A beached pilot whale dummy got a lift back to its habitat during a training session for fisheries officers at Departure Bay Beach on Tuesday. The exercise is part of a training program to teach fisheries officers and other groups how to save cetaceans that become stranded on B.C.’s shores. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Fisheries officers train to save beached whales on Vancouver Island

DFO exercise was held at Naniamo’s Departure Bay Beach on Tuesday morning

About a dozen Fisheries and Oceans Canada officers spent the better part of Tuesday morning at Nanaimo’s Departure Bay Beach with an inflatable pilot whale to get hands-on training on how to re-float a beached cetacean.

The training, part of the marine mammal response initiative, which operates under the federal government’s $1.5-billion oceans protection plan, teaches how to stabilize a whale that has washed up on a beach, which may be in distress, and return it to the water.

“We’re doing a live stranding cetacean situation exercise, where we’ve got equipment that we’ve purchased through the oceans protection plan to make us more successful across the coast if we get a mid-size cetacean stranding, such as a killer whale size,” said Paul Cottrell, Department of Fisheries and Oceans marine animal rescue coordinator.

The trainees had to fill a life-size pilot whale dummy with water and air and then assemble a cradle under the animal, inflate flotation pontoons and move the animal into the water. The process involved digging a trench under the animal and carefully rolling it from side to side, while protecting its fins, to position and assemble the cradle underneath it. Partially filling the dummy with water gives some sense of the weight they will encounter in a live situation.

It took about 90 minutes to complete the task.

Kirsty Walde, fisheries senior compliance officer with DFO’s marine aquaculture unit in Campbell River, led Tuesday’s training exercise.

“The training is extremely important,” Walde said. “We’re seeing more and more live strandings. We’re seeing, with increased abundance of humpback whales for example, we are seeing, unfortunately, either live strandings or, potentially, deaths.”

She said the exercise went well after a “rocky start.”

“One of our pumps was stolen out the back of our truck and we had difficulties filling our whale this morning, but we … got another pump from [Pacific Biological Station] and we were able to fill our whale and actually the plan went according to how we had trained for it yesterday, for the most part, and the whale was released, so that was a success,” Walde said.

Genevieve Cauffope, Oceans Protection Plan senior compliance program officer for conservation and protection, oversaw and took part in Tuesday’s training operation.

“We’re building capacity and fisheries officers are learning how to use the equipment,” Cauffope said. “It was a team of 10, which was a big team, but their was strong leadership. It was very cohesive and they made it work really well.”

A set of equipment will likely be kept in Nanaimo. Other sets will be sent to Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, the central coast, Tofino, Port Hardy and on the south coast between Victoria and Vancouver.

“We’ve been going around the coast training fisheries officers, fisheries guardians and key experts with DFO and other government agencies to make sure if we do get these live strandings and we have the equipment in these key areas along the coast we’re able to get out and rescue these animals,” Cottrell said. “It increases our likelihood of success if we can get out and use this equipment and re-float animals that have live stranded.”

Four marine rescue kits are on hand now with three more on the way, which will allow rescue teams to deploy almost anywhere on the B.C. coast.

B.C. typically gets about five to 10 live strandings per year. B.C. has a large variety of cetaceans and animals that become stranded include Pacific white-sided dolphins, harbour porpoises, juvenile minke whales, grey and humpback whale calves and killer whales.

How fast a rescue team can respond to save and animal depends in part on how quickly it receives notification from the public.

“With cetacean incidents, whether it’s an entangled animal, distressed, live stranding, it’s so important for the public, who are the eyes and ears out there, to call our 1-800-465-4336 marine animal response line because then we’re able to respond as quickly as possible and increases our likelihood of success,” Cottrell said. “If we know about it we can get there really quickly.”



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

More Parksville pop-up water parks planned

Fire department says Sunday, Aug. 18 next one on the agenda

Hi Neighbour Day celebrates 50th year in Errington

Pancake breakfast, parade, zucchini race and more planned for this years’ festivities

Semi-truck crashes on Hwy. 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino-Ucluelet

Drivers heading in or out of Tofino-Ucluelet Friday afternoon should expect delays

Errington scrap wood fire still under investigation

Three fire departments deployed to battle highly visible blaze

Take a trip through time at Children’s Museum Day in Qualicum Beach

Free event teaches children about pioneer life, arts and crafts

Fashion Fridays: How to dress and feel powerful

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

‘Easy Rider’ star Peter Fonda dies at 79

Actor and writer was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing the 1969 psychedelic road trip movie

Excavators help cute kid who copied their dig with his toys stay “safe at work”

Carson Carnegie wakes up at 7:00 am every morning to watch construction work on his street

Bob Lenarduzzi out as Vancouver Whitecaps president

MLS team is at the bottom of the Western Conference standings

B.C. daycare operator denies negligence in death of ‘Baby Mac’

Infant died in early 2017 after biting an electrical cord, according to a lawsuit filed by his mom

BC SPCA reopens animal cruelty investigation at Abbotsford pig farm

Additional alleged footage released from Excelsior Hog Farm sparks new investigation

RCMP on Vancouver Island seek information on alleged ‘breaking out’ bandit

Man alleged to have hid in Nanaimo business washroom ceiling overnight, took monitors

Donor upset no one noticed B.C. school’s sculpture had been missing for a year

Agassiz’s Fraser River Lodge owner baffled how theft went undetected

Purple fentanyl among items seized in B.C. drug bust

Youth being recruited as drivers for more-established drug dealers, police say

Most Read