In 2013, a research team of students set out on a sailboat to study the whales of the rainforest: a growing population of giants in the fjords of northern British Columbia. In 2016, the project passed its discoveries and its methods on to the Gitga’at First Nation to continue long-term oceanographic monitoring in this remote but developing wilderness.
The Bangarang Project is a student-driven investigation of whale and seabird habitat use and foraging strategy in the oceanographically complex fjords of a proposed shipping lane in northern British Columbia. Supported by collaborators from academic, indigenous, governmental and non-profit groups, the Bangarang Project is designed to increase the insight and impact of research efforts already underway within the marine territory of the Gitga’at First Nation (Kitimat Fjord System, British Columbia).
At the heart of this research is a vessel, the RV Bangarang, a 37′ liveaboard motorsailer equipped for both oceanographic sampling and visual/acoustic transect surveys. The Bangarang and its crew of students conduct repeated circuits of the study area throughout the foraging season, living and working from the vessel for over four months each summer. By combining systematic data collection with focal follows of whales and seabirds, the team can…
(1) monitor the dynamics and oceanographic drivers of predator and prey distribution in this fjord system,
(2) compare inland foraging strategies of humpback whales, fin whales, and seabirds, and
(3) establish a baseline to assess ecological cascades imposed by the new shipping lane.
Image by Janie Wray, North Coast Cetacean Society