Thursday, December 18, 2008


The recent winner of the J Paul Getty award for conservation is a champion of marine planning, and he comes from a small coastal community, just like my hometown, Port McNeill. This marine-conservation champion's name is Roger and fishing is one of the most important sources of income for those in his community. Local fishermen use nets, lines, and spear diving to catch fish. In an interview with the BBC, this prize-winner mentions that he has seen fish stocks rapidly decline over the years in his village, and he is worried about the local corals and sea grass that are being destroyed by bottom-dragging fishing techniques. In his small coastal town, he sees the impacts that unsustainable practices have on the livelihood of his villages, and has spent much of his time advocating for community-managed marine protected areas.

It is a hard job to get people to think about the sustainability of the oceans; and four hours away in the capital city, people seem too far removed to understand or to really think much about the future of the oceans.

All of Roger's concerns sound like concerns that we have have on the Pacific North Coast. Is he from Sointula, Sandspit, or perhaps Prince Rupert?

Actually, he's from Africa.

Samba Roger, living in Andavadoaka, a fishing community on the island of Madagascar, is just one example of the type of people who are taking action to preserve our ocean ecosystems worldwide.

To see a great photo presentation about Samba Roger, click here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How We Fish Matters: Addressing the Ecological Impacts of Canadian Fishing Gear

The Living Oceans Society, Ecology Action Centre, and Marine Conservation Biology Institute have released a study that ranks the impacts of 13 different gear types used for fishing in Canada. This study was completed in three stages: first, there was a
Skates - Photo courtesy of John Driscoll
literature review of existing scientific studies on the impacts of fishing gear; next, a rating of the impacts of fishing gear by fishermen, scientists, and conservation professionals; and finally a survey of 97 professionals from different sectors working with fisheries where respondents ranked the ecological impacts of 13 different gear types.

This study found that bottom trawl, bottom gillnet, dredge, and bottom longline are the gears that cause the greatest impact on habitat and discarded bycatch. Harpoon, dive, and hook and line are the fishing methods that result in the least impacts on habitat and discarded bycatch.

The main recommendations (taken directly from the study) are as follows:

1. Fisheries managers should immediately implement ecologically risk averse strategies to minimize the impacts of fishing gear on habitat and bycatch. These strategies include habitat protection, and access to fishing grounds and quota allocations based on gear substitution.

2. Adequate monitoring, research and data collection on fishing gear impacts to habitat and non-target species must be undertaken, and made publicly available, to support ecosystem and spatial management practices.

3. Implement, inform and develop policies and management practices that prioritize the minimization of habitat destruction and incidental catch and discarding of target and non-target species.

You can access the LOS press release, and the full report on the LOS website.

You can also read the media coverage of this report in:
Globe and Mail
Vancouver Sun
National Post
The Canadian Press
Times Colonist

Saving Luna

Luna, the orca that was separated from its pod and became unusually friendly with humans in 2001, captured hearts and headlines in the Nootka Sound area and around the world. Seen as a blessing to some and a curse to others, much debate surrounded the treatment of this whale until he was run over by a tugboat and killed in 2006.

Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm have received high acclaim for their documentary about this lovable orca, called "Saving Luna". Saving Luna premiered in Vancouver on December 5th at Ridge Theatre.

Click here to read a review of this film in the Epoch Times.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oily Lesson

I think we can be learning lessons from California. On one of their offshore oil rigs last week, over 27 barrels of oil spilled from a finger sized hole in a pump. The result was a slick a mile and a half long by 200 feet wide. They say no birds were caught in the oil but also that often, “Oiled birds are not spotted until they wash ashore, dead or dying because the oil has ruined their ability to keep warm.”

Since 1972, there are two moratoriums have protected British Columbia's coastline from the threat of oil spills.

However there are several proposals for pipeline projects to deliver oil from Alberta's tar sands to the North Coast. These proposals call for oil tanker traffic loaded with crude from the pipelines to travel through B.C.'s coastal waters. But our federal government is already ignoring the moratorium on tanker traffic. Since early 2006, tankers carrying condensate have traveled through the Inside Passage to Kitimat.

Now, the federal government is considering lifting its offshore oil and gas moratorium on the North Coast, and the B.C. government wants the entire moratorium lifted to allow offshore oil and gas development in the Strait of Georgia and off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Yikes!
The risk is high for very little gain. Even the top end estimates predict that B.C.’s offshore reserves would produce only enough oil and gas to satisfy U.S. consumption for six months. Surely the risks are not worth it!

