WATCH: The first large-scale coast-wide study of its kind carried out by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was launched in Sidney Harbour Tuesday afternoon.
Two dozen marine scientists will join Coast Guard crews aboard the John P. Tully as part of a 10-week marine mammal survey, considered the largest of its kind.
Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan was at the Institute of Ocean Sciences for the launch of the $1.3-million expedition’s launch Tuesday.
“The goal of this work is to further our understanding of the population status, seasonal distribution and abundance of marine mammals off this coast,” Sajjan said.
The ship comes equipped with underwater microphones and a pair of supersized binoculars called “Big Eyes” to help detect a long list of marine mammals. It’s one of two vessels that will collect data on whales and other marine mammals in a massive area covering B.C.’s coast.
“It’s going to give us a much better picture of where blue whales are, fin whales, humpbacks, even some of the offshore killer whales, offshore killer whale eco-types, sperm whales and some of the rare species of beaked whales we don’t know much about,” said research biologist Linda Nichol.
The list will include the endangered southern resident orca as well. Officials say learning more about the population size of the different species, and where they’re living, will help guide future government decisions on how best to protect them.
The expedition will also include surveys of seabirds, turtles and dolphins.