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Halifax Biennial Marine Mammal Conference 2017

Posted by Brunella Battista on November 24, 2017 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (6)

CMEPS at Halifax Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals

This is a report by Roy Mulder summarizing some of the highlights of the Halifax conference. It is written from the perspective of a conservationist attending a science conference. The conference was well attended by around 2,000 marine mammal scientists from around the world. This report covers some general information and is written from a Canadian interest and perspective. The large Canadian concern at the conference was the population of North Atlantic right whales in eastern Canada. As of late there have been 16 whales found dead generally in the region bounded by the Magdalen Islands, PEI and the New Brunswick coastline. One of the main concerns is that although this population numbers are around 500 animals, there are only 100 that are females of calf bearing years, and their mean longevity is only 14 years , while their potential lifespan is 60-80 years. From studies it is clear that just about every one of them has encountered fishing tackle in their lifetimes. Although entanglement is often blamed as a key factor in their demise, necropsies of dead whales is indicating that ship strikes may well be the main contributor to these deaths, while in US waters entanglement is the primary cause.

One of the organizations displaying at the conference was the Campobello Whale Rescue Team. This impressive group formed of fishermen interested in addressing entanglements lost one of their members in a rescue this year. The group documents entanglements and proactively works on releasing whales entangled by trap lines. They clearly know their risks and work hard to improve their methodology to make it safer for both the whales and the rescuers. The Sea Mammal Education Learning and Training Society was also displaying in the poster session. Their contribution to entanglements is a system that uses traps without lines and an inflatable trap return system. This system uses a GPS locator and RF transmitter to keep a record of trap locations for pick up after being laid. Hopefully the future will see some solutions to both entanglements and ship strikes. Ropeless fishing gear while in development remains a major hope for the future. It is noteworthy that at the current rate of loss N Atlantic Right whales will be extinct in 23 years. A large segment of the conference was focused on acoustics and satellite tagging. These talks ranged from the acoustic response to the use of shipboard echo sounders, to controlled exposure experiments with full-scale military mid-frequency sonars in four cetacean species. Clearly whales are being affected by acoustic disturbance and mitigating these disturbances will be required if we are to avoid disrupting the cetaceans. In some cases this could easily be resolved by organizing shipping routes and in other cases, more care must be exercised by military when conducting their activities. One of the talks indicated that there may be a direct linkage between tagged female whales and a resultant negative affect on pregnancy. Considering the number of tagging going on, this may be a factor that needs to be addressed. Some senior marine mammal scientists voiced concerns that the morbidity attached to the tagging of N Atlantic right whale has a demonstrated increase on calving interval, the calving rate for tagged animals being half or less that of untagged animals.

Aquatic mammals used as bait, especially in the global shark trade is a concern in global fisheries. Creating the demise of one species to facilitate the demise of another is a questionable practice. Studies indicate that marine mammals play an essential role as an ocean variable. Although many of the sessions covered various scientific aspects of marine mammals, conspicuously absent were studies of marine mammal prey and the beneficial role of pinnipeds. There was a good talk on integrating science into marine conservation management: a knowledge exchange framework that enhances the delivery of science into management action. Conservationists will need to learn to work more closely with scientists to validate concerns about management of specific populations. Some flawed tidal turbine studies ( n=1) seemed to indicate that acoustically tagged pinnipeds ( grey seal) avoid the turbines, although there was no information presented regarding the affect of turbines on prey species. There is a general lack of well designed, arms length studies of the impact of tidal turbines on marine wildlife in the UK, and this technology is now being deployed on Canada’s east coast in the Minas Basin. Again, without adequate study. Currently there is also a study to see if an acoustic deterrent device can be used to mitigate seal-fisheries interactions.

The battle between seal advocates and fishermen is an ongoing problem. There is a considerable effort being put into finding ways to reduce entanglements with fishing gear. Studies are being done on the tensile strength of ropes used in fishing operations, with studies demonstrating a 1700 pound breaking strength being a critical value to assure juvenile whales can escape gear in the N Atlantic right whale population. There are some hopes that the right strength of rope to conduct fishing activities, may be enough to fish, but not enough to keep cetaceans entangled, however the gold rush fishery for snow crab requires gear that greatly exceeds this critical breaking strength requirement. One of the areas of advancement in studies is the new automated dorsal fin matching. Automated systems for fluke identification have advanced making for a more accurate, easier identification and is reducing human ID time. New algorithms are now advancing studies and are providing better methodology than those used in the past. An over arching theme at the conference was the number of species at risk. There are significant concerns about Hectors dolphin and Vaquita porpoises . The onset of the attempt to save the last 30 vaquitas in the Gulf of California was ongoing at the time of the conference with US and Mexican government participation and was reported on. Since that time it is apparent that this species, which is highly stress prone, has not done well in the interim captivity holding facilities, despite effforts of the foremost marine mammal scientists and conservationists, with the loss of one animal and forcing release of a second.