I find our oil spill model to be a good graphic reminder about what could potentially happen on our coast from an oil spill. Check it out:

Here's an article about the California spill from the LA Times:,0,3221617.story

A Step in the Right Direction

Finally! Some progress towards integrated marine planning in the Large Ocean Management Area (LOMA) of PNCIMA (Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area). Late last week, coastal First Nations and DFO signed an Memorandum of Understanding regarding the PNCIMA planning process. In a press release published late Friday, DFO states :

"The MOU outlines a "PNCIMA Model", including a proposed method of governing and support for PNCIMA initiatives within the area. It also calls for the establishment of a steering committee and secretariat to guide and support future planning efforts and the involvement of all those with a vested interest in PNCIMA. In addition, the MOU sets out the expectation that DFO and the First Nations of the Pacific North Coast (Coastal First Nations (CFN)), and the North Coast Skeena First Nations' Stewardship Society (NCSFNSS), will work together on integrated ocean planning in the area."

Hopefully, this MOU will act as the impetus for concrete action towards conservation and planning on the Pacific North Coast. Stay tuned!

Read the Environmental NGO Caucus' reaction to the MOU signing here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

For the Love of Fish

I have always been a baker. Since the day that I was able to hold a spoon (well, almost) I have been whipping up batches of chewy chocolate chip cookies, mom’s Chinese dainties, and many other delicious and cavity-inducing indulgences. Driven by a desire to bring sugary happiness into other peoples’ lives (and to keep my waistline at an acceptable level), I often share the majority of what I bake with friends, colleagues, neighbors, homeless people, and random bar-goers (yes, really). There is nothing better than witnessing the delight of someone who has just been presented with an unsolicited baked good.

Or so I thought…

Lately, I have discovered the joy of cooking. The type of cooking that creates an intake of breath when presented to dinner guests: dishes that you want to take a picture of; food that is just too pretty to eat (but you still eat it anyway!). Enter this year’s “For the Love of Fish” winning recipe from C Restaurant as my ticket to the world beyond confectioner’s sugar and molasses:

Oyama Prosciutto wrapped Sablefish with Dungeness Crab and Gala Apple Vinegarette

  • 500g Sablefish, skin off fillet
  • 100g Oyama Prosciutto thinly sliced

Directions: Lay Prosciutto (width of the sablefish) onto your counter. Wrap Prosciutto around the sablefish and wrap cling wrap around the fish. Let sit for 24 hours. Using a non-stick pan and a small amount of vegetable oil, caramelize the Prosciutto roll on all sides. Let rest in pan for 15 minutes and then slice and serve.

  • 250g Dungeness Crab
  • 6pc Gala Apples, diced finely
  • 6pc shallot, finely julienne
  • 100ml Apple cider vinegar
  • 50g chives, finely minced
  • 2pc lemon, juiced and zest
  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 ml honey
  • 5g espelette chills

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl together and let stand 1 hour prior to serving. Place on top of the sablefish and serve with rosemary potatoes.

This recipe uses sustainable seafood, it looks beautiful, and it is so easy to make that even a baker-turned-cook can throw it together and woo the masses. So, for this year’s holiday potluck, sign up to bring the main course instead of the dessert. Then, the night of the party, sit back, relax, and wait for the compliments to come rushing in. Perhaps even better than witnessing the delight of someone just presented with an unsolicited baked good is accepting the compliments of people who think you are a much better cook than you really are.

Do you have any good sustainable seafood recipes? Share them with us all in the comments section below!

I have a story to tell you...

At the Living Oceans Society's 10th Anniversary Masquerade Ball, LOS rolled out its "I have a story to tell you..." photo album. Here, I get a little more information about this album from our Local Knowledge Project Coordinator, Vern Sampson.

What is the background of this photo album?
"As part of our 10th anniversary celebrations, Jennifer Lash [the Executive Director of Living Oceans Society] wanted to celebrate the fishing heritage of Sointula. A number of ideas were brainstormed around the office and we finally decided on a photo album focused on showing the development of the local fishing culture over time. We wanted the help of the local community , so I went out on Malcolm Island to ask folks for interesting photographs of their fishing heritage. The response was excellent and in very short order, [some other staff members and I] were tasked with having to choose just a modest selection from the hundreds of photos we had received. "

I have noticed that this photo album is not in the traditional format, can you tell me a little more about this?
"When we were scanning and compiling the photos, we realized that many of the images and the memories and stories attached to them represent a unique history of the area. In order to capture this history, Jennifer came up with the idea of an interactive photo album.

