Whale researcher presents at Lions Hall

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Researcher Janie Wray will be speaking at the Lions Hall on Feb. 1 about her research into whale communication, social behaviour and protection.

Wray is the lead researcher at Cetacea Lab on Gil Island off the coast of northern B.C. The lab specializes in listening to hydrophone recordings of whale activity in the area.

Hosted by Salt Spring Island Trail and Nature Club, the talk will give an overview of Wray’s research at Cetacea Lab – a small facility in the Great Bear region of the coast that, with permission from the Gitga’at First Nation, she started in 2001 – as well as some newly discovered behaviour in humpback whales.

“I will be talking mainly about humpback and orca and some on fin whales,” she said. “[Fin whales] are a new arrival to our coast and it is pretty exciting what is happening up there in regards to the population . . . and how they’re coming back.”

Whale populations on the northern coast of B.C. have been growing since 2006 when Cetacea Lab started monitoring populations. Fin whales are just one example. Humpback whales have also had a staggering rebound. The humpback population has gone from 42 individuals in 2006 to well over 500 now, Wray said.

However, there is a chance that what they are seeing might not last. Marine mammals are sensitive to noise as well as changes in their environment. The current ban on tanker traffic in the area around Kitimat has given the whales a calm place to live.

For more on this story, see the Jan. 24, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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