Pacific Region International Survey of Marine Megafauna (PRISMM)

Pacific Region International Survey of Marine Megafauna (PRISMM)

Map: Pacific Region International Survey of Marine Megafauna (PRISMM)

Map: Pacific Region International Survey of Marine Megafauna (PRISMM)

The mission

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is undertaking a large-scale survey in the Northeast Pacific Ocean to survey marine mammals. The survey, led by the Cetacean Research Program, will run from July 3 to September 6, 2018, and will provide information on abundance of marine mammals. Surveys of this magnitude have been conducted before by DFO in Atlantic Canada and the Central Arctic, but not in Canadian Pacific waters.

The 10-week survey will look at the summer distribution of marine megafauna, or large marine animals. The objective is to obtain data for as many cetacean species (e.g. whales, dolphins, and porpoises) as possible, as well as other marine species (seals and sea lions, sharks, sea turtles). Important research identified for these species include the assessment of population status, abundance trends and seasonal distribution. The emphasis will be on estimating abundance of marine mammal populations, which requires systematic surveys of all waters off British Columbia. However, this survey also provides a chance to refine our knowledge of the critical habitat of species listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), and for observation of species not listed under SARA, on which there has been less research effort in the past.

The area

The survey will take place off the Pacific Coast, in Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). An EEZ is an area of the ocean where the coastal country or state has the rights over exploration, conservation and management of natural resources.

This survey may provide additional information that will contribute to future identification or refinement of Critical Habitat for SARA-listed species. Critical Habitat is defined in the Species at Risk Act as a habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a threatened, endangered or extirpated species, and that is identified as such in a recovery strategy or action plan.

The species

Species that the team may encounter during the survey include:

The vessel and tools

The team will be collecting data from two vessels. For the first six weeks the team will be aboard the 67-meter CCGS John P. Tully. This large oceanographic science vessel will be used for offshore surveying. For another four weeks the team will be conducting inshore research onboard the CCGS Tanu. This is a smaller vessel, 52-meters in length, but will be convenient for maneuvering in the coastal waters.

The CCGS Tully will tow an acoustic array, a device made up of an arrangement of hydrophones (underwater microphones). The hydrophones detect and record underwater sound and will run 24 hours per day in order to obtain the maximum amount of data. They can locate the distance and position of the animals that are detected, and identify their species. The acoustic array allows the team to detect long-diving species which stay underwater for extended periods of time, as well as other rare species that are difficult to observe visually. Species that surface more frequently will be surveyed by large binoculars called “big-eyes”, along with smaller hand-held ones, that have reticles inside to allow observers to estimate the distance of animals sighted. This data will help estimate population numbers and create distribution maps for the species that the survey will encounter.

Large “big-eyes” binoculars. Photo credit: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

Large “big-eyes” binoculars. Photo credit: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

Reticle binoculars. Photo credit: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

Reticle binoculars. Photo credit: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

The team
Thomas Doniol-Valcroze
Lead Scientist, Program lead, Cetacean Research Program, DFO Pacific
Linda Nichol
Lead Scientist, Senior Marine Mammal Biologist, DFO Pacific
Robin Abernethy
Senior Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Jacklyn Barrs
Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Ali Bowker
Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Hilari Dennis-Bohm
Aquatic Biologist, DFO Pacific
John Ford
Scientist Emeritus, DFO Pacific
Caroline Fox
Canadian Wildlife Service, ECCC
Kyla Graham
Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Anna Hall
Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Chris Hall
Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Jackie Hildering
Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Elise Keppel
Aquatic Biologist, DFO Pacific
Hitomi Kimura
Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Ashley Kling
Science Advisor, DFO NHQ
Sheena Majewski
Senior Marine Mammal Biologist, DFO Pacific
Christie McMillan
Species at Risk Recovery Planner, DFO Pacific
Kai Meyer
Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Janet Mossman
Aquatic Biologist, DFO Pacific
Alison Ogilvie
Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Bruce Paterson
Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Lisa Spaven
Senior Marine Mammal Research Technician, DFO Pacific
Wendy Szanizslo
Marine Mammal Biologist, DFO Pacific

Photo gallery

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