From its small perch on Fin Island, this new research camp (established in 2017) overlooks many things at once: the most active whale areas in British Columbia's fjordland, Squally Channel, a proposed LNG shipping lane, as well as the hydrophone network at the center of the SWAG project (Ships, Whales, Acoustics in Gitga'at Territory).
Using new technologies developed specifically for Fin Island research, we conduct standard visual surveys as well as dedicated focal follows of whales and ships, all from the remote vantage of a land-based platform. Among the project's many goals are 1) an updated assessment of ship-strike risk for the humpback whales, fin whales, and orcas that use Squally channel; 2) a new way of studying the behavioral response of whales to shipping; and 3) providing a visual record of whale densities and behaviors with which to calibrate the SWAG acoustic dataset, which will allow us one day to track whales acoustically and assess their abundance and interactions with ships using sound alone.
This project is being developed in close collaboration with the Gitga'at First Nation, World Wildlife Fund - Canada, and a post-doctoral fellow at University of Victoria, Eric Keen. Eric first started with us as a volunteer in 2010, continued to carry out his own PhD research alongside us (www.rvbangarang.org), and now is back again for the SWAG Project.