Friday, October 02, 2009

How to Report a Sea Animal Sighting or Incident

Have you been lucky enough to see one of the large marine mammals or sea turtles in Canadian waters? It’s a good idea to learn more about these animals and what to do if you see them.
The short answer is: Don't Get Close!
Here is the website for the department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/species-especes/mammals-mammiferes/index-eng.htm There’s a French version of the website.
On both sides of the page’s centre column are lists of useful links. Top right is the link to report a sighting or an incident http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/species-especes/mammals-mammiferes/report-signaler-eng.htm This is a terrifically useful link! Go here to find the three links where you can report an incident of a marine animal in distress, or seeing a leatherback turtle, or seeing any whales, dolphins or porpoises. It’s worth taking a minute to scroll down and read all the details, so you’ll have an idea what to do.
The page's comments on reporting an incident of an animal in distress are important enough to be worth quoting here:

Report an incident
Incidents involving marine mammals and sea turtles along our coastline are an unfortunate reality. At DFO, we do our best to monitor marine areas and respond to a range of incidents, but we also rely on information provided by the public.

An incident is a situation involving an animal in which some form of response may be required to assist in rescue and rehabilitation, collection of scientific sampling and data, or enforcement concerns. Incidents may involve marine mammals or turtles that are found alive, injured or dead. Some common examples of incidents include:
· An animal being harassed or injured
· An injured or sick animal exhibiting highly unusual behaviour
· A live whale, dolphin or porpoise stranded on land
· A collision between an animal and a vessel, or an animal that appears to have been struck by a vessel
· An animal that has become entangled in a net or other debris
· A dead marine mammal or sea turtle
· An animal that is tagged or branded
· A marine mammal or sea turtle seen in an unusual location or a species not commonly seen in BC (see below to report a sighting)

If you observe, encounter or even just hear about an incident, please call DFO’s Observe, Record and Report 24-hour hotline at 1-800-465-4336. Response time can be crucial and is greatly assisted by detailed observations, so your reports are very important. Prompt reporting ensures that a rapid and effective rescue action can be initiated, resulting in a greater chance for survival for live animals or determination of cause of death in dead animals.
When reporting an incident, you may be asked to provide:
· Date and time you found the animal or witnessed the incident
· Specific location, including latitude and longitude (if available) or driving directions (if accessible by land)
· Species or type of animal, including a description of the size, colour, features
· Condition of the animal – alive, sick or injured, freshly dead, badly rotting away
· Number of animals involved
· Your contact information, including name and phone number

Caution: Please do not touch or move an animal yourself. Marine mammals can carry diseases transmissible to humans, or you may inadvertently do more harm to the animal. DFO coordinates a network of government and non-government experts in disentanglement, strandings, animal illness, and behavioural assessment.
While not every incident warrants a field response or further investigation, all reports are recorded and contribute to a better understanding of these species and the threats they face.
Your assistance in supporting this important conservation and research program is sincerely appreciated.

And although the DFO's website doesn't have any mention here of sea monsters, unicorns or Cadborosaurus, I've always found it charming that British Columbia and Canada have laws intended to protect such animals just in case they do exist. If a Sasquatch or a Cadborosaurus ever turns up, it is protected under the same laws that protect endangered animals. That's not just humour in action: there have been new species of deer found in Vietnam recently, so large animals are still being discovered in various places around the world.
Considering how elephant seals have made surprising appearances here on Vancouver Island this year, I'm keeping my eye open for them and other large sea animals!

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