Canadian Marine Mammal Network
About OERS

The activities of today’s society threatens the sensitive marine ecology and all life within it. Changes in our environment have increased the threat to marine and land animals from disasters, both natural (hurricanes, floods, etc) and man-made (oil spills, etc). The Oceanographic Environmental Research Society is committed to: a) respond to such catastrophes, ensuring these animals are cared for, and b) to the conservation and preservation of marine life and natural habitats. OERS will fulfil those commitments through research, education, rescue and rehabilitation.

Although our home office is in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, most of our education and training activities are in Toronto, Canada at the moment. Rescues though, are conducted wherever needed.


The preservation of the marine environment and the animals that live within it is dependent upon an educated and well informed society. OERS has established various programs to help raise public awareness on protection of the marine environment.



OERS is committed to the protection and conservation of marine life. As part of this goal, OERS supports and promotes a variety of research endeavors into causes of death as well as how to improve care to stressed and injured animals. Specifically OERS has developed a Research Section, headed up by its Senior Scientist Dr Carin Wittnich and is conducting research into causes of deaths, strandings and the impact of various environmental stressors on marine animal well being. Summer studentships and internships are available on a competitive basis.


  • Heavy metal levels in marine mammals along Canada's coastline
  • Environmental predictors of marine mammal deaths
  • Pollutants both new and old
  • Environmental protection - is it working?
  • New techniques in emergency care & rehabilitation


OERS is dedicated to saving the ever increasing number of marine and land animals caught in disasters and has created the Canadian Marine Animal Response Network (CMARN) and the OERS-Disaster Response Team (OERS-DRT). CMARN will help send funds and trained personnel to assist any group requiring assistance with marine animal emergencies including strandings. OERS-DRT is a group of highly trained and equipped volunteers prepared to be deployed to rescue animals caught in disasters.

OERS is planning training courses that will run during the summer months beginning in 2007.


  • Deployment at HSUS request for Katrina Hurricane relief - 2005
  • Participation in disaster preparedness Ontario
  • Nation wide planning for disaster response Canada

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President's Message
"Why Toronto?" That is the first question I normally get when I meet people and start talking about OERS. My response to that question is always the same one- "Why not! Does a well organized group of people interested in saving marine animals and the environment have to be situated near a body of water?". Not in today's world!

Advancement in technology has given any individual the capability with the simple touch of a single button on their home computer to experience first hand the effects of environmental disasters happening around the world. The same capability allows individuals to communicate with or offer their help to numerous environmental groups protecting different species in various ecosystems such as the endangered marmosets in the Brazilian rainforest, sea otters off the coast of California, polar bears throughout the Arctic Region or tigers in the highlands of India.

Would it have been possible 20 years ago for children around the world help move Keiko (a killer whale!) from Mexico to Iceland via Oregon? I strongly doubt it. So technology has allowed people who were once out of touch or incapable of helping the potential to now participate in worldwide environmental events as they occur.

If a 10 ton Killer whale can be moved thousands of miles around the world, why shouldn't it be possible for a group of well trained individuals, located in Toronto, to travel to either coastline of Canada to help with the treatment of sick or injured marine animals bringing with them a planeload of equipment? Better yet why can't they assist in major environmental disasters throughout the world such as the Exxon Valdez or the recent Spanish oil spill?

With the world's longest coastline, shouldn't Canada become the leader in saving marine animals caught in environmental disasters or develop new life saving techniques to improve the chances of these animals. Unfortunately the various levels of government in Canada have not had the foresight to start any such programs and that is why OERS was created.

OERS has slowly evolved from an idealistic hope to physical reality. As you work your way through the OERS website you will see that much has been accomplished, however future plans and projects will be exciting and rewarding times for those who believe in OERS and are willing to give up a small amount of time to lend a hand.

Saving our marine environment and all of the species that live within it will allow future generations of humans the opportunity to experience the joy and to see the beauty of these animals which can only occur if they are allowed to live in a pollution and stress free habitats.

Please feel free to respond to this message, any other part of the OERS website or if you have comments or topics or questions that you would like to bring to our attention. Thank you and keep your fins dry and warm.....

Mike Belanger

Key Folks
Director of Operations and Founder: Mr. Michael Belanger

Board of Directors:
Dr. Carin Wittnich
Mrs. Lora Wylie
Dr. Karim S. Bandali
Dr. Mary Decaire
Dr. Luke Tan

Special Projects Group:
Volunteer Co-Ordinator................... Dr. Luke Tan
Art Co-Ordinator............................... Ms. Nesime Askin
Video Co-Ordinator.......................... Mr. Mike Belanger
Events Co-Ordinator.......................

Mr. Mike Belanger
Dr. Karim Bandali

Webmaster ....................................... Mr. Richard Hydal
Sponsorship...................................... Dr. Carin Wittnich

From the Pod


This is where members of OERS are given the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions on major issues involving marine mammals, the environment, and current and past government policies.