Each image in the album has empty lines upon which the album owner can write in names, dates, and most importantly, the stories that each photograph evokes for him or her. These would be the stories told around the galley table or on the dock; of memorable fishing trips and 'the good old days'. Living Oceans hopes that these stories will be written down and if people choose to lend their albums to us we will record these stories and ensure they have a place in the Sointula Archives. "

What has been the response of the community to these albums?
"We showed the new albums off at our 10th anniversary masquerade ball here in Sointula on December 5th. They were a great hit! Complimentary copies were given to each of the image donors, the Sointula Museum and the Sointula Resource Centre"

Thanks, Vern! Any last words about the album?
"This project would not have been possible without the generous support of many community members who lent us their photos. Thank you. We wish we could have printed more images, for this is just a small part of the vibrant past that has helped shape the Sointula of today."

These commemorative albums can be purchased and are available at the LOS office and the Sointula Resource Centre for $25.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marine Protected Areas - Yes We Can!

I ran across an article that gave me hope. The article talks about how California is protecting it’s coast. However, this didn’t happen over night. In fact the message is that it takes years for a comprehensive Marine Protected Areas strategy to develop and be implemented. California’s Central Coast is an example of how national legislation bears fruit, and can provide clarity on the meaning and establishment of Marine Protected Areas.

It was 2001 when President Clinton legislated the creation of the National Marine Protected Areas Center. Basically, this legislation allowed for the development of a common set of standards that define what a Marine Protected Area is. Like Canada, the US had a myriad of local, state, and tribal laws all affecting the ocean and fresh water. The complexity resulted in a lack of accountability.

The situation facing the Americans in 2001 is no different than what we have in Canada where for example there are currently 11 types of MPAs in BC managed by federal, provincial and municipal agencies. These include designations such as Provincial Parks, Ecological Reserves, Migratory Bird Reserves, Marine Parks, Wildlife Management Areas … all with varying levels of protection monitored by different agencies.

“At the center of the US national MPA plan is a list of goals and conservation objectives that will be applied to every body of water that is in line to become an MPA. That plan sets near-term goals, as well as mid- and long-term goals concerning natural, cultural and sustainable resources. It also sets specific standards for drawing physical boundaries, determining uses and defining types of protection.”

Of course everybody isn’t happy, but now it’s clear who to voice complaints to and how things get resolved. We can do the same here in Canada and in BC this means proceeding with PNCIMA.

See the article:

Sustainable Seafood 101

I'll admit it: I'm no seafood expert. Up until a few years ago, if seafood was offered in a restaurant (or brought to my house by a kind neighbour), I ate it. No questions asked. Now I know better. I know that by making conscious choices about what type of seafood I eat, I am ensuring that I can enjoy the fruits of the ocean for years to come.

I want to make ethical and sustainable choices when eating seafood and I understand the environmental and market implications if others recognize the importance of eating sustainably as well.

Lately, I find that my eyes glaze over and my conscience becomes overwhelmed by guilt when I am presented a menu: the ocean, in all its magnificence, offers so many options for dinner. How can I even begin to understand what to avoid religiously, what to eat now-and-again, and what to enjoy on a regular basis? On top of this, the categories of what is sustainable or not can vary again from season to season. Such a daunting and confusing task of figuring out my dinner's larger implications on the future of the oceans makes me reconsider even eating seafood in the first place.

But do not despair, fellow seafood lovers! There are others who have gone before us in the labyrinth of "Sustainability 101" and have prepared easy and innovative solutions to untangling the web of sustainable seafood. Our good friends at SeaChoice have developed "Canada's Seafood Guide", a handy, downloadable, and easy to use guide to eating sustainably. I downloaded it, slipped it into my wallet, and now have a handy reference for making my dinner choices. It is so easy to use: even if you are nearly blinded by a desire for a delicious dungeness crab, SeaChoice has color-coded the Alertcard in handy green, yellow, and red columns - making any seafood decision, no matter the circumstances, a piece of cake.

