MERS’ objective is to promote conservation and understanding of marine ecosystems through scientific research, environmental education and emergency wildlife response. We are based on NE Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Research: Research is focussed on cetacean populations in BC and the threats they face. MERS directors have maintained sightings and photo databases of the Humpback and Minke Whales seen off NE Vancouver Island since 2004, with data going back to the 1980s. Research projects include long-term studies of the entanglement rates, site fidelity, and the prey preferences, energetic requirements, and foraging strategies of Humpback Whales; the impacts of commercial fisheries on Killer Whale foraging success; and Minke Whale migration and acoustics.
Education: MERS has a strong commitment to education and is recognized as being a highly skilled and effective stewardship force. Educational resources are developed and delivered to target audiences in order to increase engagement and positive action for marine species. Recent campaigns include “See a Blow? Go Slow!” aimed at reducing the threat of vessel strikes to whales (of increasing concern because of greater numbers of Humpback Whales in BC waters) and; (2) a resource to increase awareness about Leatherback Turtles in BC waters and the risks they face. We also maintain an educational blog with topics ranging from whales and seabirds to marine pollution and provide training to ecotourism naturalists (includes a 2.5 day Marine Naturalist Workshop as of 2015
Response: Our response efforts have resulted in the rescue of several threatened Humpback Whales from life threatening entanglements in fishing gear. We also rescue marine birds and respond to incidents to document injuries and behaviour of marine mammals resulting from vessel strikes, entanglement and toxic spills. We serve as advisors to the BC Marine Mammal Response Network and are members of the Canadian Marine Animal Response Alliance (CMARA). MERS monitors whales during periods of high whale/fishery overlap to improve the potential of rescue if entanglement occurs. Data collected also inform where entanglements are most likely to occur and databases are maintained to track the survival of whales that have been entangled and/or hit by boats.
For more information please see www.mersociety.org.