Background

The Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) is a registered Canadian charity dedicated to promoting conservation and understanding of marine ecosystems through scientific research, environmental education, and marine wildlife response. We are based on northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia and incorporated in 2010. 

MERS formed in order to bring together existing marine research and education projects as well as to provide a platform from which to conduct further work. 

Our team is comprised of marine biologists and educators highly dedicated to marine conservation. While based on Canada's west coast, team members have worked in many countries and oceans. Click here for background on our team. 

We are a small organization doing big work. 

Our research is focused on investigating Humpback and Minke Whales in British Columbia but has also included work to understand and reduce risks to additional marine mammals in BC and in other parts of the world. MERS educational activities have included many presentations, lectures, and programs aimed at a wide audience. 

What we do: 

  • Coast-wide education to reduce threats to whales – includes signage, resource development, media engagement, presentations, and Marine Mammal Naturalist Courses.
  • Photo identification, population, and behaviour studies - Minke and Humpback Whales.
  • Feeding strategy studies – Humpback Whales.
  • Marine mammal response and rescue.
  • Studies to better understand the threat of entanglement to marine mammals.
  • Humpback Whale research area is from upper Strait of Georgia to Bella Bella.
  • Collaborating to update the British Columbia catalogue for Humpbacks.
  • Education to raise awareness of Leatherback Turtles off the coast of BC.

Highlights of work achieved by MERS to date in 2019:


Educational and outreach

  • Development of the guide “Marine Mammals and Boaters” for use nation-wide with the Canadian Power Squadron; 
  • 104 additional See a Blow? Go Slow!” signs for strategic positioning on British Columbia’s coast to educate boaters on how to reduce risk to whales; 
  • 21 presentations aimed at reducing risks to whales, reaching 1,200+ people from coastal BC; and
  • Trained 95 people through two Marine Naturalist Courses with information including actions to reduce risk to marine mammal and what do to in case of incidences of disturbance / injury / entanglement. 
  • Engaging with more than 500 people about reducing risk to whales at our office in Port McNeill. 

Research

  • Over 1150 data entries for sightings of Humpbacks in 2019 (with over 500 more sightings to process);
  • Further data collection and analysis of scarring in Humpbacks whales indicative of a previous entanglement (study conducted in collaboration with DFO);
  • Data collection for research into Humpback Whale feeding strategies;
  • Continued collaboration with colleagues also documenting Humpbacks off the coast of British Columbia to update the BC province-wide Humpback catalogue (for completion in spring 2020); and
  • Publication of research on sightings rates of Minke Whales.  

Marine mammal rescue and response

  • Ongoing data collection to inform areas of high entanglement risk off northern Vancouver Island and the central coast of BC; 
  • Monitored whales during 6 days when commercial fisheries overlapped with areas of high whale density, to improve reporting of incidents, and to respond or support responses when needed; and 
  • Communication / coordination for 17 incidents. 

Awards

  • Winner of the 2019 ECOSTAR Awards for Ecological Stewardship (non-profit) and Educational Leadership (individual). 



How it is achieved:

  • Highly reliant on community; volunteer efforts of many, including our Directors, data contributors, and data analysts; and donors / sponsors.
  • How to be part of the effort:                
    • Follow MERS on social media and share messaging to reduce threats to whales (and boaters);
    • Contribute data and sightings;
    • Sponsor a Humpback Whale;
    • Sponsor “See a Blow? Go Slow!” signs and/or help them be positioned;
    • Provide donations or auction items;
    •  Sign up for a MERS Marine Mammal Naturalist Course.
  • Current grant funding
    • Canada Summer Jobs;
    • DFO - Marine Mammal Response Program and Habitat Stewardship Program; and 

    • NIMMSA Conservation Fund.


All photos on this site provided by and © Jared Towers, Christie McMillan, Jackie Hildering, and Heidi Krajewsky, unless otherwise indicated. 

Photos are not to be used without permission.

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