The SeaChoice website also has more season-specific information, as well as information about how to get businesses involved in ensuring the sustainability of our oceans. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California also has a similar Seafood Watch program to help consumers make sustainable choices.

Learning how to eat seafood while conserving our oceans has never been so easy. Never again will I be intimidated into choosing salad over seafood: waiter, bring on the BC Sablefish!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pictures from the 10th Anniversary Masquerade Ball in Sointula

This year Living Oceans Society celebrated 10 years of marine conservation advocacy in BC. On December 5, 2008, we held an Under the Sea Masquerade Ball on Malcolm Island to celebrate LOS' birthday and its Sointula roots. At the event there was a live bluegrass band, door prizes, a live auction, a costume contest, and lots and lots of dancing! The event had an impressive turnout and raised money for a great cause. Check out some of the innovative costumes in the pictures below:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Surprising Levels of Acid in our Oceans

A new study by scientists at the University of Chicago has found that rising ocean acid levels in the Pacific Ocean are making it more difficult for coral polyps to create reefs and are impeding the ability of marine organisms such as mussels, clams, and oysters to produce the calcium needed to generate their shells. Scientists have shown that acidity levels in the ocean were ten times greater than previously thought.

This study and other recent research links increased atmospheric carbon dioxide to a decline in ocean alkalinity. Scientists believe that "atmospheric CO2 concentrations could exceed 500 ppm by the middle of this century, and 800 ppm near the end of the century. This increase would result in a decrease in surface-water pH of ~0.4 by the end of the century, and a corresponding 50% decrease in carbonate ion concentration (5, 9). Such rapid changes are likely to negatively affect marine ecosystems, seriously jeopardizing the multifaceted economies that currently depend on them." [1]

Rising levels of ocean acidity are a concrete (and scary) indicator of things to come in the age of global climate change. This recent research about ocean acidity shows that conditions severely detrimental to our marine ecosystems could develop "within decades, not centuries as suggested previously". [2]

For a recent article about the University of Chicago study, visit:

[1] Feely, Richard A.; Sabine, Christopher L.; Hernandez-Ayon, J. Martin; Lanson, Debbie; and Hayles, Burke, "Evidence for Uprising of Corrosive "Acidified" Water onto the Continental Shelf", Science 320, 1490 (2008)
[2] Orr
et al, "Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms", Nature 437 (2005)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Together on the Coast: North Coast Sustainable Community Development Forum

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to attend a conference held in Prince Rupert by the North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society.

The objectives of the meeting were to:

* Inform and enhance the engagement of North Coast communities in Marine Planning.
* Initiate dialogue among numerous levels of government and stakeholders in the North Coast on issues affecting marine ecosystems.
* Inform the public of the planning activities currently underway by First Nations.
* Provide case-studies of how community engagement can be an important and successful part of marine management decision-making.

The most interesting part of the meeting for me came at the very end when there was a discussion about the need for an ocean champion - someone who helps shepherd the changes around ocean management and conservation that need to happen through a marine planning process. As people spoke about their experiences, their passions, and their dedication to ensuring that the ocean continues to provide for their families and communities, it became very clear that we already have ocean champions. Everyone in that room was a champion. The trick now is harnessing that passion and energy to ensure that we get a marine planning process that will benefit our resources and our future.

For more information on the conference go to:

Shining some light into the Black Box

The open ocean has long been a Black Box for predicting salmon survival. Conditions such as temperature variability and food availability are wild cards that have long confounded biologists and fisheries managers forecasting salmon returns. Now a new system of acoustic listening devices that picks up signals from transmitters implanted into the belly cavities of juvenile salmon and other fish is beginning to shed some light into the Black Box. The Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking network (POST for short) is a series of underwater receivers placed in lines at various locations around the eastern Pacific from San Fransisco to Southeast Alaska. Currently in Canada listening lines are located on both sides of Vancouver Island including Juan de Fuca Strait, Howe Sound, across northern Georgia Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait and off the northwest tip.

Interesting findings are challenging long held beliefs for scientists and environmentalists alike. Mortality in juvenile salmon was previously thought to be highest in freshwater but results from the POST network are showing up to 40% mortality during the smolts' first few weeks once they enter saltwater. Another controversial finding is that juvenile chinook salmon migrating down the highly dammed Columbia River survived their journey equally or better than young chinook migrating down the dam-free Fraser River. Young 10 centimetre long coho have been clocked at nearly 75 kilometres per day in the rivers and up to 40 kilometres per day in the ocean. That is the equivalent of 200,000 body lengths per day. I would have to swim 350 kilometres in the ocean in one day to match that!

