Land-Based Research

For the past 20 years we have been collecting crucial land-based data concerning the occurrence, frequency, and behaviours of whales.

Since 2017, this work has been centered at the Fin Island Research Station in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest.

The Fin Island station overlooks Squally Channel, one of the most active whale habitats in British Columbia, and an impending liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipping lane slated to commence tanker transits in 2025. Since the inception of the Fin Island Research Station, we have diligently worked towards establishing a comprehensive baseline dataset detailing whale presence and habitat usage. 

Our goal is to systematically document and quantify the potential impacts of increased shipping on whale communication, foraging behaviors, human-induced mortality, and to observe any shifts or changes in habitat use or quality.

Our ability to collect this critical data is a result of a collaboration between ourselves, the Gitga’at First Nation, and WWF-Canada under the Ships, Whales, and Acoustics in Gitga’at Territory (SWAG) project.

Through SWAG, we have established a network of four hydrophones in Squally Channel that monitor and record the underwater acoustics of whales 24/7. The strategic placement of each hydrophone coupled with specialized software enables us to record, detect, and classify whale calls to a species level.

The time delay that it takes each whale call to be detected by each hydrophone allows us to non-invasively triangulate the exact position of vocal whales in near real-time.

In addition to listening beneath the waves, we actively visually monitor the surface. Each hour between sunrise and sunset, our researchers conduct systematic 20 minute scans using large binoculars. From each of our research locations at Fin Island Station and our partners at Orcalab, we record all marine mammal sightings, vessel sightings, weather conditions, and sea state. Integrating cutting-edge technologies, we have initiated novel drone research projects to explore fine-scale whale behaviour, genetics, and threats. These innovative research approaches complement our ongoing efforts to systematically identify and catalog all humpback whales, fin whales, and orca that pass our land-based research platform.

We aim to conduct all of our research operations with a non-invasive approach. We aim to learn about whales as best as we can in order to appropriately advocate for effective and necessary protection measures which will ensure the continued recoveries of at-risk whale populations along the coast of BC. Being able to conduct much of our work from an un-intrusive land-based monitoring platform has been integral in upholding our high standards as they pertain to ethical whale research, and allows us to minimize our own impact on the whales we aim to protect.

Fin Island Research Station

Located in the Great Bear Rainforest

Orcalab Research Station

Located in the Johnstone Strait