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Marine Education & Research Society Auction 2023

Marine Education & Research Society (MERS)
April 2023
05:00 PM PDT
April 2023
07:00 PM PDT
GOAL $25,000.00
112.9% REACHED!

Marine Education & Research Society Auction 2023

The online auction is directed at covering Marine Education and Research Society operating costs.

Below is a list of some of the work we accomplished in the last year. We hope this summary reflects how efficient and productive an organization MERS strives to be. This is possible through the support of many and, while we have been successful in achieving funding for some of our work, it remains challenging to cover operating costs.

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Highlights of work achieved by MERS in the last year

2022 was a year of significant growth for the Marine Education & Research Society. We took on some major new projects; our staff grew from two to five permanent people; and we expanded some important collaborations to further achieve marine conservation. Here are some of our highlights from the year: 

Education and Outreach:

- With disturbance, noise and vessel strikes being major threats to many species of marine mammals, we continued our efforts to engage and educate boaters on how to operate safely around marine mammals including:

- Direct outreach via “Dock Talk” marina visits; visitors to our office in Port McNeill; and presence at community events. 

- Placing additional “See a Blow, Go Slow” signs. There are now over 400 coast-wide!

- Conducting presentations for yacht clubs and boating organizations. 
- Selling Whale Warning Flags, a useful tool for boaters to alert others to the presence of whales and the need for increased vigilance and needing to slow down.  

- Developing resources to increase awareness of how ocean noise impacts marine mammals. 

- Starting development of a new, online course on safe boating around whales which will expand on our See a Blow, Go Slow resources. 

- We launched our An Ocean of Good campaign with extensive resources to help us all reduce marine debris in the marine environment. Includes three engaging animations.

- We provided comprehensive workshops to Fisheries officers, DFO personnel, ecotourism naturalists, and First Nations Guardians about local marine mammals, research into their threats, and strategies for communicating and educating for the purposes of reducing these threats. 

- We spent a second season working with a film crew from Planet Earth III, a very far-reaching documentary series that will bring significant conservation messaging to an international audience in late 2023. 


- We started three new projects this year to help increase understanding of local marine mammal populations and their threats. The goal is to use these results to influence conservation, management, policy and education. These projects include: 
- Expanding our scar-study research by teaming up with colleagues at Ocean Wise research, using aerial photographs of Humpbacks to assess evidence of scarring from entanglements and vessel strikes.
- Working with Dr. Chris Darimont of the University of Victoria to supervise graduate student Ali Gladwell in investigating vessel behaviour, including compliance with regulations and guidelines, around various species of marine mammals.
- Undertaking monthly systematic surveys to better determine the density and distribution of marine mammals in this area and compare trends over time

- We continued to lead the Canadian Pacific Humpback Collaboration (CPHC), a consortium of 7 organizations that collectively catalogue Humpbacks in British Columbia waters. The CPHC’s centralized catalogue and database of individual Humpback Whales enables understanding of the whales’ habitat use, population size and structure, life histories, and the impacts of threats like vessel strike and entanglement. 

- We documented over 220 Humpbacks in our study area (Comox to Bella Bella and northwest Vancouver Island), and contributed our longstanding data to an international project and publication on Humpbacks in the North Pacific Ocean.

- Our Humpback Whale feeding research led to knowing there are now at least 29 individuals who have learned the novel strategy of trap-feeding.

- We continued to coordinate the sightings of the two species of Mola / Ocean Sunfish off our coast to contribute to an international research project. 

- We expanded our research associate program to support additional projects under the MERS umbrella. Research Associates are then able to access funding, scientific and administrative support through our organization. Our Research Associate projects include Joan Moreaux’s research into Humpback Whale prey consumption in British Columbia; Tasli Shaw’s cataloguing of Humpback Whales in the Salish Sea; and Mark Sawyer and Ashley Hoyland in their efforts to catalogue Humpback Whales off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Marine Mammal Rescue and Response

- We continued to serve as a local node for marine mammal incident response on northern Vancouver Island. This includes supporting communication and coordination for marine mammal incidents, ranging from violations of the Marine Mammal Regulations to marine mammal entanglement.

- We were primarily responders and assisted with the necropsy of “Spike” the Humpback found on Malcolm Island and whose likely cause of death was blunt force trauma from a large vessel. We also worked to make this tragedy, and that of 4 other Humpback Whales found dead on the coast of British Columbia and Moon the Humpback Whale who swam from BC to Hawaii with a broken spine, count by writing media releases and conducting and coordinating over 30 interviews. 

- We teamed up with the North Coast Cetacean Society to undertake a public education and media campaign on the proposed reduction of protection for Fin Whales in British Columbia waters. Using our networks and audiences, we encouraged people to provide input into the government consultation period. Key messaging was that not enough is known about Fin Whale populations while threats are only likely to increase due to increased shipping and a changing climate.

About Marine Education & Research Society (MERS)

The Marine Education and Research Society is a registered Canadian charity working to reduce threats to marine mammals through research, education and response. Our efforts date back to 2004. We are based on NE Vancouver Island, British Columbia, CANADA, in the Territory of the Kwakwala-speaking Peoples.

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