We will likely see the demise of many species of dolphins in the near future. One of the largest populations that will be affected is all of the river dolphin populations in the 8 great river systems around the world, with the baiji already having become extinct in China in recent history. Between population expansion and pervasive pollutants in rivers, we will be forced to watch as all river dolphins go into irreversible decline. It was a very moving experience to hear a scientist who devoted his life to the science of cetaceans describe what he expects to be the demise not of just a species, but of an entire clade, the river dolphins, due to human effects exclusively. Drones seem to have quickly been adapted, to be used for scientific studies. They are being used to study everything from social interactions to actually going low enough to gather samples from whale blows. As much as this is advancing knowledge it does bear asking the question how much negative affect drones have. Drone studies are advancing the ability to determine cetacean health by documenting body shapes, which indicate well fed (or not) cetaceans.

Of particular interest was a sail drone which seemed to be a relatively non-invasive way of gathering information. Some poster presentations indicated cetaceans showed awareness of drone sintheri vicinity during studies so although their sue may help to improve some of the human pursuit related effects seen in marine mammal research, their use is not wholly benign. There was little discussion on the negative effects of drones, and their use seems to be regulated differently in many parts of the world. This may be a good place for conservationists to establish some best practices, like we are seeing with whale watching companies. Again the divide between science and conservation still remains an obstacle in doing what is best for the animals.


Many of the luminaries in marine mammal research, from Hal Whitehead to Sam Ridgeway to Michael Moore, attended and presented at this meeting, which attracted about 2000 people from around the world. The big-picture ,take home messages were: -The vast majority of the public think the whales were saved by Greenpeace 30 years ago, while species are continuing to go extinct

-the single most used term at this meeting was “Anthropocene” . It is clear that the overwhelming majority of negative effcts on all marine mammal populations are human derived -the vaquita , with 30 animals remaining, is already regarded as being extinct by many marine mammal biologists, and initial attempts to capture and conserve the last few animals are failing, despite a massive and well funded effort due to the inherent nature of the species and its lack of ability to adapt to captivity

-the vaquita was forced to extinction because it was bycatch in an illegal fishery for the swimbladders of a species of fish used in traditional Chinese medicine, and the Mexican authorities failed, due to corruption, to stop the illegal harvest -in addition to this, shark fin harvest is causing the killing of marine mammals for bait Conclusions

- approaches to consumers of TCM and shark fin need to be explored to dry up the market for products that are causing the extinction of species - the North Atlantic right whale will become extinct unless government forces the development of ropeless gear, enforces speed limits in areas the animals traverse and develops a real time system for monitoring the movements of the animals and a dynamic system for rapidly closing areas to shipping and diverting ship traffic

-the reason Northern Right whales are now moving to new areas versus their historical feeding grounds are not understood by sciencec , but it is likely that shifting food sources are causing these animals to move into areas where their cultural knowledge of food availability and hazards is poor and this is causing an increase in ship strike in the northern range

-. Blaming global warming for changes in plankton distribution will not save this species, a much more dynamic and fast acting system that could cause changes in navigation direcions to mariners and fishermen needed to prevent ship strike and gear entanglement on a day by day real time basis, needs to be developed and implemented rapidly

-tidal turbine studies need to be undertaken by arms length researchers, not the industry, before more widespread deployment occurs in Canadian waters. The UK turbine industry ispoised to move into maritme waters in Atlantic Canada and there is a complete lack of quality research on the potential biological impacts of this, other than engineering type studies on the turbines. The single experience of the tidal turbine in Annapolis Royal NS in the 1980s,with the subsequent complete loss of the local Annapolis River fishery, is a case in point which most people are unaware of.