Transmitters implanted in other fish like rockfish, sharks, squid, steelhead, sturgeon, and trout are also revealing some previously unknown information. It was known that sturgeon migrate in and out of saltwater but scientist thought they didn't go far. The POST listening array has tracked green strugeon from the Sacramento River in California congregating off the northern end of Vancouver Island.

One prediction that has already proved true is that this revolutionary real-time system of tracking marine animals will be a real breakthrough.

More about the system and how it works can be found at;

Monday, December 1, 2008


This past week, I attended the 4th ESSIM Forum Workshop in Halifax. The ESSIM (the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management) Initiative was the Canada's first integrated ocean management plan under the 1996 Canada's Oceans Act.

Since 1998, stakeholders in the Eastern Scotian Shelf area have been working towards the creation of a plan to "provide long-term direction and commitment for integrated, ecosystem-based and adaptive management of marine activities." (ESSIM Planning Office, 2007)

In previous years, the ESSIM Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) used the bi-annual Forum as a broad multi-stakeholder dialogue on integrated management and marine planning. Insight gained from ESSIM forums were then integrated into future SAC decisions about the ESSIM initiative. In 2007, the ESSIM SAC officially released its Integrated Ocean Management Plan - a reflection of almost 10 years of effort from committed stakeholders.

This year, the overall goal of the ESSIM forum was to focus upon making the shift from planning to implementation of the integrated management process. A focus session on Marine Spatial Planning, led by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Fanny Douvere and Charles Ehler reflected the SAC's identification of Marine Spatial Planning as a key component to the implementation of the ESSIM plan.

There was a strong representation from the West Coast at this forum, with representatives from the Living Oceans Society, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Pacific Region), and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society among others swelling the ranks of forum attendees. It is important for all those involved in the PNCIMA planning process to understand and learn from the ESSIM management process. Because PNCIMA is just in the preliminary stage, ESSIM is about 10 years ahead of us in the Large Ocean Management Area marine planning process.

Here is a snippet of the advice that the ESSIM participants provided for those involved in PNCIMA:
1. There must be confidence in the planning process amongst all of the various stakeholders. This is very important but also very time-consuming.
2. Because planning is time-consuming, expectations must be managed. Everything is not going to get done in a year or two, and all stakeholders must understand this.
3. It will be important to build a constituency in this initiative. Engage the local voting public: they will be able to keep the focus on planning activities over time.
4. PNCIMA must involve all aboriginal peoples in the region. There are a multitude of First Nations on the BC coast, many more than in the ESSIM constituency, and they should be strong stakeholders in the planning process.
5. At the beginning of the process, it will be important to look early on at the expected outcomes, and stick to this vision over time. Also, don't shy away from controversial issues at the beginning of the process - discuss them openly and honestly at the beginning of the process. If not, the controversial issues will slow the process later on, potentially halting the momentum gained over time.

For more information about ESSIM, visit

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Living Legacy: Canada's Pacific North Coast

See the new video produced by the Suzuki Foundation. It's all about our unique ocean heritage.

Fish for the People

Here's an innovative development linking consumers directly to the fisherman who catches their fish. It supports a local, organic, sustainable, fairly traded food economy and you get to meet the guy who catches your fish too!

The "Community Supported Fishery" (CSF) is based on the model of "Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA). Initiator, Otto Stroble puts it this way: "As a consumer, you'll share in the benefits and joys of the fishery as well as the risks. In exchange, you'll receive a share of the best of what is produced that year. As with CSAs, CSFs help ensure that independent, small scale harvesters remain in an industry which is rapidly becoming dominated by big business and aquaculture. By investing a sum at the start of the season, you will guarantee that Otto has enough money to operate his fishing business for the season. In exchange, you'll will receive a bounty of wild, fresh, northern salmon."

If you are in Vancouver, you'll get a call or an email letting you know when a shipment of salmon is arriving. Next summer, when the fish are coming in, you can pick them up at the False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf. If you can't make it to pick up the fresh fish, then Otto will freeze them for you and can pick them up at a later date.

For all the details -

Alien-like Squid With "Elbows" Filmed at Drilling Site

There are strange things under the sea!

