Marine watch desk in Sidney reports sightings in real time to protect B.C. orcas

The Canadian Coast Guard has established a full-time marine-mammal desk in Sidney to track shipping and prevent possible strikes and other dangers faced by the Southern Resident orcas and humpback and grey whales along the coast.

The desk is the first of its kind in Canada and is being staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the coast guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre in Sidney. It started operations on Nov. 1 with five specially trained officers.

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The desk will report whale sightings in real time and advise vessel traffic using radar and automatic identification systems. Violations will be reported to Transport Canada, 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 orcas and other cetacean sightings from coast guard vessels, light stations and aircraft. The 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 new desk will also act as a backup 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.

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