Our goal is to develop and implement effective conservation and stewardship strategies to improve the chances of long-term survival for endangered whales in Canadian waters, and the North Atlantic right whale in particular. Although several species are recovering from whaling activities of the past, many are not, and all are facing new threats as our oceans become more industrialized. These new threats include entanglement in fishing gear, ship strikes, acoustic interference, and changing resources due to climate change.
To effectively deal with these issues we are taking a three-pronged approach. The first involves dealing with immediate and acute issues, which we are addressing through our whale disentanglement team and our work to reduce whale-ship encounters in critical habitat areas (e.g. the WhaleAlert App and efforts to change marine policy). The second focuses on education and stewardship to reduce these threats in the future. We have a number of educational programs focused on increasing awareness and appreciation of these issues within relevant industries, and among the general public. The third involves research that we support to monitor trends over time and to identify other factors that are influencing the ability of these populations to recover. Our approach is making true changes at the three different levels. At the first level, our work on immediate issues (such as disentangling whales, and minimizing ship-whale interactions) reduces the number of whales that die from, or are injured by, these encounters. However, although this work reduces immediate risk, the goal is to reduce these risks at an earlier stage.
Our educational and outreach activities are changing this scenario by raising awareness of the bigger-picture issues underlying these encounters, and working with parties involved to reduce the chances of them occurring in the first place. Lastly, our research efforts are directly aiding work to monitor the North Atlantic right whale population over time, assess the effectiveness of conservation actions, and understand what factors are influencing their recovery.
Our ultimate goal is for whales in Canadian waters to recover to the point where they are removed from the Species at Risk Act. Perhaps more importantly, our goal is to achieve this not through enforcement of increasingly restrictive regulations, but rather through the development of shared solutions with all parties involved. The hope is that through all of our activities such solutions can be achieved that serve the interests of industry, the general public, and the whales.