A mile and a half (two and a half kilometers) underwater, a remote control submersible's camera has captured an eerie surprise: an alien-like, long-armed, and—strangest of all—"elbowed" Magnapinna squid.

In a brief video from the dive recently obtained by National Geographic News, one of the rarely seen squid loiters above the seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico on November 11, 2007.

The clip—from a Shell oil company ROV (remotely operated vehicle)—arrived after a long, circuitous trip through oil-industry in-boxes and other email accounts.

Check it out:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brave New Ocean

A frightening new study released about the state of our oceans. Authored by Jeremy B. C. Jackson - Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego.

Jackson compares the current loss of species to the mass extinctions of the fossil record stating that human impacts are laying the groundwork for a comparable mass extinction in the oceans with unknown ecological and evolutionary consequences.

He concludes by saying “Halting and ultimately reversing these trends will require rapid and fundamental changes in fisheries, agricultural practice, and the emissions of greenhouse gases on a global scale.”

Some disturbing numbers are included in the article:

Percent decline (biomass, catch, percent cover) for fauna and flora from various marine environments
Large whales 85% loss globally
Small whales 59% loss globally
Seabirds 57% loss globally
Shorebirds 61% loss globally
Sea Turtles 87 % loss globally
Sea Grass 65% loss globally
Oysters 91 % loss globally
Corals 61% loss globally
Atlantic cod 96% loss Scotian Shelf since 1900

To view full report:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Science of Marine Reserves

There is a new publication out by PISCO (The Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) that summarizes the science supporting marine reserves (also known as no-take marine protected areas, or MPAs). It is an easy-to-read document that explains the research that has been conducted on the effects of marine reserves.

The effects of MPAs on biomass and densities of fishes, invertebrates and seaweeds have been studied for several years, and the results are encouraging.

A global review of the studies revealed that fishes, invertebrates and seaweeds had the following average increases inside marine reserves:

1. Biomass, or the mass of animals and plants, increased an average of 446%
2. Density, or the number of plants or animals in a given area, increased an average of 166%
3. Body size of animals increased an average of 28%
4. Species diversity, or the number of species, increased an average of 21% in the sample area.

A complete copy of the report can be downloaded at

The Appealing Puffin

I find it interesting how the things we may never see or touch are often most appealing. Through a study conducted by McAllister Opinion Research, focus groups in Prince Rupert, Queen Charlotte City, Port Hardy and Vancouver revealed that the Tufted Puffin is one of the most appealing species on our coast.

These hardy birds can only be found in their colonies on the Queen Charlotte Islands and the west coast of Vancouver Island which are all but inaccessible. The biggest colony is on Triangle Island, in the Scott Island group off the northern tip of Vancouver Island. After they breed and the young are able to fly, they all head out to the sea full time. Unless you are a fisherman, a seagull or a bust away log, you’ll probably never see one.

To my surprise I learned that for decades, Canada’s tufted puffins have failed to produce sizeable broods. Many scientists believe warmer ocean temperatures are to blame for this phenomena and studies show a relationship between warmer surface temperatures and poor reproductive performance. One study I saw stated: "Further and prolonged increases in ocean temperature could make Triangle Island, which contains the largest tufted puffin colony in Canada, unsuitable as a breeding site for this species." Yikes!

Triangle Island is one of the Scott Island group. While those islands have received a degree of protection, either as Provincial Park or ecological reserve, the ocean around them remains unprotected. The puffins point out pretty clearly the link between land and sea and how essential that there are marine protected areas.

I doubt I’ll ever encounter a breeding tufted puffin but knowing they are out there provides a tangible kind of satisfaction. Of course I’d feel better if I knew for certain they would always be there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2010 Census of Marine Life

Juvenile representatives of the Antarctic and deep-sea genera of octopuses. Clockwise from top left , (1) Pareledone charcoti, a shallow-water species from the Antarctica Peninsula, (2) Thaumeledone gunteri, a deep-water species endemic to South Georgia, (3) Adelieledone polymoprha, a species endemic to the western Antarctic, (4) Megaleledone setebos, a shallow-water circum-Antarctic species endemic to the Southern Ocean. Photo credit: I. Everson (T. gunteri), M. Rauschert (M. setebos), L. Allcock (P. charcoti. A, polymorpha).
In the year 2000, researchers in over 80 countries collaborated to begin the most important marine census of our time. Appropriately named the "Census of Marine Life" or COML, this census was designed to gather in-depth information about all of the species found in our oceans worldwide. By 2010, the Census organizers plan to have all of the information about newly-discovered and previously known species in an on-line encyclopedia and web page.

