with live stream hydrophones in Boundary Pass, listening for whale sounds to identify the various cetacean species and gain a better understanding of the impacts of engine noise levels.
SIMRES supports efforts to reduce human caused underwater noise which has been proven to disturb feeding activity and health of the whales.
What This Is About
We are raising money for professional rangefinders and long lens cameras to collect accurate data of the distances between whales, vessels and shore.
The Salish Sea has busy waterways where marine shipping vessels and recreational boats share the space with feeding and transiting whales. Our sighters, who are shore based volunteers, live where they can see the dangers between whales and boats. Collectively we are concerned about the well-being of the whales as marine traffic increases and some boat operators neglect to comply with the regulations.
A member of SRKW's J-Pod breaches in the Interim Sanctuary Zone off Saturna Island. Photo: Marlene Cummings
A Little History
In 2019 the Government of Canada implemented Interim Sanctuary Zones (ISZs) to assist in the recovery efforts of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs), a distinct population in peril with only 75 individuals remaining. Sanctuary zones were created to reduce acoustic and physical disturbance in traditional key foraging areas for the SRKWs. The zones prohibit fishing and boats within their boundaries and two of these ISZs are off Saturna and Pender Islands. Information on the ISZs can be found here: https://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/mammals-mammiferes/whales-baleines/srkw-measures-mesures-ers-eng.html
The ISZs were a catalyst for the start-up of the Southern Gulf Islands Whale Sighting Network. Since 2020 the SGIWSN has documented the whales and their movements in these waters.
Source: Spyhopper.ca, Retrieved June 18, 2022
Examples of our research to document vessel infractions in the ISZs can be viewed here: https://simres.ca/projects/sgi-whale-sighting-network/
Our findings are shared with governments, universities and individual researchers and our sighting information is available to the public on the Spyhopper.ca website.
A collaborative working relationship has formed with Fisheries and Oceans Canada Whale Protection Unit and Parks Canada Warden Service. A protocol for documenting and reporting marine mammal violations and vessel infractions has been jointly developed to enable these organizations to follow-up with violators and in some cases issue warnings, tickets and/or fines.
SRKW's L-Pod travelling in Boundary Pass with fishing vessel dangerously close. Photo: Marlene Cummings
Why We Need Your Help
To continue this essential work, sighters on Saturna and Pender Islands require additional professional-grade equipment. Rangefinders are needed to establish vessel distances from shore and high-quality cameras are needed to document the whale and vessel interactions. Your donation will help our sighters make accurate observations that will enhance the quality of our data to encourage better enforcement.
In other words, we'll be able to protect the whales better and give them safer and quieter waterways.
Whale Sighters using a range finder. Photo: MWelton
Thirty years ago we saw chinook salmon runs glistening on the surface of the water below the Oak Bluffs, closely followed by the magnificent sound of J-Pod breaching and blowing. This is the location of one of the Interim Sanctuary Zones. If we do it right we could see the salmon and J-Pod return to this critical habitat.
Mary Anne Pare, Sighter, SGIWSN
Make a Donation
SIMRES aims to raise $12,000 to purchase 4 rangefinders and 4 long range lens cameras. And, if we raise more we will be able to purchase additional cameras and rangefinders for our sighters, supporting further protection for our cetacean friends.
Please consider making a donation. You can choose any amount you like (min $10) by selecting "Pledge without reward" or select one of the reward categories.
Donations over $20 will receive a charitable tax receipt from SIMRES.
SIMRES is based on TEKTEKSEN (Saturna Island). We acknowledge the ancestral territories of the Coast and Straits Salish peoples on which we are based, particularly the Tsawout and Tseycum Nations, their pre-Confederate Douglas Treaty rights, and their asserted aboriginal rights and title in this area.