Saving Marine Animals Across the Country this Summer

Whale Release and Strandings Group from Newfoundland and Labrador

Summer is the time of year Canadians spend more times outdoors and especially on our oceans.  It is also the time of year when many marine wildlife also return to our oceans; whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, sea turtles and sharks. So it’s no surprise that you may have already heard of emergencies with marine animals in your area. The Canadian Marine Animal Response Alliance (CMARA) is tracking the efforts of the regional networks that respond to these emergencies, and this is a quick update of what’s been happening already this season.


On the west coast, the British Columbia Marine Mammal Response Network successfully disentangled three humpback whales from fishing gear, and responded to several dead animals; two humpbacks, three sea otters, and a fin whale. Necropsies (a term used for an animal autopsy) were done on several of these.

Whale Release and Strandings Group from Newfoundland and Labrador 2

And the east coast has been equally eventful!


In Newfoundland and Labrador, four entangled humpback whales have already been reported to the Whale Release and Strandings Group. Fortunately, two were disentangled and two broke themselves loose from the gear, but these whales have not yet been re-sighted.


Réseau québécois d’urgences pour les mammifères marins, the network in Quebec, reported an endangered North Atlantic Right Whale dead at sea that was towed ashore to perform a necropsy, which revealed she was in good condition, and a cause of death could not be determined. Currently, the Quebec network is studying a dead beluga that turned out to be a hermaphrodite. This has only been seen in five other whales in the world, and two of these were also belugas from the St. Lawrence Estuary population.


Meanwhile, the Maritime Marine Animal Response Network has also been busy. In Nova Scotia, a vagrant social solitary beluga was all the talk of town as it made its way along the coast. The Maritime team took a skin sample to determine if it was a member of the endangered St Lawrence Estuary population. Earlier this season, the Maritime network responded to a dead minke whale that had washed ashore in Nova Scotia; the network preformed a necropsy, finding the pregnant whale in good health with the exception of rope burns on her tail fluke.


As well, pupping season for seals, across the east and west coasts, always keep our regional response teams busy and on-the-scene!


If you witness a distressed or dead marine animal this summer, make sure to report it to your local regional response network! Check out more CMARA tips and contact information here. Well-documented emergencies can help lead to better conservation knowledge and actions!  Together, our behavior will play a critical role in the survival of our Canadian wildlife heritage and marine animals.

Update: an endangered North Atlantic Right Whale was found in a fishing net off Cape Breton and was released unharmed by fishermen in less than an hour of discovering it there! Their quick response was essential to the wellbeing of this animal and is a victory for the local community!

[Images of NL group rescuing humpback whales thanks to Whale Release and Strandings Group from Newfoundland and Labrador]

Beluga in Halifax Harbour Now in Safer Waters!

beluga-in-waterAfter an unexpected appearance, the beluga in Halifax Harbour has moved on to safer waters!

You can help belugas and other marine animals by symbolically adopting a beluga whale. All proceeds help fund CWF’s marine conservation efforts along Canada’s coastline, including efforts to help respond to marine animal emergencies.

Adopt yours today!


Turtle-cam: Life from a leatherback’s perspective

We’re happy to announce that our friends at the Canadian Sea Turtle Network has been having some exciting success lately with their leatherback seaturtle research. You may remember a few years ago, that we worked in partnership with them for the Great Canadian Turtle Race. Isn’t it amazing to see these majestic animals close up?! Read on for Kathleen from CSTN’s news!

This is a look at life from a leatherback’s point of view. That is the top of the leatherback’s head you see in the foreground, with a jellyfish just beyond it.

To us this video is amazing and fascinating.

It was taken using a camera attached to the shell of a leatherback turtle. Dr. Mike James, who is the CSTN’s scientific advisor, developed this camera in collaboration with engineers at Xeos Technologies and Soko Technologies. They called it Serrano-V.

A scientific paper published today of which Mike is a co-author talks about what we’ve learned with the help of Serrano-V and why it is so critical to the conservation of leatherbacks.

