The WSANEC leadership council is in the beginning stages of setting up a program to monitor southern resident killer whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The WSANEC leadership council is in the beginning stages of setting up a program to monitor southern resident killer whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

WSANEC leadership council announces orca monitoring program

Program hopes to build knowledge, restore traditional relationship with the whales

The WSANEC leadership council is in the beginning stages of setting up a program to monitor southern resident killer whales.

The Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) Monitoring Program, announced by the council on June 30, is a multi-year initiative that will seek to remedy the impacts of colonial interruption and restore the balance between orcas and the WSANEC people, according to a news release.

The program has four main goals: restoring the relationship between the kellolemecen (the SENCOTEN word for killer whales) and WSANEC people through increasing understanding of the whales, working with like-minded allies to help them thrive, protecting the mammals from the negative impacts of industry, and ensuring they have an adequate food supply.

The group of the First Nations wants to get people out on the water as part of the initiative and will be ordering a boat that’s scheduled to arrive in the program’s second year. A working group will include one elder from each of the Tsartlip, Tseycum and Tsawout First Nations, along with two language speakers and two technical workers. The program’s name and logo are being finalized so that they’ll be recognizable out on the water.

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The leadership council said the program will include gathering and implementing traditional knowledge, gathering stories about the whales and reinstating their natural laws. The culturally appropriate data collected will be used by the council and local chiefs in policy recommendations and negotiations.

A goal of the program is to work with environmental groups and governments to improve conditions and food supply for the whales. The council said the program will be also be dedicated to protecting the whales from the negative impacts of the commercial fishing, tourism and illegal poaching industries.

“It’s better to have our guardians out there whose intentions on the waters are based on Indigenous caretaker values and supported by science, versus financial interests,” David Dick, the program’s senior manager, said in the release.

The project plans to hire and train staff next January who will study the whales out on the water. That scientific study will look into the impacts of marine traffic and noise, food competitors and the health of food-source areas. The leadership council said their findings will be shared through educational materials, training programs and field trips.

READ: Helium balloons used in Greater Victoria can harm marine life: whale watching group


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Southern Resident Killer Whales