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NCCRI Empowers Citizen Scientists to Protect Marine Life

DP World recognizes that our business and the prosperity of our people and communities, is largely born on the world’s oceans.

We are committed to making ocean enhancement a part of our legacy. Our areas of focus include ocean education programs, restoration projects, and coastal cleanups. And, along with the Port of Prince Rupert and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, we’re committed to supporting organizations that contribute to the health of that environment.

One such organization is the North Coast Cetacean Research Initiative (NCCRI), part of the Marine Mammal Conservation Research Team at the Ocean Wise Research Institute (OWRI). Cetaceans, such as whales, dolphins, and porpoises, are marine mammals who live their lives wholly in the water. They are usually large and have carnivorous diets.

NCCRI and Northern B.C. Waters

NCCRI was established in 2014 to monitor Cetacean populations in Northern British Columbia. While this area is biologically critical for Cetaceans, it was understudied. This program now allows an important part of the Cetacean ecosystem to receive more attention.

NCCRI’s work helps researchers complete fragmented data and observations. NCCRI scientists and affiliated professionals conduct field research and applied research projects in the area. Just as importantly, NCCRI works with the public, educating them about the marine environment and encouraging citizen scientists to contribute to their efforts.

NCCRI and Marine Researchers

Since its founding, NCCRI has established relationships with educational institutions, industries, government, and First Nations in the Northern British Columbia area, which has allowed them to extend their reach to more scientific and general audiences.

The organization has also created educational materials. Recently, for example, NCCRI printed and distributed “Humpbacks of the North Coast,” an illustrated guide to specific humpback whales who frequent Chatham Sound.

Other recent activities of NCCRI include nearshore transects, which are surveys of a specific area near the coast to assess the number and varieties of species there. They also launched the Whale Report Alert System (WRAS), which alerts the operators of ships, tugboats, and ferries when a whale has been spotted within 10 miles of their location. Their influence has been felt worldwide; NCCRI representatives presented at the World Marine Mammal Congress in Barcelona.

Ocean Wise Programs for Young and Old

Encouraging citizen scientists and the engagement and education of the public is equally important to NCCRI’s mission. Thousands of people of all ages have participated in training, education, and outreach events, and many have contributed to the documented Cetacean sightings, enriching NCCRI’s and the world’s understanding of these animals. NCCRI and the Port of Prince Rupert have hosted events, including a movie screening and “Dock Talks,” for recreational boaters. NCCRI has been a key part of local festivals and a partner with schools.

Ocean Wise has a longstanding project, the Whale Report Alert System, also supported by the Port of Vancouver, the Prince Rupert Port Authority, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, among others. Through this program, citizen scientists are trained to spot and observe Cetaceans and other marine animals, then report their sightings to the British Columbia Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN). The database of sightings contains more than 130,000 reports from 7,300 observers. In addition, the BCCSN has touched more than 3 million people through its coastal outreach efforts.

So Much More to Learn

Despite humanity’s enduring fascination with Cetaceans, we have so much to learn about them. Exactly how they communicate, how they decide when and where to migrate, and other questions are still outstanding. Also important is how our actions affect their environment, and how we can support Cetacean species’ survival and flourishing. Organizations such as Ocean Wise and its initiatives support these goals. To learn more or get in touch, visit Ocean Wise on Instagram, at their website, or read this report on their activities.