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Background

The Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) is a registered Canadian charity dedicated to promoting conservation and understanding of marine ecosystems through scientific research, environmental education, and marine wildlife response. We incorporated in 2010 and are based on northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia in the Territory of the Kwakwaka'wakw  

 Click here for background on our team of marine biologist and educators.  

What We Do:
(scroll down for highlights of what we achieved in the last year): 

  • Our Humpback Whale research area is from the upper Strait of Georgia to Bella Bella and northwest Vancouver Island.
  • Education efforts to reduce threats to whales (and boaters) are coast-wide – includes signage, resource development, media engagement, presentations / webinars, and workshops including Marine Mammal Naturalist Courses.
  • Photo identification, population, and behaviour studies - Minke and Humpback Whales.  
  • Feeding strategy studies – Humpback Whales.
  • Marine mammal response and rescue.
  • Studies to better understand the threat of entanglement to marine mammals.
  • Coordinating the efforts of the Canadian Pacific Humpback Collaboration (CPHC) to develop and maintain a province- wide catalogue for Humpback Whales sighted off the coast of British Columbia.
  • Collaboration on research into distribution of Mola / Ocean Sunfish species off the west coast of North America.
  • Education to raise awareness of Leatherback Turtles off the coast of BC.
  • Educational resource development to reduce marine debris. 

Highlights of work achieved by MERS in 2021 (to November) 

Educational and Outreach

    • Working with a film crew on a nature documentary with very significant conservation messaging. Will be aired in 2023.
    • Delivering an Ocean’s Day webinar for schools reaching ~ 5,000 students.
    • Providing workshops / courses including:
    • Two sessions on ethical advertising conducted in partnership with the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association (NIMMSA) and Tourism Vancouver Island.
    • 3-day workshop for Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Whale Protection Unit.
    • An online Marine Mammal Naturalist Course (24 hours of instruction over 4 weeks to 63 people).
    • Workshops to be of use to First Nations re. marine mammal behaviour and boater education.
    • Delivering 21 additional webinars aimed at reducing risks to whales and further marine life reaching over 1,500 viewers.
    • Gap analysis toward development of an interactive, boater education course to increase knowledge of laws and best practices about vessel operation around marine mammals. 
    • Completion of 3 animations for our “Ocean of Good” campaign to raise awareness of, and reduce, marine debris. Campaign will be launched at the beginning of 2022.
    • Sale of over 115 additional Whale Warning Flags.
    • Strategic positioning of 25 additional “See a Blow? Go Slow!” signs to educate boaters on how to reduce risk to whales for a total of more than 400 signs now posted on British Columbia’s coast (see map at this link).
    • Animations by volunteer Dawn Dudek to increase awareness of the Whale Warning Flag and See a Blow? Go Slow! campaign.
    • Submission of a request for an emergency assessment of Sunflower Stars to the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (this catalyzed an unsolicited assessment being written by researchers).
    • 50 interviews with media informing marine conservation issues.
    • Serving as a resource to over 600 visitors to our office in Port McNeill with development of new resources to aid educational efforts there. 

      Research

      • Continued cataloguing of Humpback Whales in our study area including the addition of 88 previously undocumented whales. 
      • Over 2,100 database entries for sightings of Humpbacks in our study area.
      • Coordinating the Canadian Pacific Humpback Collaboration; a collaboration of those cataloguing Humpback Whales off the coast of British Columbia. Includes database design and consolidation of datasets to develop a province-wide Humpback Whale catalogue and enable further research collaboration.
      • Providing data and analysis to inform research into Humpback Whale population structure.
      • Continued data collection and analysis of scars on Humpback Whales that indicate they have survived entanglement(s) and drafting a manuscript focused on the scope of this threat to Humpbacks in BC waters for publication (work conducted in collaboration with DFO).
      • Continued data collection for Humpback Whale population studies and feeding strategy research and conducting year-round multi-species marine mammal surveys to inform seasonal and annual changes in distribution. Over 150 hours spent conducting surveys.  
      • Continued compilation of Mola / Ocean Sunfish sightings to support the study into distribution of the two species in the northeast Pacific Ocean. 
      • Redesigning our Humpback Whale catalogue to interface fully with our database and to make use of search criteria for distinctive features.  
      Marine Mammal Rescue and Response
        • 5 days of monitoring commercial fisheries overlapping with areas of high whale density, to improve reporting of incidents and to respond, or provide support to rescue efforts, when needed.
        • Communication / coordination for 59 marine mammal incidents, ranging from violations of the Marine Mammal Regulations to marine mammal entanglement.

          How can all this work be achieved by a small team?

          Through a dedicated community of supporters who help through: 

          Current Grant Funding:

          • Government of Canada (Fisheries and Oceans Canada Marine Mammal Response Program and Habitat Stewardship Program for Aquatic Species at Risk)
          • Canada Summer Jobs
          • North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association Conservation Fund


          All photos on this site provided by and © Jared Towers, Christie McMillan, Jackie Hildering, and Heidi Krajewsky, unless otherwise indicated.
          Photos are not to be used without permission.

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