This study is unprecedented and will result in the first comprehensive list of all forms of life in the sea. So far, researchers have added over 5600 species to the list, and they believe that there are many more species yet to be discovered.

A male sea spider carries its eggs on specially adapted appendages under its body; it is one of many possible new species from the Antarctic. Census researchers are trying to understand the evolutionary history of these curious animals. Photo: C├ędric d’Udekem, Royal Belgium Institute for Natural Sciences 2007.
When I found out about this census, I could not believe that a study of its kind had not yet been attempted. Many will agree that this census is timely and COML has even classified this research as urgent:
"Crises in the sea are reported regularly. One recent study predicted the end of commercial fishery globally by 2050, if current trends persist. Better information is needed to fashion the management that will sustain fisheries, conserve diversity, reverse losses of habitat, reduce impacts of pollution, and respond to global climate change. Hence, there are biological, economic, philosophical and political reasons to push for greater exploration and understanding of the ocean and its inhabitants."

The jeweled squid, Histioteuthis bonelli, swims above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at depths from 500 m to 2,000 m. Photo: David Shale 2007.

The impact of this census will even reach us here on the North Island and Central Coast. The more we know about local marine life in our area, the better equipped we will be to make informed decisions about how to best manage our ocean resources.

For more information about the Census of Marine Life (and for many more interesting pictures!), visit

Monday, November 10, 2008

Save The Date!

The Living Oceans Society will be celebrating ten years of marine conservation work in British Columbia with an Under the Sea Masquerade in Sointula on December 5th, 2008, from 7:30 pm to 1:30 am.

From 7:30 - 9:30 pm, there will be live music, door prizes, a live auction, a cash bar, and prizes for the best costume. A dance will follow these events at 9:30 pm.

Tickets are $10 each and are available from the LOS Head Office or from any LOS staff member. You must be 19 years of age or older to purchase tickets.

Hopefully I will see you there!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ghost Gear

Derelict fishing gear, also known as "Ghost Gear" causes problems for both commercial and recreational ocean users, as well as marine mammals and wildlife on Northern Vancouver Island and the Central Coast. Ghost gear can be nets, lines, traps, and other commercial harvesting equipment that are lost or abandoned in our oceans.

"Synthetic nets and fishing line in use since the 1940s take decades, even hundreds of years, to decompose in our marine waters. Once abandoned, the gear continues to indiscriminately trap and/or entangle fish, birds and even marine mammals" []

Derelict fishing gear can also trap or entangle swimmers and divers, harm the marine ecosystem, and damage boat propellers and rudders.

The Northwest Straights Commission with its project partners have identified this problem in the Puget Sound area and currently operate a very effective identification, reporting, removal, and recycling/disposal program in the Northwest Washington area.

British Columbia currently does not have a derelict fishing gear removal program, but the BC Ministry of Environment has been looking to our neighbours to the South to learn from their experiences with derelict fishing gear removal.

An interesting article about the Washington program can be found at:

Have you experienced a problem with derelict fishing gear while living or working in the Northern Vancouver Island and Central Coast region? Tell us about it in the 'comments' section of this posting!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Action Needed to Save Orcas"

An article in the Times Colonist this weekend reminded me again of the importance of marine planning to ensure the sustainability of all the species that share our oceans - as well as the industries that profit from them.

Growing up on Vancouver Island, some of my best memories involved scouring the ocean from a helicopter, looking for porpoise and orca with my dad. Whenever we had guests visiting us, we would take them out on the whale watching boat. In fact, some of my family members in Ontario still mention those whale watching trips of years past when I speak with them!

I hope that future generations will be able to share my fond childhood memories of the ocean - of which orcas played a large part. Unfortunately, as this weekend's Times Colonist article reminds us, unless we address the threats to orcas in the area now, resident killer whale sightings on Vancouver Island will likely be harder to come by in the future.

A little good news

After all the recent bad news about last summers salmon harvests, the poor returns to rivers and streams this fall and the effects to fishing families, orcas and bears, it's time to spread a little good news about our oceans for a change.

