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Friday, July 22, 2011

Haida Gwaii Slideshow

Guest Blogger Kim Wright here - reporting in from the beach (seriously - there is wi-fi out here!).

In June I was lucky enough to go to a place that’s captured my imagination for years: Haida Gwaii. This island group is truly the land of legend where a sense of magic hangs in the misty air. I got to go there in my role as representative to the conservation sector to attend meetings on ocean management for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA).

Planning can be pretty “meeting-hall” focused, as creating a vision for PNCIMA’s future requires hours of talk between all the interested parties. But in Haida Gwaii we were able to draw on the local environment and the past for inspiration. Early one morning we got into zodiac boats and circumnavigated Louise Island, stopping at Skedans, an abandoned Haida village site. Skedans was one of the larger Haida villages in the southern islands, but it was abandoned in the 1880s near the end of the smallpox epidemic that killed 90 percent of the Haida population. Now deer wander among the remains of mossy, mortuary poles that tell long forgotten stories from the once thriving community.

Our tour served as a reminder that humans have been part of the beauty and the bounty of these islands for many thousands of years, and that our place in these ecosystems can be extremely fragile. Skedans, also known as K'uuna Linagaay (Point Town), is now part of the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Scott Islands - What do they mean to you?

Of the many amazing places on the outer coast of British Columbia, there are few more spectacular this time of year than the Scott Islands. This rugged archipelago stretches out for 50 km to the northwest of Cape Scott (the northwest tip of Vancouver Island and the western terminus of the world-renown North Coast Trail), and teams with seabirds between March and September. In fact, the outer three Islands (Baresford, Sartine, and Triangle) are home to over two million auklets, murres, puffins and storm petrels.

As mentioned in the text, the land portions of these islands are already protected as provincial ecological reserves, but there is currently no protection for the surrounding waters. The Canadian Wildlife Service is currently setting up a marine National Wildlife Area in the waters around these islands to protect the rich marine environment where birds find food for themselves and for their chicks.

What the video doesn’t mention is that the rich ecosystem around the islands also supports many other bird species that don’t nest in the area, such as Marbled Murrelet (which nest in the adjacent old-growth forests), Black-footed Albatross (which have six-foot wing spans and nest in Hawaii and Japan), and Sooty Shearwater (which come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand). Many marine mammals frequent the area including Grey, Humpback, Blue and Killer, Baird’s beaked, Minke, and Sperm whales as well as Dahl’s and Harbour porpoise. The rocky islands provide a haul-out for Northern fur seal and the largest breeding colony of Steller’s sea lions in Canada (the second largest in the world).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Elephant Seal Encounter on Hornby Island

Last week I had the unique opportunity of spending some time with a molting elephant seal. He and his kind would normally spend most of their time beneath the sea so we were lucky to see him. Able to dive to depths of 2000 metres and able to stay submerged for up to 2 hours by slowing their heart rate down, they are only rarely seen on shore. Named after the proboscis like nose of the males, elephant seals, when seen, are often mistaken for sea monsters.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ocean Exposure photo contest - does that mean it's summer?

You know how, in the summer, it's so hot you feel like you're going to melt into the sidewalk and the sun is shining so brightly that you feel like your eyeballs are going to get burnt out of your head, even when they're shut? How, no matter where you look, everything is sparkling because the sun is just that brilliant? How looking at the ocean feels more like looking like looking at a field of diamonds?

Well we don't have that up here in Sointula. Currently it's foggy and gray and rainy and it's looking like it'll stay that way for while yet. (I'm hoping you're having better luck wherever you are).

But you know the worst part?! It's too gray to take any really great ocean pictures! If I wanted gray, foggy oceany pictures I would have taken them in the winter.

So we need your help! Living Oceans Society is hosting its second annual Ocean Exposures photo contest in order to get some great ocean photos. We want to show everyone how beautiful this big ball of blue is and you know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand Tufted Puffins…or words, depending on where you're from.

Your photos can fit into one of two categories: Ocean Ecosystems or Working on the Ocean. Check out last year's winner in the Ocean Ecosystem's category below.

Pretty skookum, eh?

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Case of the Missing Marine Protection – Part 3: The Dramatic Conclusion

This is a continuation of Part 1 and Part 2 of The Case of the Missing Marine Protection.

The bay was blanketed in a thick, impenetrable fog. It was as if someone had just stepped in from the rain and flung their damp wool overcoat over the small town to dry. Inside my dimly-lit office however, the fog was finally beginning to clear in the case over which I had been puzzling for the past few months.

Things just hadn't been adding up in the watery ledger of marine protection. Of the 161 marine protected areas (MPAs) on Canada's Pacific coast, 109 were meant to be completely closed to any harvesting of marine creatures, but some amount of commercial fishing seemed to be permitted in all but one. The brass who managed the MPAs didn't seem to communicate too well with the ones who ran the fisheries. The result was that the boundaries of MPAs matched up with those of the fishery closures every bit as well as any two running shoes that might randomly wash ashore on the same beach.

I stared down at the map on my desk, which highlighted this discrepancy vividly:

Suddenly, the door to my office flew open with a bang, and a large, bearded figure with a patch over his left eye burst into the room. I jumped to my feet, involuntarily reaching for the gaff I kept beside my desk.