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Canadian Coast Guard opens the first Marine Mammal Desk to better protect Southern Resident Killer Whales and other cetaceans

January 14, 2020

Sidney, British Columbia – The protection of Southern Resident Killer Whales and other cetaceans is a priority for the Government of Canada. That is why we are taking strong, consistent action to prevent vessel strikes, entanglements and other threats facing these creatures. To support this priority, today the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) announced a first-of-its-kind Marine Mammal Desk co-located within the CCG’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre (MCTS) in Sidney, British Columbia.

The new Marine Mammal Desk will report whale sightings in real time and advise vessel traffic by providing enhanced situational awareness of the activities of Southern Resident Killer Whales and other cetaceans, such as humpback and grey whales. Staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the new Marine Mammal Desk leverages modern technologies including radar and Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and real-time vessel movement information. It will support partners like Transport Canada by safe keeping Southern Resident Killer Whale Interim Sanctuary Zones for compliance by commercial vessels and pleasure craft. Any violations will be reported to both Transport Canada and enforcement agencies, such as Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Conservation and Protection branch and Parks Canada, for disciplinary action. 

The Marine Mammal Desk will also take reports of Southern Resident Killer Whales and other cetacean sightings from sources such as CCG vessels, light stations, and aircraft operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the CCG and Transport Canada. This information will be forwarded to on-water enforcement agencies to ensure the protection of the mammals as well as reported to the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network. The data collected will help inform Canada’s decisions for future protection initiatives.

The Marine Mammal Desk will also act as a back-up to reporting systems, such as the Marine Mammal Incident Reporting Hotline operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Mariners and the public can call the Hotline to report injured, sick, distressed or deceased marine mammals. If for any reason a vessel can not contact the hotline, they can contact the Marine Mammal Desk who will ensure the required agencies are alerted to the incident.

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