Tofino whale research: 2002 Report for Strawberry Isle Research Society
by Rod Palm, Tofino
as it was with
Killer Whale visitations ran in decline from 53 days in 1998 to 30
days in 2000. Since then they have slowly climbed to 41 days this year.
Though this is still below the annual average (44), we are hoping that
the trend will continue. On 13 of these days the whales were hunting
the open ocean and did not enter our inside waters. It's worth
noting that the most common part of the year for the whales to enter
the inlets is from fall to spring. Contrary to the norm, the whales
were, for the second year running, heading down the coast more often
than up. Ten transient gangs with a total of 29 animals were identified.
We saw no new calves or previously unrecorded animals.
On June 22, off Barkley Sound, we saw the last of old Numas. He was
only travelling about a quarter of a knot and staying on the surface.
At about 49 years of age, he was the oldest male we have seen in
the study area.
There were 4-day visits from the fish eating Northern and southern
residents normally seen in Georgia and Johnstone Straits.
The highlight of the year was on June 10 when 18 transient from about
6 separate gangs converged off Rafael Pt. and frolicked their way down
the coast to Lennard Light where they were last seen heading out into
the open ocean. On most occasions only 1–5 animals are seen.
Sea Lion counts are now being done at Plover Reefs. The purpose of
this monitoring is to find out what the seasonal use is of these
reefs. Also, considering that the Californians have only recently started
showing up in Clayoquot Sound, the counts may be an indicator of
With the first year under our belt, we can see that these reefs are
not a year round haulout. Occupation greatly diminishes during the
summer months when the animals have left for their breeding/birthing
grounds. The Stellers go north while the Californians go south. I think
it likely that Plover's non-breeding animals spend their summers
at Long Beach Rocks' year round haulout. When numbers drop at
Plover, they go up at Long Beach.
In '02 we recorded 24 mortalities: 1 likely Killer Whale infant,
6 Porpoise, 4 sea lions, 6 Harbour seals, 5 birds and 2 Green Sea Turtles.
Surprisingly we have had no Gray Whale morts in the study area for
2 years. Of these mortalities, necropsies were preformed on the turtles,
2 of the Harbour Porpoises and the crow.
Both turtles were emaciated and infected. Our ocean clime is right
on the edge of their minimum temperature survival tolerance. The
sluggishness associated with this along with the unfamiliar grazing
territory made for inadequate feeding that led to internal problems
Both the porpoises were suffering from Pneumonia and one had a blood
infection related to an as yet unidentified air born bacteria.
The crow was very straight forward. Someone shot it with a pellet gun
Overall bird numbers not exceptional in any way compared to past
years, as a mater of fact 2002 was close to a carbon copy of 2001.
Eel Grass Bed Plotting
We actually started this project in 2001 as part of our Grice Bay
works. We wanted to know if plotting all the Eel Grass beds of Clayoquot
would be a doable project.
We are interested in this work not only because of the dynamic roll
sea grass plays in marine ecosystems but also because of Clayoquot's
prolific habitat. I think it likely that we have a greater percentage
of Eel Grass hectorage than any other sound on the coast. Not entirely
trusting air photo pixel density evaluation, we have opted to ground
truth the assessment. We have completed the beds of Grice Bay and most
beds in the immediate area of Tofino Harbour. These works show us that
the project could be completed with minimal equipment and at reasonable
In 2002, budget restraints again reflected in our affordable activities.
None the less we were still able to keep volunteers busy for over
663 hours. The most hours for 2002 goes to Adrian Dorst who put in
as our principal spotter on the pelagic transects. Thanks for expertise
and teachings Adrian. Mention should also be given to Gil Palm who
logged 38 hours at whatever duties he was asked. The no prize for
calling in the most marine species for our databases is a tie between
watch driver/guides Peter Schulze and Jason Fever. Of the 469 reports,
they both called in over 30.