As you know, we collect data about leatherbacks using satellite transmitters. This data is “coarse.” It doesn’t get into the fine details of what the leatherbacks are doing because it is limited by the amount and type of data you can transmit through the bandwidth of the system of satellites used to monitor the tags.

Serrano-V allowed us to collect the finest-scale behavioural data currently available for leatherback turtles while simultaneously recording video from a camera mounted on the turtle’s shell. Dr. Bryan Wallace, who is a co-author on the paper, says “it’s like getting turtle’s home videos—seeing what they see, where they go, and how they acquire vital resources to fuel their natural behaviour.”

It is just the kind of information we need to work at conserving leatherbacks in the most intelligent way possible. “Rather than inferring what the turtles are doing below the surface of the water, we can actually see it happening,” says Mike.

Bryan Wallace (left) and Mike James (right) on the turtle boat off Nova Scotia.

The paper is really exciting for us—and particularly because Bryan and Michael Zolkewitz, the other co-author, are tremendous scientists who are as enthusiastic about this work as we are.

What that paper can’t tell you, however, is how hard it was to get this to work. This represents years of trial and error. (The project began almost a decade ago while Mike was finishing his post-doc!) There were growing pains typical of refining such a cutting-edge instrument…inevitably, sometimes the camera didn’t record or a sensor needed to be replaced. The camera system was also subjected to tough conditions at sea. You can imagine the impact of pounding waves, of the force of water as the turtle swam and dove. There were hours of video that couldn’t be included in the analysis because the camera had shifted from its original position on the turtle’s shell and the field of view we needed wasn’t captured.

Mike used to rest Serrano-V on an old white pillow in the hold of the boat to protect it from being jostled and damaged when it wasn’t in use. And then when it was, he would emerge from below deck, carefully balancing Serrano-V, still on its pillow. He’d climb along the side of the boat, bending under the stay wires to stand up on the bow, calling for everyone to stand back to protect the delicate antennas. It was always funny—but serious, too. There was only ever one Serrano-V. There was no replacement available. And we all knew how much value the study would have if it worked.

I love the feeding video. It’s spectacular. It seems to me such a privilege to have the chance to see what the leatherbacks are up to—to be humans allowed in that private world of theirs.


But I love this video, too. This one is from the early days of Serrano-V. You can see it on the turtle. It is slipping slightly. What is most important to me is the conversation you hear. Those are the voices of Mike and Blair and Bert Fricker, who are two of the fishermen we have worked with the longest. Blair is the captain of our field boat off Cape Breton. You can briefly hear Martin, who worked on our field team for years, and a little of me. Everyone is suggesting ways to make the tag work better. The success we are celebrating with this paper is the result of dozens and dozens of conversations like this one—of lots of minds working out the small details of a big question. The value of a strong team of dedicated people.

The other thing that a paper can’t represent properly is that moment when a scientist, faced with needing information that can’t be collected because of the limits of technology becomes determined to find a way to make that technology. That to me is also remarkable. That is magic. That is art as much as painting or dancing or writing. It takes courage to create something that wasn’t there and courage to be tenacious season after season even in the face of a lot of “failure.” It takes a great team and the ability to inspire them. So cheers to you, Mike James—and to all the people who helped—fishermen, biologists, engineers, CSTN staff. And thanks.

Miss Lily Rose

Do you remember our Great Canadian Turtle Race? A couple of years ago, our partners, The Canadian Sea Turtle Network, tagged ten leatherback sea turtles off the Atlantic coast. And we all watched these majestic turtles make their way to their nesting sites. Some reached land successfully, while others lost their transmitters along the way.

One turtle we lost track of during the race, Lily Rose, was found in 2013 on the beaches of French Guiana. We were delighted to find her safe and sound. You see, this turtle was particularly special to us. She was named after a three year old girl battling neuroblastoma, a form of cancer.

