Whale watchdog group looking for public eyes

A whale watchdog group is trying to boost the involvement of Nanaimo-area residents.

A whale watchdog group is trying to boost the involvement of Nanaimo-area residents.

The Gabriola Historical and Museum Society and Gabriola Rescue of Wildlife Society (GROWLS) are co-sponsoring Thursday’s (June 2) visit to Gabriola Island by Caitlin Birdsall, of the B.C. Cetacean Sighting Network.

Birdsall will give a multi-media talk on how to identify whales, porpoises and sea turtles and send sightings to a  data base that is crucial for decisions on protecting sea mammals.

A 2009 study by University of  Victoria indicates B.C.’s orca whales are among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world.

Industrial chemicals – including PCBs, dioxins, flame retardants, and pesticides – combined with habitat destruction, a decrease in food salmon and disturbance from ships and boats, are threatening the survival of B.C.’s  whales, porpoises and dolphins, as well as sea turtles.

Estimates indicate fewer southern resident orca whales than in the early 1960s. But there are positive signs.

Humpback whales have been seen in Cowichan Bay, and for the first time in a decade, Vancouverites watched a pod of orcas  swimming in English Bay.

Thursday’s presentation is intended to spur Nanaimo and Gabriola Island residents to become part of a coast-wide network that  protects and conserves B.C.’s marine mammals.

Birdsall’s presentation will be held at 7 p.m. on June 2 in the Phoenix Auditorium at the Haven, 240 Davis Rd., Gabriola Island.

For more information, please call the Gabriola Museum Society at 250-247-9987 or GROWLS at 250-247-8805.