Land Based Observations
For the past 18 years we have been collecting land based data on the occurrence, frequency and behaviours of whales from our land based research platforms. Each hour between sunrise and sunset our researchers conduct a 20 minute scan using large binoculars (BIG EYES) and record all mammal sightings, boat traffic, weather conditions and sea state from each of our research locations.
From its small perch on Fin Island, this 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 behavioural response of whales to shipping; and 3) providing a visual record of whale densities and behaviours 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.
In response to the growing population of Humpback Whales now returning to Johnstone Strait, in 2019 we partnered with Orcalab.