Miss Lily Rose Rosploch was truly a fighter. And even in the midst of her battle with cancer, Lily Rose chose to love people all the more (including her baby sister, Mya). And raise other people’s spirits up by making them laugh.

This weekend, our friends at the Canadian Sea Turtle Network wrote to let us know that this brave little girl passed away on January 31st, at the age of five. We were heartbroken by the news. Although we never had the pleasure to meet Lily Rose, she made a big impact on our lives. She reminded us then and reminds us now that grace and kindness are the greatest companions for the hard journeys life throws our way. We’d like to thank Lily Rose for lending her name to one of Canada’s most Endangered animals on its own difficult journey, and for inspiring each and every one of us at the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

You can read the heartfelt words from the Canadian Sea Turtle Network’s blog here.

CWF has arrived at the Salute to the Sockeye Salmon Festival and so have the sockeye!

wade and salmon

[Wade Luzny, CWF’s CEO/Executive Vice-President taking a moment to check out this spectacular event]

salmon pic

[Sockeye in the Adams River]

Although the salmon were a bit late they have now arrived. If you are attending the Festival be sure to check out our booth.


[CWF Booth at Sockeye to the Sockeye Festival]

The Festival is located in BC’s Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park and runs from October 3 until October 26.

If you can’t be there in person, be sure to check out our website and our blogs for updates and subscribe to Canadian Wildlife magazine – the official media sponsor of the 2014 Salute to the Sockeye Salmon Festival.

Donate now to support CWF’s important work.


wade and salmon

[Wade Luzny, directeur général et vice-président administratif de la FCF, prendre un moment pour admirer cet événement spectaculaire]

salmon pic

[Saumons rouges dans la rivière Adams]

Bien que les saumons aient été un peu en retard, ils sont maintenant arrivés.Si vous participez au festival, assurez-vous de rendre visite à notre kiosque.


Le festival a lieu dans le parc provincial Roderick Haig-Brown, en Colombie-Britannique, jusqu’au 26 octobre.

Si vous ne pouvez pas être là en personne, assurez-vous de consulter notre site Web et nos blogues pour être au courant des dernières nouvelles et vous abonner au magazine Canadian Wildlife/Biosphère – commanditaire médiatique officiel du festival « Hommage aux saumons rouges » 2014.

Faites un don dès maintenant pour soutenir l’important travail de la FCF.


Humpback Loses ‘Threatened’ Status



Written by Sean Brillant, Manager of Marine Conservation


The announcement by the Canadian government over the Easter holiday weekend that it will be removing SARA protection for the Pacific humpback whales seems suspicious and it has ignited quite a bit of reaction. This reaction just might be justified, but not for the obvious, implied, reasons.

In 2011, the population of Pacific humpbacks were reassessed by the committee of scientists responsible for assessing endangered wildlife in Canada; COSEWIC (the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada).  After a considerable scientific debate and serious consideration (a hallmark of this committee), it was decided to reduce the status of this whale from ‘Threatened’ to ‘Special Concern’ because the population has increased significantly in the past 10 years.

So, Canadians’ concern for this issue should not be the ‘downlisting’ of humpbacks. In fact this is a great thing; after 50 years of no commercial hunting (the cause of their decline), this whale seems to be recovering! Yay!

The disconcerting aspect of this issue is that the government moves quickly to recognize the improvement in the status of species at risk, but has a track record of moving very slowly (there is no debate about this; it is fact) to legally recognize species that need increased protection because they are at risk of extinction. And this is especially true for marine species.

The Pacific humpback whale actually exemplifies this: the federal recovery plan for this species, which the government was required to produce for the Pacific Humpbacks when they were listed as ‘Threatened’ in 2003, was not completed until 2013! Two years after COSEWIC did its re-assessment and reduced their extinction risk status. Absurd? Yes.

Our wildlife is a part of who we are as Canadians; a part of our heritage. Wildlife must be conserved for the use and enjoyment of all Canadians, and we must be especially cautious with our species at risk of extinction. We have to be clear about this with our federal government.

