A “killer” collaboration between the QENTOL, YEN/ WSÁNEĆ Marine Guardians and Parks Canada: a shared vision to protect the Southern Resident Killer Whale

Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors summer adventure part 9:

A “killer” collaboration between the QENTOL, YEN/ WSÁNEĆ Marine Guardians and Parks Canada: a shared vision to protect the Southern Resident Killer Whale

By Patricia Roussel

2022-2023 Parks Canada Youth Ambassador

Over our Youth Ambassador summer adventures, we had the privilege of visiting different field units from coast to coast to learn about and showcase their work on our Parks Life social media platforms on Facebook and Twitter. As Youth Ambassador, we had backstage passes to some of the most magical Parks Canada-administered locations to have both visitor and administrative experiences. After our Québec and East Coast trips, we were very excited to visit beautiful British Columbia – especially the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve! Having three days with the Gulf Islands team, we got to see many aspects of the park, including their fieldwork with the European Green Crabs, the Southern Resident Killer Whale monitoring, and the community partnerships with the QENTOL, YEN/ WSÁNEĆ Marine Guardians, based out of Brentwood, B.C., the unceded traditional territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ and Coast Salish peoples. We found it evident how important these collaborations are for both parties, the Marine Guardians and Gulf Islands team, as they support each other to monitor the Southern resident killer whale and work together to strategize the best plans to ensure their later protection.

The driving mission of the Marine Guardians is to protect the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales or KELL̵OLEMEĆEN (the translation of ‘Killer Whale’ in SENĆOŦEN – the traditional language of the W̱SÁNEĆ people). During our group trip to the West Coast, our Parks Canada Youth Ambassador team had the pleasure of visiting the Marine Guardians at their beautiful new office located beside the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council. Upon our arrival, we were warmly greeted by their team, given some “killer” merch, and had a tour of their new facilities. 

We were all impressed by the esteemed accomplishments the Marine Guardians have achieved in the mere year and three months since founding. In 2021, David Dick joined the team as Senior Manager and played a great role in the organization’s growth. He brought several years of experience with Parks Canada’s Cultural Resource team which he drew from creating the program vision, purpose, and components. David has outlined four critical components of the Marine Guardian program: habitat, baseline, compliance monitoring as well as cultural components. 

As part of their multi-tiered monitoring vision, the group focuses on the abundance, health, and environmental factors pertaining to the salmon and killer whale populations. They are very excited to take these efforts to the next level as they received their new boat this fall. Furthermore, to fulfill the cultural component of their mandate, the group has built collaborative ties with local schools, drafted a book based on the stories of knowledge holders, and collaborated with outside organizations like Parks Canada. In talking with David, his team, and the team at Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, we saw how these collaborations have been so beneficial for all respective partners. Whether it be sharing safety plans, monitoring data or daily sightings, the two organizations have created strong ties in their shared efforts to protect the Southern Resident Killer Whales.

On our last day with the Gulf Islands NPR, we had the best luck by spotting the “J-Pod” family, part of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. This renowned pod has recently welcomed a new baby which we were lucky to spot! Seeing these magnificent marine mammals up close following the conversations we had the day prior with the Marine Guardians was an extremely moving experience. Seeing those breathtaking wonders brought a new level of appreciation and respect to the QENTOL, YEN/ WSÁNEĆ Marine Guardians work. As we go forward in our Parks careers, we, too, aspire to bring together collective perspectives in united efforts such as the Marine Guardians and the Gulf Islands NPR team.

– Patricia

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