Roy Mulder

President Canadian Marine Environment

Diving With Cetaceans

Posted by Brunella Battista on November 24, 2017 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Diving With Cetaceans The topic of diving with cetaceans has many different aspects with varying points of view. This is my personal view as a diver of 43 years and a marine conservationist, not necessarily the view of the organizations I am part of. I write as someone who has experienced chance encounters only a couple of times while in the water, although I have seen them in the wild numerous times. It is difficult to express the feeling of surfacing from a dive and seeing large male orca dorsal fin go by right beside you. Better yet was being spy-hopped by a large male right next to the boat after taking off my tank. To this day I have to wonder if he was seeing if I was that diver he just saw next to him in the water. There are two categories of interactions of divers and cetaceans, chance encounters and intentional ones. The latter brings up ethical considerations in regards to how invasive the interaction is. Rules on diving with cetaceans vary from countries that have or don’t have legislation on diving with cetaceans. Many countries have regulations on proximity to boats which often means that divers are dropped off in the paths of the cetaceans in the hopes of them swimming by. Some countries have regulations specifically banning being in the water with cetaceans. Often there are provisions in the laws to facilitate getting permits for scientific or documentary purposes. The benefits to view cetaceans in the wild are much more useful (than in captivity) to the scientists as they can observe natural behaviour. Any attempt at a wild encounter needs to be researched beforehand to see what the legal rules of engagement are. There are also voluntary suggested best practices in places that have yet to receive legal protections. This is why the best way to approach this is with local operators that are well versed in what is allowed and what is not. To risk an encounter without good knowledge of the risks is not recommended under any circumstances. A good dive operator will recognize signs that the cetaceans are not willing to participate. Diving is often discouraged because blowing bubbles by divers can be interpreted as aggressive behaviour. Consequently many dive with dolphin encounters only allow snorkeling. Most charters will not stay for any long period of time and not push the animals. The good operators will build an educational experience for participants so that they can learn more about cetaceans. Baiting and touching are discouraged by operators that follow best practices for viewing cetaceans. Diving does have inherent risks and it is always a good practice to investigate the reputation and experience of any charter organization that offers encounters. Many encounters are restricted to by snorkel only with no open or closed circuit dive systems allowed. Bubbles can be interpreted by cetaceans as aggressive behaviour, so diving is not always a good option, with the exception of using a reabreather. Reputable charter operators will be able to answer the needs for permits, rules of behaviour when diving, and provide rules of engagement. It is always important to remember diving with wild animals can be dangerous. It is usually prudent to discourage direct contact with the cetaceans. These are incredibly intelligent creatures deserving of respect and given proper recognition of having priorities over human activities. Not all people are prepared for chance encounters and even those who do it out of love, still need to be conscious of the risks. The feeling of being in the water with cetaceans is one few get to experience and is deserving of doing it properly.

Roy Mulder

President/Canadian Marine Environment Protection Society

Trustee/World Cetacean Alliance President/Canadian Marine Environment Protections Society

Past President/Marine Life Sanctuaries Society of British Columbia

Past Vice President/Underwater Council of British Columbia

Survey Work Study

Posted by Brunella Battista on January 5, 2016 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)


This study was completed by the Northwest Straits , Marine Conservation Initiative and released March 31 , 2011 ! It was prepared for the B. C. Ministry of the Environment and the very good survey work covers sadly only the losses of traps , nets etc. in Marine Waters ! I can only hope that "Trap , net and recreational fishing gear losses and recovery study in many of our B. C.rivers , will be next ? As a director of The Canadian Marine Environmental Protection Society , I highly recommend the work that was done on behalf of the Province of B. C. " Ministry of the Environment " by Northwest Straits ! Please go to for the complete study !

Terry Slack C. M. E. P. S.

Erosion and the Coalport

Posted by Brunella Battista on September 10, 2015 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

It is very strange when a good Federal Government Scientific Reports from the past , that Canadian taxpayers paid for with hard earned tax dollars , and it never sees the light of day when planning forDelta Port Expansion by Metro Port Vancouver.


This Environment Canada Conservation document entitled "SEDIMENT TRANSPORTATION and its ENVIRONMENTAL IMPLICATIONS in the LOWER FRASER RIVER and FRASER DELTA" prepared by GeoSea Consulting in 1995 ! All

40 plus pages and 15 Fraser River and Delta Maps , was completed by world recognised and well respected River and Delta Scientists. Dr. Patrick McLaren and Dr. Ping Ren are the authors of the very detailed science paper and their findings to me are alarming. The reports final recomendations must be seriously considered, regarding any new plans for the expansion of the Delta Coal Port. Some of the abstract from the huge Federal Government report reads like this :


Present results of the sediment trend analysis in April 1995 of the Delta forslope south of the Westshore Terminal and Tsawwassen Terminals , now indicates NET EROSION of the for-slope is taking place ! The source of sand evidently being derived from the EROSION of the Delta forslope itself ,rather than receiving any present input of sand and fine mud from the Fraser River is now changing to erosion of the for-slope of the outer delta in certain locations. Its some thing like a gradual calving front end of a moving glacier, but with moving mud and sand.


"My comment"

The present EROSION on the Delta forslope may be endangering the stability of the COALPORT and TSAWWASSEN FERRY TERMINALS and is probably the result of the channelization of the South Arm, which effectively removes sediment replenishment to these two locations ! It is worth considering decreasing dredging efforts of the main river channel near Steveston and allowing deposition in both areas known to be ERODING !


"The river is changing and the findings of this report suggests that Canoe Pass once the main channel of the river , is returning again as the favorite location for the main outflow of the Fraser River ! This route is shorter and EROSION on the marine forslope may be adding a contributing pressure for the river to change its course ! In conclusion this report suggested the establishment of a monitoring program at both terminal sites and Canoe Pass, something that was NEVER DONE...


