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 incorporated in 2010 and are based on northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia in the Territory of the Kwakwala-speaking Peoples.
Click here for background on our team of marine biologist and educators.
What We Do:
(scroll down for highlights of what we achieved in 2022):
Highlights of the work achieved by MERS in 2022
2022 was a year of significant growth for the Marine Education & Research Society. We took on some major new projects; our staff grew from two to five permanent people; and we expanded some important collaborations to further achieve marine conservation. Here are some of our highlights from the year:
Education and Outreach:
With disturbance, noise and vessel strikes being major threats to many species of marine mammals, we continued our efforts to engage and educate boaters on how to operate safely around marine mammals including:
Direct outreach via “Dock Talk” marina visits; visitors to our office in Port McNeill; and presence at community events.
Placing additional “See a Blow, Go Slow” signs. There are now over 400 coast-wide!
Conducting presentations for yacht clubs and boating organizations.
Developing resources to increase awareness of how ocean noise impacts marine mammals.
Starting development of a new, online course on safe boating around whales which will expand on our See a Blow, Go Slow resources.
We provided comprehensive workshops to Fisheries officers, DFO personnel, ecotourism naturalists, and First Nations Guardians about local marine mammals, research into their threats, and strategies for communicating and educating for the purposes of reducing these threats.
We spent a second season working with a film crew from Planet Earth III, a very far-reaching documentary series that will bring significant conservation messaging to an international audience in late 2023.
We started three new projects this year to help increase understanding of local marine mammal populations and their threats. The goal is to use these results to influence conservation, management, policy and education. These projects include:
We documented over 220 Humpbacks in our study area (Comox to Bella Bella and northwest Vancouver Island), and contributed our longstanding data to an international project and publication on Humpbacks in the North Pacific Ocean.
Our Humpback Whale feeding research led to knowing there are now at least 29 individuals who have learned the novel strategy of trap-feeding.
We continued to coordinate the sightings of the two species of Mola / Ocean Sunfish off our coast to contribute to an international research project.
We expanded our research associate program to support additional projects under the MERS umbrella. Research Associates are then able to access funding, scientific and administrative support through our organization. Our Research Associate projects include Joan Moreaux’s research into Humpback Whale prey consumption in British Columbia; Tasli Shaw’s cataloguing of Humpback Whales in the Salish Sea; and Mark Sawyer and Ashley Hoyland in their efforts to catalogue Humpback Whales off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Marine Mammal Rescue and Response
We continued to serve as a local node for marine mammal incident response on northern Vancouver Island. This includes supporting communication and coordination for marine mammal incidents, ranging from violations of the Marine Mammal Regulations to marine mammal entanglement.
We were primarily responders and assisted with the necropsy of “Spike” the Humpback found on Malcolm Island and whose likely cause of death was blunt force trauma from a large vessel. We also worked to make this tragedy, and that of 4 other Humpback Whales found dead on the coast of British Columbia and Moon the Humpback Whale who swam from BC to Hawaii with a broken spine, count by writing media releases and conducting and coordinating over 30 interviews.
We teamed up with the North Coast Cetacean Society to undertake a public education and media campaign on the proposed reduction of protection for Fin Whales in British Columbia waters. Using our networks and audiences, we encouraged people to provide input into the government consultation period. Key messaging was that not enough is known about Fin Whale populations while threats are only likely to increase due to increased shipping and a changing climate.
How others help make this work possible:
- Donations (includes donations of items to our annual online auction)
- Sponsorship of Humpback Whales
- Purchases of sustainable items from our Ocean Store
- Contributions of sightings / photos for Humpback Whales and Mola.
- Sponsorship and/or positioning of See a Blow? Go Slow signs;
- Volunteer efforts (in particular this applies to the efforts of our Board and data analysts)
- Amplification of our educational efforts to reduce threats to marine life and boaters through:
- Following MERS on social media and sharing messaging and resources to reduce threats.
- Participating in MERS webinars and Marine Naturalist Workshops to help amplify knowledge and conservation efforts
- Modelling best boater practices, including using the Whale Warning Flag.
Current grant funding:
- Government of Canada (Fisheries and Oceans Canada Marine Mammal Response Program, Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk and Habitat Stewardship Program for Aquatic Species at Risk, and Transport Canada Boating Safety Contribution Program)
- Canada Summer Jobs
- North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association Conservation Fund