YouthToSea Go Whale Watching
This year, YouthToSea brought together 80 youth from the lower Mainland of Vancouver to provide them with opportunities to develop their ocean conservation knowledge and personal skills. The following blog was written by Alex as part of their work experience (WEX) communications placement with YouthToSea.
Alex grew up in Surrey, BC and is in grade 11. Alex loves to read and to hike, as well as to write. Alex hopes to write as an environmental journalist on conservation efforts. This year, Alex was part of Ocean Wise’s program, YouthToSea, working to compete a communications work experience placement.
Did you know that male humpback whales can sing ‘songs’ with distinct melodies and themes?
I didn’t until we went whale watching with Ocean Wise’s YouthToSea program. Before leaving, I was hoping to see maybe a few whales breaching, but instead we were pleasantly surprised and awed by watching two humpback whales – a mother and a calf – breach and spyhop not far away. We also learned how to map whale sightings and identify killer whales while we were on the boat. We discussed how the Georgia Strait has repopulated its humpback whales in the last hundred years, as they were previously hunted to near extinction.
We also discussed whale behavior before heading on the boat. Did you know that whales communicate in a variety of different ways, like ‘singing’ and through their body language? While whale watching, we saw a female teaching her calf how to breach, as well as encouraging and cheering the calf by slapping its fins, which is called pectoral slapping.
While on the boat, I had the opportunity to interview Bobby, a research specialist working with Ocean Wise. Bobby helps coordinate B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network (BCCSN), which maintains a database of 130,000 whale sightings . This database is the primary source of information on the occurrence of cetaceans and sea turtles in B.C’s waters. This data provides information to over 30 conservation-based research projects annually. After seeing the beauty of the whales, and talking to Bobby, the urgency of conserving the stunning habitats of these megafauna, and the smaller marine animals, is cast into greater perspective. One thing that was made more apparent afterwards was the depletion of herring in the Georgia Strait, which causes a chain reaction up the food chain to large megafauna like Killer Whales.
If this kind of conservation work interests you, “start early, volunteer, and build relationships in the community. People will notice and appreciate your passion and drive,” which is a piece of advice I received from Bobby. He said to, “keep an open mind going into post-secondary school. School is the place to try new things, make mistakes, and learn from them – don’t stress about needing to have your whole future and career path planned out .”
All in all, the most moving thing from talking to Bobby was that he gets to “make 10 year old [him] who used to watch Blue Planet and Discovery Channel every weekend proud.” A huge thanks to Ocean Wise and the Canada Service Corps for my amazing YouthToSea experiences! If you see a whale, you can report it through Ocean Wise’s WhaleReport App.
YouthToSea is a program for youth aged 15-18 in the lower mainland of BC that aims to empower them to make a difference towards ocean conservation. It brings together 80 youth to provide them with opportunities to develop their ocean conservation knowledge and personal skills. Our mission is to coach youth and provide them with opportunities to develop their problem-solving, critical-thinking, and communication skills. At the end of our program, youth are equipped with skills, tools, and strategies to be active decision-makers in their local, regional, and national communities. To learn more, visit here.
Canada Service Corps
Canada Service Corps is designed to generate a culture of service among young Canadians; concrete results for communities; personal growth through participation in a diverse team of peers; and lasting impacts on participants. Visit www.canada.ca/CanadaServiceCorps to learn more and how to get involved in the way that works best for you.