Terry Slack

message by Terry Slack

Posted by Brunella Battista on September 6, 2015 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

For many Fraser River odd Pink years after 1913 , no pink salmon were

seen on their spawning grounds above Hells Gate !

By 1944 the blockages at Hells Gate was still the major cause of the

continuing poor runs of returning Fraser River Sockeye and Pink Salmon


Two major salmon ladders were built in the winters of 1944 to 1946 ,

one on each bank of the river .

A new single "Low Level ", left bank salmon ladder was constructed in

1966 , with a low river level, left bank operating range of 10 feet .

Today the Fraser River discharge at Hope B. C. is 19% lower than

average and the low river operating range of the 1966 salmon fish way

has probably reached near the operating range of 10 feet ?


The Hell Gate slides of 1913 and 1914 caused a estimated drop in

abundance of Interior Pink salmon to about one quarter of that before

1913 ! Today the adjusted salmon fish ways probably has only the

1966 left bank low level salmon passage operating during the very low

water levels in the Hells Gate Canyon area ! This could be only

verified by the Pacific Salmon Commission or D. F. O.


To achieve historic levels of over 22 million Interior Pink Salmon or

more , "there must be no OBSTRUCTIONS to the migration of salmon up

and down the Fraser River " Quote by the I. P. S. F. C. 1974 !


Terry Slack " From the North and Middle arms of the Fraser River"


" Some Quotes from the International Pacific Salmon Fisheries

Commission 1974 " and "Salmon our Heritage by Lyons"


Remembering "The Stellako Incident"

Posted by Brunella Battista on August 2, 2015 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

In 1965 The Federal D. F. O. allows "log driving " on the whole 20 mile length of the Sockeye spawning Stellako river . This perfect shallow gravel bottom river , for thousands of years has carried the cool waters of Francois Lake into Fraser Lake and on into the Nechako River ! From 1914 to 1948 , log driving was what the Logging companies used the Stellako River for in the spring and summer months ! A federal investigated report released in 1966 prohibiting any future "Log Drives" on the Stellako was released and welcomed by First Nations and others ! In the summer of 1966 the Provincial Dept. of Lands and Forests ignored the report and licenced a log drive on the full lenght of the Sockeye spawning grounds ! Numerous Log jams were reported on the river as the Sockeye desperately tried to spawn ! The historic 1913 railway disaster at Hells Gate all but destroyed the once great runs of Sockeye to the Stellako and it seems this was also a handy excuse to continue destroying the Sockeyes Spawning habitat season after Sockeye season ! These yearly attack on the spawning Stellako River Sockeye seemed never to stop , as governments in 1948 to 1957 allowed freshly creosoted railway ties to be floated down and across the Stellako River Sockeye spawning grounds ! Today the Sockeyes fight for survival continues as the river levels in the Fraser River Canyon and Glenannan on the Stellako River are very ,very low ! The Stellako Sockeye are coming by now in the Lower Fraser River , Lift the nets and let them by , they deserve at least a small chance to make it home this year ! Terry Slack " From the North Arm of the Fraser River" Stellako Sockeye Info from SALMON OUR HERITAGE by CICELY LYONS

CMEPS and Sponge Reef Protection

Posted by Brunella Battista on May 13, 2015 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

We have managed to get our sponge reef protections on the local BC political radar screen. MP Jorden Sturdy requested support to afford the Halkett sponge reef protected and made mention to CMEPS.



Posted by Brunella Battista on May 13, 2015 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

HUGHES, Thomas. Served on the carrier HMS Courageous, and survived the sinking of two ships.  He spent his life caring for animals, and  established the West Vancouver SPCA. Tom was an active member of RVYC, and one of the founders of the Canadian Marine Environment Protection Society. He will be dearly missed by all the directors.

CMEPS proud member of the WCA

Posted by Brunella Battista on January 7, 2014 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

CMEPS attended and presented at the World Cetacean Alliance Conference held in Glouchester, MA in 2013. You can view some of our speakers on our" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">facebook page

Donate to CMEPS through iSwirl

Posted by Brunella Battista on January 7, 2014 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

(excerpts from 

"Founded by Jamie Davis and Dan Anderson in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, iSwirl provides a unique, multidimensional, loyalty program for Customers, Charities, and Business Owners. iSwirl uses the power of technology (websites, smart phones, QR Codes, tablets, etc.) to meet your purchasing needs and desires in a win, win, win solution.

Activate your card online and pick a cause or charity close to your heart. You will then be able to scan your card at any participating business where you will receive cash from every purchase that is made. At the same time the business and charity will be rewarded based upon their participation in the program."

You can request a card from CMEPS by emailing us at [email protected] and register your card online and choose Canadian Marine Environment Protection Society as your charity of choice. We thank you in advance for supporting the oceans.