Cetus Research and Conservation Society (CRCS) is an umbrella under which Straitwatch, the Robson Bight Warden Project, the Disentanglement Program, Outreach Program and our support to the BC Marine Mammal Response Network operate. We are comprised of a board of six directors; an amazing group of up to 50 volunteers; a growing membership base; three full time staff, and 12 seasonal staff (Cara, Bo, and Leah down South; Steven, Christie, Marie, Megan, Elke, Robyn, Doug, Stacey and Ernest up North).
Director of Administration: Linda McGrew grew up in the Okanagan valley where conservation became part of her life at an early age, being exposed to the only desert in Canada and all of the conservation issues that this entails. She moved to Victoria in 1999 where she studied Microbiology for 4 years at Uvic and after a few stints in the business industry locally, she went back to university to get her MBA. After four years abroad in Asia and Europe: studying, traveling, working, adventuring, living, and learning, she has recently returned to Victoria to put down some roots. Working with CRCS allows her the opportunity to have a job where her skills, experience and education can be used to make a place that she loves even better.
Director of Operations: Doug Sandilands also grew up landlocked (in a place he claims is also a desert) but soon fell in love with the ocean and mountains, and moved to Vancouver, as many Lethbridgers do. As a well trained ski bum with a love for science, his schooling in mapping and GPS eventually landed him a job with the Vancouver Aquarium, mapping where the whales, dolphins and porpoises go for the BC Cetacean Sightings Network. As funding ran out for the sightings network in its first year, he escaped to Robson Bight with Nic Dedeluk and become ever more involved in marine mammal research and conservation. In 2005 Nic and Doug created the umbrella of Cetus, under which they huddled, aiming to protect all of BC’s marine mammals from the various threats.
Cetus was established in 2005 with goals of mitigating risks to Cetacean species. Researching and identifying the problems or threats, and then creating and implementing programs to solve them became their primary mandates. Over time, one of CRCS’s programs, Straitwatch, has documented a 15% increase in boater compliance with the Be Whale Wise Guidelines. Moreover, since 2005, humpbacks have been downlisted from ‘threatened’ to ‘special concern’ and the northern resident killer whale population has gone from 215 whales in 2001 to 255 in 2010. Unfortunately, since 2005, the endangered killer whale resident population on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island has yet to show signs of recovery. During the 1970’s their numbers were as low as 70 and the population recovered to almost 100 in the early 1990’s; however, the population declined to the low 80’s again recently, and this endangered population’s numbers have stayed at that level ever since.
Since inception, Cetus has documented that on average almost 100 times a day, these whales interact with boats in such a way that changes their behavior, causing them to have to expend more energy and sometimes have less opportunity to eat or communicate. Cetus works to reduce that number through monitoring and outreach. Primarily, Straitwatch aims to monitor and educate all boaters, such that the threat of vessel disturbance plays less of a role in their already challenging lives.
Our Straitwatch programs operate both in and around Victoria, B.C. through the Juan de Fuca Strait and further North through the Johnstone Strait near Alert Bay and Robson Bight. We collaborate with many researchers, businesses and educators all over the West Coast, as well as several in other countries.
The peak season for CRCS runs from June through to September each year. This is because it is the time of year when whales and boats interact in their highest frequency, as whales visit our coast in higher numbers as do the tourists or local boaters who follow them.
Throughout the summer months, our programs to educate and monitor whales and boats are in full swing. During the winter we work on analyzing data, applying for grants, and responding to incidents such as collecting a dead porpoise on a beach – it’s all in a days work.
Based on human’s large population and our aptitude for consumption, there is no doubt about it anymore – we are degrading the planet. We do this in many ways: from pollution, to building, to traveling, to eating. Much like how the rain forests would not be disappearing if there were only 10,000 humans to feed, the Cetacean populations would not be at risk (and in some cases endangered) if there weren’t so many of us – leaching pollutants, eating their food sources, and driving our boats around them – making it more difficult for them to find their increasingly scarce food in an increasingly toxic environment.
Humans have created this scenario for many other species on earth and it is our responsibility to stop it – at the very least to stop the increase of it all. From government and big business to individuals and local business, we can make a difference.
At Cetus we see ourselves as just another piece of a very large puzzle, working to reverse our devastating impacts. We take pride in promoting the conservation of our marine environment.