Recognition of OERS


OERS Education Director Wins Teaching Award

Carin Wittnich, OERS Education Director, has received the 2008 Undergraduate Teaching Award from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. This award was given to Carin as a professor within the faculty for her work in creating new undergraduate courses at the university thereby exciting expanding the opportunities for undergraduate students to learn new subjects. The award was based on the student evaluations and comments concerning her ability to present the course content in her unique style. When teaching her two most favorite topics-physiology and marine mammals- Carin has a passion and energy which never fails to infect her students and has them wanting to learn more.The award specifically focused on Carin's development of the first ever Department of Physiology field course in marine mammal physiology and a third year course dealing with the comparative physiology of diving adaptations in marine mammals. She has been teaching acourse on the ecology, biology and physiology of marine mammals within another department for 3 years now. However, due to being inundated with requests from science students, she has developed another more intensive course dealing with marine mammal physiology which will be commencing in the winter of 2009. In total Carin has created and runs 4 separate courses dealing with marine mammal physiology or ecology.

OERS has been happy to aassist with these efforts by gladly supplying teaching materials and 'hands-on' specimens and sharing invited guest lecturers from its own education initiatives. This award is further proof of the professionalism, dedication and expertise that OERS is prepared to share with everyone. OERS is extremely proud of Carin for winning this award and of her ongoing achievements in spreading the interest and knowledge in the little studied field of marine mammals.


Mr. Michael Belanger President and Director of OERS received the 15 year Volunteer Service Award from the Province of Ontario for his self-less work with OERS. He was recognized at the awards ceremony in Barrie, Ontario in October.

Dr Carin Wittnich Vice –President and Director of OERS received the 15 year Volunteer Service Award from the Province of Ontario for her work with OERS. She was recognized at the awards ceremony in Barrie, Ontario in October.

2 OERS Directors Are Granted Membership into the IUCN- Otter Specialist Group!

OERS Directors, Dr Carin Wittnich and Mike Belanger, have both been invited to become Affiliate Members of the IUCN (The World Conservation Union) Species Survival Commission (SSC)-Otter Specialist Group (OSG). The letter of invitation describes the IUCN’s SSC as being “a global, science-based network of thousands of volunteer experts, working together towards achieving the vision of “A world that values and conserves present levels of biodiversity”. The major role of the SSC is to provide information to the IUCN on the conservation of species and on the inherent value of species…”. The OSG provides leadership towards the conservation of every species of  otters, reviews and determines their needs, and promotes their management.

Being the only 2 Canadians presently within the Otter Specialist Group (with a third to be named shortly), Carin and Mike are both extremely pleased at having been invited, which recognizes their long term commitment to both the conservation of otters and preservation of biodiversity. OERS President Mike gave credit to the work of everyone within the organization. “I am deeply honored at having been asked to join the IUCN’s Otter Specialist Group as it recognizes the efforts of everyone who has played a role into making OERS the organization it is today”.  Carin, OERS Vice President, expressed her pleasure when she found out. “I was very humbled and honored to receive notice that the Species Survival Commission had appointed me and Mike as OSG Affiliate members. Their recognizing us as having long term commitment towards the conservation of otters is wonderful and especially as we are only 2 of 3 Canadians so listed at present. I take this responsibility very seriously and look forward to working with the OSG group towards their goals.”.


Mr. Karim Bandali received the 5 year Volunteer Service Award from the Province of Ontario for his work with OERS. He was recognized at the awards ceremony in Scarborough, Ontario in November.

Ms. Nesime Askin received the 5 year Volunteer Service Award from the Province of Ontario for her work with OERS. She was recognized at the awards ceremony in Toronto, Ontario in December.


Mr. Michael Belanger received the Outstanding Achievement Award for Volunteerism (click) given by the Ministry of Citizenship for what the review committee felt was an impressive lifetime volunteering effort and his initiatives in helping marine animals.

Details on this award can be found at www.awardsandhonors.gov.on.ca. The award was given to Mike by the Honorable Carl DeFaria, Minister of Citizenship, at an awards ceremony at the North York Theatre of Fine Arts in December. Mike was the only awardee that year to be recognized for environmental efforts.

Mr. William Jack Wallen received the 5 year Volunteer Service Award from the Province of Ontario for his work with OERS. He was recognized at the awards ceremony in Toronto, Ontario in December.

Mr. Michael Belanger President and Director of OERS received the 10 Year Volunteer Service Award from the Province of Ontario for his work with OERS.

At the awards ceremony in November in Barrie Ontario, it was noted that Mike was representing the only environmental group to receive the service award that year. Yea Mike. Joe Tascona congratulated him personally for his efforts in this area.


Dr. Carin Wittnich, one of OERS's Directors and Senior Scientist was invested with the Order of Ontario for her work in promoting awareness and education of heart disease in women and children by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, her Honour Hiliary Westin, at a ceremony at the Ontario legislature on December 4th, 2001.

Details on this award and her efforts can be found here. This was followed by a black tie dinner at the Royal York Hotel, at which she had the distinct honor to be asked to be the valedictorian. Her speech emphasized how we can all make a difference and Dr. Wittnich also took the opportunity to introduce OERS and make a plea for the marine environment. The audience was extremely appreciative.

Updated Tuesday February 14, 2017