Tofino whale research: Strawberry Island - May '02
by Rod Palm, Tofino
Many people in many ways hail the coming of spring. For some it's
the daffodils seemingly bursting out of the ground overnight. It can
be the opening leaves of the Salmon Berry bushes giving promise of
the first 'Chumis' of the new year. It may be the sight
of noisy clouds of geese passing overhead.
In Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, there is no doubt
that the tell-tale plumes of mist on the open ocean marking the path
is our most dramatic portend to spring. There is a confidence and
in their slow persistent pressing on to the rich feeding grounds of
the Bering Sea.
The Gray's demanding 5,000 nautical mile journey from the warm
and calm breeding lagoons of Mexico is the longest migration made by
any animal on earth. There are many in route perils faced by these leviathans;
collision with large vessel traffic, oil spills, Killer Whales and likely
the most dangerous of all is the threat of entanglement in commercial
Nets are considered to be the greatest threat but, surprisingly, crab
gear, though not a common occurrence, is a danger here in the Pacific
Northwest. Almost every year Grays are reported fouled with as many
as 3 crab trap float lines in their jaws and hitched around their bodies.
Think about that for a minute. The animal is not only restricted by
the entanglement of line but with three traps is also burdened with
over 100 kilograms of steel.
In January '99 Strawberry Isle Research Society hosted
a disentanglement workshop in Tofino. In attendance, along with our
membership were representatives
from the government departments of Fisheries, Transport and Parks.
The outcome of this gathering was recognition of the threat and need
for a coastal web of response teams that could be tasked to deal with
entanglement reports. On the spot it was recognized that our society
would be the first recognized team.
Our Next Goal
We raised $1,400 for the purchase of entanglement response. Well it
took a couple of years and a lot of red tape but we are now in possession
of an array of custom made cutters, knives and grapnels.
Our next goal is to establish a team of volunteers who would be willing
to attend practice sessions and respond to incidents.
Call Rod Palm (725-2211) or Pete Schulze (726-5793).
Cool heads and good physical condition are a must.
Tofino whale research article by Rod Palm: Report from the Strawberry Isle Research Society from May 2002