Cetacea Lab

  • Marine Mammals
Years funded
  • 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
  • Archived
Project type
  • Research

Janie and Hermann are working for the protection of orcas in the Great Bear Rainforest by tuning into underwater hydrophones and deciphering the secret language of these majestic animals.

Cetacea Lab

Janie Wray

Project leader
About the project leader

It was at the age of nine that I first heard a recording of a humpback whale singing. Instantly I was both captivated and extremely curious. This was my first emotional response to sound, and the inspiration that led to a life-long commitment to understanding the behaviour of whales. After I graduated, my dream was to work with like-minded people and build a marine research station, off grid, in an area where whales thrive and the presence and impact of people are minimal. Like the whales, I am constantly migrating from one region of British Columbia to the other, following...

Cetacea Lab

Hermann Meuter

Project leader
PROJECT LOCATION : British Columbia, Canada
Related Blogs
By Sam Watson, Intern at Fin Island Research Station, 20th May 2019
I’ve been up to the Great Bear Rainforest three times now. Once, on the RV Bangarang, a research vessel owned and operated by a dear friend, Dr. Eric Keen. Once, at Whale Point and the Wall, a full summer running around the islands and getting…
By Rosie Hoban, CetaceaLab intern, 29th November 2018
The Magnificence of the Humpback Whale
The Moment Have you ever had a moment that completely grounded you? One of those Oh-Sweet-Lord-is-this-really-happening-to-me moments? Heart beating in your mouth, feeling simultaneously both alive and yet strangely removed? Seeing a Humpback Whale, mouth agape, burst through the ocean surface during a ‘bubble net…
By Katie Hall - Intern at Fin Island Station 2018, 14th November 2018
Life in Tune
Living on Fin Island, you must constantly pay attention to your surroundings (the weather and sea conditions, the amount of sunlight or rainfall, the tides, the movement of the sun and moon, and of course cetacean and boat activity — both visual and acoustic). Even…
By Janie Wray, 29th August 2018
Team work for whales
Have you ever had that experience of working with a group of people where that “magic” occurs and everything just flows so evenly? Where all members know the exact niche they were meant to fill. These last months I have been blessed to be in…
By Janie Wray, Hermann Meuter, 4th June 2018
Finding a home amongst the whales on Fin Island
Two starry eyed Australians fulfill childhood dreams of searching for whales and camping out in the temperate rainforest of remote coastal BC. Fin Island Whale Research Station. Picture this: it is a silvery grey windless day. The ocean is clear and still. You are gazing…
By Janie Wray, 16th January 2018
Winter Whales
Many will agree that time spent on the water with whales, experiencing the rush of bubble net feeding to that intimate moment when one whale rests beside the other, is truly captivating. Every experience evokes a new emotion as you watch these gentle giants demonstrate…
By Janie Wray, Hermann Meuter, 2nd March 2017
The Singing Sea
Hermann Meuter and Janie Wray have devoted their lives to understanding and protecting the whales of the Great Bear Sea. They live in incredibly isolated conditions, learning to decode the secret lives of Canada’s ocean giants. The Great Bear Rainforest, one of the few pristine…
By Janie Wray, Hermann Meuter, 26th August 2015
An Orca Rescue Story
It was 7:30 am when we received a call from Eric Keen on his vessel The Bangarang. Eric is conducting a study on fin whales in the area and we work quite closely with him on our research. We were travelling back from Hartley Bay…
By Janie Wray, Hermann Meuter, 13th January 2015
A unique encounter
We both heard it at the same time: a very faint transient orca call over our underwater hydrophone system. ‘I’ll grab the boat if you can get the camera ready,’ were Hermann’s words as he ran for the door. We found the orcas quickly: three…
By Janie Wray, Hermann Meuter, 27th April 2014
Orca Season Begins with a New Calf
It has been a long, cold and wet winter at Whale Point along the Great Bear Rainforest of BC. We had the first sign that the Chinook salmon were traveling back into our familiar waters with the clicks of echolocation from killer whales on our…
By Janie Wray, Hermann Meuter, 7th July 2013
Moving Camp With Orca by Our Side
We had an extended winter along the north shores of British Columbia, on Gil Island. So much so that our shelter at Ulric Point to observe killer whale activity was completely destroyed during hurricane force winds. You can imagine our surprise to arrive and see…
By Janie Wray, Hermann Meuter, 13th August 2012
Fin Whales and Orca
We were planning to travel out towards Caamano Sound for a whale survey and after listening to the weather report we knew we would have to leave early; it was going to pickup to at least 25knots NW. Once the boat was packed with our…
Project details

Identifying critical habitat for killer whales in Northern British Columbia

Key objective

To enhance our understanding of the areas importance to killer whales in the region in a broader ecological context and add more data to the abundance estimate and spatial mapping analytical products currently being developed as a result of previously carried out projects.

Why is this important

The collected information is particularly important to the recovery efforts for northern resident killer whales in light of increased risks to these species. Furthermore, we will continue to provide all of our data to DFO’s Cetacean Research Program so it can be incorporated into their coastwise assessments of NRKWs. Our project will also increase the community’s capacity to manage cetaceans and provide sound information that can be applied to the management of numerous development and other human use proposals and activities.


In 2001 North Coast Cetacean Society built the remote whale research facility, Cetacea Lab, on Gil Island, B.C. In the years to follow a network of hydrophone stations were installed transmitting the sounds of the marine environment to Cetacea Lab from 5 to 30km away. This enabled North Coast Cetacean Society to monitor the acoustic occurrence of cetaceans in a very isolated part of British Columbia’s coastline. It soon became apparent that this area was extremely important habitat for humpback whales, killer whales and now a growing population of fin whales. In June 2008, North Coast Cetacean Society expanded their network of radio-linked hydrophones into Caamano Sound with the installation of a hydrophone station at Ulric Point on the northern tip of Aristazabal Island. A land-based outcamp was then established at Ulric Point with permission of the Gitga’at First Nations in 2009 in order to visually supplement on-going acoustic monitoring and document NRKW travel patterns in Caamano Sound, and more accurately assess NRKW frequency of occurrence in the region. In combination with the ongoing North Coast Cetacean Society efforts around Gil Island, this expansion into Caamano Sound allowed near continuous monitoring of: Caamano Sound, Campania Sound, Squally and Whale Channels, and to a lesser extent, Wright Sound.

Aims & objectives

The general aim of this project is to see the designation of Caamano Sound as Critical Habitat for northern resident killer whales.


  • Operate a continuous shore‐based cetacean monitoring station in Caamano Sound to determine which clans, pods and matrilines of the NRKW community frequent the area, their social interactions within the community and other cetaceans, and the level of acoustic activity during all activities.
  • Collect a photograph of each individual of each matriline during all encounters to update and build on our existing catalogue and database of NRKWs and other cetaceans in our research area.
  • Determine frequency of occurrence of foraging behaviour and prey selection of NRKWs in Caamano Sound.
  • Digitally record all NRKW dialects from Caamano Sound to Douglas Channel.
  • Determine the impact of marine vessels and different levels of boat noise on NRKWs.
  • Understand how NRKWs respond to transient and off-shore killer whale populations as well the presence of other cetaceans such as humpback and fin whales.