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

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

Speed limit change on Hwy 19 north of Port McNeill. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
New speed limit near Cluxewe Resort on Hwy 19

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure made the change Dec. 1

Felled spruce and cedar trees waiting to be stripped, sorted and hauled down Island. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Kwakiutl First Nation angry at logging in Douglas Treaty land

The nation is calling on government to honour the Douglas Treaty

The Christmas Tree being put back up in the Thunderbird Mall parking lot. (Thunderbird Mall photo)
Giant Christmas tree returns to Thunderbird Mall Parking lot

At the end of the 2019, extreme winds knocked over the community Christmas tree.

Black Press file photo
Port Hardy RCMP catch shoplifting suspect who allegedly stole over $500 worth of clothing from local store

The suspect was eventually released with multiple conditions and to attend court in February of 2021

Quatsino First Nation is heading back to the polls. (Quatsino image)
Quatsino First Nation electing new Chief and Council

The ballot count will be broadcast over Zoom after polls close

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Lake Trail Middle School in Courtenay has closed again due to a threat Friday (Dec 4). File photo
Island middle school closed for the second time in a week due to threat

On Nov. 26, Lake Trail Middle School was closed for a day while a similar incident occurred.

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read