We will be Canadians long after our non-renewable resources are gone. But we will be less Canadian for every species and habitat we lose.

CWF supports the conservation of all of Canada’s wildlife; our rare and our common species, through our conservation work, our education programs and our efforts to improve the awareness of Canadians about their wildlife heritage.



La baleine à bosse n’est plus considérée comme « menacée »

Écrit par Sean Brillant, directeur des programmes de conservation marine

Le gouvernement fédéral a annoncé pendant la fin de semaine de Pâques qu’il allait retirer la protection de la LEP à la population de baleines à bosse du Pacifique. Cette annonce semble suspecte et a suscité pas mal de réactions. Si une réaction paraît effectivement justifiée, ce n’est cependant pas en raison du déclassement proposé lui-même.

En 2011, la situation des baleines à bosse du Pacifique a été réexaminée par le Comité sur la situation des espèces en péril au Canada, le comité de scientifiques chargé de classer les espèces canadiennes en péril. Au terme d’un débat scientifique important et d’un examen sérieux, le type de démarche qui distingue le COSEPAC, la décision a été prise d’attribuer une catégorie de péril moindre à cette population de baleines jusque-là considérée comme « menacée » : en raison d’un accroissement important de ses effectifs depuis dix ans, sa situation apparaissait désormais seulement « préoccupante ».

Dans ce contexte, ce n’est pas le déclassement des baleines à bosse qui devrait inquiéter les Canadiens. En fait, il s’agit d’une très bonne nouvelle : 50 ans après la fin de la chasse commerciale (c’était la cause de la décroissance des effectifs), cette population semble se rétablir! C’est super!

Ce qui est déconcertant, c’est plutôt le contraste entre l’empressement avec lequel le gouvernement reconnaît le passage à une catégorie de moindre péril et la grande lenteur (habituelle, indéniable) avec laquelle il accorde à des espèces qui risquent de s’éteindre la protection légale supplémentaire dont elles ont besoin (particulièrement dans le cas d’espèces marines).

L’évolution de la situation des baleines à bosse du Pacifique en offre un exemple : en 2003, lorsqu’on a classé cette population comme « menacée », cela signifiait que le gouvernement fédéral devait élaborer un plan de rétablissement à son égard, mais l’élaboration du plan s’est achevée seulement en 2013! C’est-à-dire deux ans après le nouvel examen du COSEPAC qui a déterminé que le péril s’était amoindri. Absurde? Oui.

La faune et la flore de notre pays font partie intégrante de notre identité nationale; elles font partie de notre patrimoine. Nous devons veiller à leur conservation afin que tous les Canadiens puissent en tirer des ressources ou de l’agrément, et nous devons être particulièrement prudents en ce qui a trait aux espèces en péril. Nous devons nous assurer que le gouvernement fédéral comprenne clairement cette attente.

Les habitants de ce pays continueront d’être appelés Canadiens bien après l’épuisement de leurs ressources non renouvelables. Ils seront cependant moins canadiens chaque fois qu’une espèce ou un milieu naturel disparaît.

La FCF favorise la conservation de toutes les espèces sauvages du Canada, les espèces rares comme les espèces communes, par son travail de conservation, ses programmes éducatifs et les initiatives qu’elle met sur pied pour sensibiliser davantage les Canadiens à leur patrimoine faunique et floral.




Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with sharks
Swimming with sharks

Guest Blogger: Anthony Joseph

Over a five day stretch in February the Canadian Wildlife Federation along with world-record breath-holding free diver and ocean environmentalist William Winram toured across Ontario to discuss one of the most maligned and misunderstood animals in our ocean.

The “Wild About Sharks” education project aimed to bring marine and shark conservation to new depths of understanding to students and adults as CWF partnered with  school boards and colleges in Ottawa, Gatineau, Pembroke and the Greater Toronto Area.

