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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The bus is free to ride on Oct. 24 so voters can get to the polls to cast their ballots in the provincial election. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Free transit on Election Day in Cowichan

all day and on all regular routes

Painters Jim Tulip, Doug Mackenzie and Gary Henslowe were painting the exterior of the Duncan Butcher Shop and Apple Press printing shop, located between the Trans Canada Highway and Whistler Street, on Oct. 8 as part of neighbourhood painting project. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan’s Whistler Street sees a fresh lick of paint in opioid battle

Group wants to help clean up community, one street at a time

Dinner shows in the Playbill Dining Room are keeping the Chemainus Theatre going during the pandemic. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Dinner events satisfying for the Chemainus Theatre and patrons

Small groups enjoy entertainment and the food in the Playbill Dining Room

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, left, joined Rob Douglas, right, NDP candidate for the Cowichan Valley in the upcoming provincial election, on a tour to meet people in Lake Cowichan on Oct. 16 and discuss local issues. (Robert Barron/Citizen) Douglas’s campaign continued to pull out all the stops with a visit on Sunday from Premier John Horgan for some spearfishing in Duncan. (Submitted)
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visits Lake Cowichan

Rob Douglas, NDP’s candidate for Cowichan Valley, joins him

Duncan-based author Jennifer Manuel took home the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for her first novel, The Heaviness of Things that Float, at the 33rd Annual BC Book Prizes. She will be part of an online reading session on Oct. 22, 2020, featuring Cowichan Valley writers. (Submitted photo)
Cowichan Valley authors to be featured in online readings Oct. 22

The Cowichan Valley Writers Spotlight will feature readings by eight area writers

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Michael Leighton, who is wanted on 11 warrants on Vancouver Island and is a suspect in a recent break, enter and theft in Nanaimo. (Photos submitted)
RCMP looking for break-and-enter suspect with 11 warrants on the Island

Nanaimo RCMP say Michael Leighton a suspect in theft of pistol and $40,000 worth of coins

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

Most Read