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Marine Mammal Response Program: SARA Incidents for 2016

In 2016, there were a total of 845 reported incidents involving 965 animals. Of the total number of incidents reported there were 411 responses. Often incidents reported are for sightings of animals (no response required but information is collected) or are repeat reports for the same incident (each call that comes in is recorded to show the level of activity of the hotlines) which is why the number of responses is different from the number of reports received. Of the total number of incidents reported, 259 were incidents involving SARA species (in the pacific region, 58 incidents were listed as an unknown species; therefore, the number of incidents involving SARA species could be higher). Out of the 259 incidents reported involving SARA species, 155 of those incidents were responded to. Often incidents reported are for sightings of animals (for which no response is required but information is recorded) or are repeat reports for the same incident which is why the number of responses is different from the number reported.

The types of incidents included: entanglements, close vessel approaches, harassment, collisions, live strandings, injured / sick, sightings / free swimming, dead (beached and floating), distress, shooting, and animals interacting with the public.

The types of responses included: freeing entangled whales and pinnipeds, collecting samples and performing necropsies on dead animals, reuniting stranded animals with their pods, responding to harassment calls, refloating live beached animals, monitoring sick animals, monitoring close approaches by vessels, and warming cold stunned sea turtles.

Of all the incidents reported and responded to, there are a few worthy of note:

Incident Numbers by Region

Please Note: Often incidents reported are for sightings of animals (no response required but information is collected) and/or are repeat reports for the same incident (each call that comes in is recorded to show the level of activity of the hotlines) which is why the number of responses is different from the number of reports received.

Pacific:
There were a total of 508 incidents reported and 240 responses performed. Of those, 121 were for SARA listed species.

Quebec:
There were a total of 140 incidents reported and 69 responses performed. Of the responses performed, 18 were for SARA listed species.

Gulf:
There were a total of 72 incidents reported and 32 responses performed. Of the responses performed, 4 were for SARA listed species.

Maritimes:
There were a total of 36 incidents reported and 25 responses performed. Of the responses performed, 5 were for SARA listed species.

Newfoundland & Labrador:
There were a total of 81 incidents reported and 45 responses performed. Of the responses performed, 7 were for SARA listed species.

Education activities

Stickers advertising the assistance program were sent to all Harbour Authorities, all DFO regions, Canadian Coast Guard, Crime Stoppers, coastal municipal offices, SPCA, Humane Society, media outlets and outdoor marine adventure companies throughout the region as well as to groups and fishers who requested them. An ad was also placed throughout the year in the fisheries trade magazine – The Navigator.

The Whale Release and Strandings Group helped organize the sixth “Whale Day” at Cape Spear and participated by displaying a full minke whale skeleton and life size humpback canvas rollout as part of their “bones, barnacles and baleen” educational presentations. A full-size fiberglass replica of a leatherback sea turtle that stranded here was also displayed.

The Group also carried out various presentations to kids in the St. John’s area with the “bones, barnacles and baleen” theme.

Disturbance / Harassment

Disturbance and harassment of marine mammals continues to be problematic for Conservation and Protection officers due to the lack of regulatory clarity and backing. Efforts have been made to educate the public with respect to what activities disturb and harass marine mammals but without regulatory backing enforcement remains. Proposed amendments to the Marine Mammal Regulations would help address part of the problem by defining disturbance and identifying vessel approach distances. In addition, the amendments would also introduce mandatory reporting of accidental contact which would allow regional response networks assist in gear retrieve and the documentation of high entanglement risk and vessel strike areas.

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