Over the course of the tour Winram got to speak to a wide range of age groups including the youngest he’s ever presented to. “It’s always surprising what little kids ask; they’re usually the ones that will ask you a question that stumps you,” says Winram. It’s this kind of outreach where you’re going into schools and kids get into contact with individuals who are involved in conservation is important.”

One of the things that he aims to dispel through these presentations is the notion that sharks are villains –  psychopaths lurking in the deep ready to hunt us. “We don’t seem to accept nature for nature, it has to have some grander meaning,” says Winram. In fact, when it comes to sharks, humanity is doing the majority of the hunting. Every year we’re responsible for the death of an estimated 75 to 100 million sharks, a statistic we’d like to change.

This article is from the April 2014 edition of Wildlife Update. Sign up to get your copy monthly in your inbox!

Setting the Record Straight on Right Whales


This article was written by CWF’s Marine Manager, Sean Brillant.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a U.S. environmental activist organization, recently released a report entitled Net Loss: The Killing of Marine Mammals in Foreign Fisheries. The report says that more than 90 per cent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. comes from foreign fisheries, however the U.S. does not enforce a law within the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act – requiring foreign fisheries to meet U.S. standards for sustainable harvesting, more specifically regarding the by-catch of marine mammals. As a result, the report indicates that as many as 650,000 sea mammals are either killed or injured every year by these foreign fisheries supplying product to the U.S.


While I agree that all countries should ensure the sustainability of their own industries, as well as their imports, and it is true that Canada is over-due to act to protect North Atlantic right whales from commercial fisheries, NRDC’s criticism of Canada regarding right whales is, however, somewhat poorly informed.


The report states that Canada’s lobster and crab fisheries pose a dire threat to the North Atlantic right whale and implies that there has been no effort to protect this marine mammal in Canada. This implication is wholly untrue.  Canada led the way to protect right whales from vessel strikes and have protected many right whales as a result. However, Canada has not acted to reduce the risk of right whales becoming entangled in commercial fishing gear. This is long-overdue, and correctly reported in the NRDC report.


Scientists, conservation organizations, government agencies and fishermen have been working on this issue for many years now and a great amount of effort has gone into evaluating how Canada can protect right whales from fishing gear.


The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF), WWF-Canada and Dalhousie University have been working together on a quantitative analysis of the risk right whales face from Canadian commercial fisheries. This allows us to see where the greatest risks are throughout the year and which fisheries pose the greatest threat. We are near the completion of this research and I presented the results at the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) 2013 Right Whale Recovery Network and the 2013 North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium Annual Meeting. Our research has shown that in general, groundfish fisheries are the largest risk to right whales in Canada; lobster is one of the smaller risks.


We’ve also made specific recommendations to DFO on how best to manage the fisheries in Atlantic Canada so that the risk to right whales is reduced. There is much that needs to be done and CWF is eager to see the changes the Government of Canada will make to protect right whales based on these recommendations we’ve provided.


Canada’s commercial fisheries do indeed threaten right whales and Canada is legally required, by our own laws, to protect this endangered species. Conservation action on this issue is late, but changes will come. In my view, conserving wildlife effectively, especially endangered species, requires sound knowledge to determine how to manage the human activities that threaten them. CWF recognizes this and puts a high priority on conservation efforts that are supported by science.


We’ll keep you in the loop about our right whale study.


There’s Been Another Escape


There’s been yet another salmon escape from a fish farm. One aquaculture company on the south coast has lost 20,000 salmon from a sea cage. Salmon escapes like this are not new. Large-scale escapes from open pen fish farming operations have happened on both the east and west coasts of Canada. Unfortunately, when this occurs, there’s a risk that they could breed with wild salmon causing reduced genetic diversity and reduced fitness in wild populations. Furthermore, when open-pen farmed salmon escape, wild salmon are faced with a new competitor for resources. Increasingly, research shows this happening to wild salmon as well as the negative effects it’s having on their populations. This latest escape from Hermitage Bay is just another example of why this industry (as it currently operates) needs to end. Keep your eyes peeled for our aquaculture report for more information on CWF’s position on the industry.