According to the latest reports from NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Service Center, the trend towards cooler ocean conditions continues and oceanic ecosystem indicators are shaping up to almost certainly make 2008 the most outstanding in eleven years. you can check out their report at;

All these indicators add up to a healthier ocean. The trend began in the summer of 2007 and they are a big improvement over 2005 and 2006. This bodes well for young salmon heading out to sea in the spring of 2007 and 2008 and also for other marine fish and many bird species. The NOAA update covers the northeastern Pacific from California to Juan de Fuca Strait, but Canadian oceanic research west of Vancouver Island found similar conditions.

Most fishermen I heard from this fall reported poor catches but they also mentioned that there seems to be better "sign" on the grounds than has been seen for a long time. By that I mean they are reporting more and larger schools of bait fish like herring, needlefish and sandlance. These small forage fish depend on phytoplankton and zooplankton for their food. Better conditions for these tiny critters means good news for everything higher up the food chain including the salmon, orcas, bears and fishing families.

As we say at Living Oceans, "Healthy Communities depend on Healthy Oceans."

Monday, October 27, 2008

How much are our ecosystems worth?

I just read a report that contains this fascinating fact:

"A 2007 study found that the total value of ecosystem services and products provided by the world’s coastal ecosystems, including natural (terrestrial and aquatic) and human-transformed ecosystems, added up to $25,783 billion per year (Martinez et al., 2007)."

Although we know the value of the ocean because we experience it everyday as a source of our livelihoods, sometimes it takes seeing it as a dollar value for others to understand its value.

And as this fact shows us, THE OCEAN IS VALUABLE.

The Martinez citation is as follows:

Martinez, M.L., Intralawan, A., Vasquez, G., Perez-Maquero, O., Sutton, P. and Landgrave, R. 2007. The coasts of our world: Ecological, economic and social importance. Ecological Economics 63: 254-272

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

First night on the road a success

Our first night on the road tonight and our first Campbell River. We had a good turnout and a great mix of people. Our guest speaker, Victoria, showed us the most amazing underwater footage. We could actually hear the clicks of the sperm whale as it checked out the sablefish on the line. They intensified and then the jaws of the whale filled most of the frame. What was so amazing was to see how the whale got the fish off the line. He put tension on the line and then it was almost like he was running his teeth along it to get the fish to snap off. I've never seen anything like. Actually, I don't think too many people have had the pleasure of seeing footage like this. We are really lucky on the North Island to have the chance to meet Victoria O'Connell. I of course highly recommend coming to a screening near you!

Tomorrow we are driving back up island to Port Hardy, hopefully with a stop at the Whale Interpretive Centre on the way to be reminded just how massive sperm whales are. See you in Port Hardy!

Friday, September 26, 2008

PNCIMA Resolution Passes at UBCM

At this year's Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) meeting a resolution on the need for marine planning in PNCIMA was passed. The resolution originated out of Alert Bay this Spring and was brought forward and passed at the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities (AVICC). This brought it to UBCM this week. The content of the resolution is as follows:

WHEREAS the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding respecting the implementation of Canada's Oceans Strategy on the Pacific Coast of Canada;

AND WHEREAS the process of integrated planning for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) appears to have stalled due to lack of commitment and adequate funding:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities urge the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia to immediately commit to increased engagement and collaboration in the integrated Oceans Management Planning Process for the Pacific Coast of Canada.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Last of this year's coastal speakers series

I will be touring around North Island communities again in the last of this year's coastal speakers series. This time we are holding a coastal film night and will be featuring a film called "SEASWAP". This film was produced in Alaska and is about sperm whales in Southeast Alaska taking black cod off of longline gear. The film is an interesting look at what a collaborative project between fishermen and scientists can look like, and is also appealing because of what I learned about sperm whales, creatures that inhabit the coastal waters of BC, but which we don't have the privilege of seeing very often.

The film will be followed by a discussion with Victoria O'Connell, one of the principle investigators on the SEASWAP project. In her previous job as Groundfish Manager with Alaska's Department of Fish and Game, she brings a wealth of knowledge to the coastal film night and I hope that we will get to learn more, not just about sperm whales, but about the various commercial groundfisheries in Alaska.

We will be on tour from October 8th to 11st, and will be in the following communities:

Wednesday, October 8th: Campbell River Campbell River Museum
Thursday, October 9th: Port Hardy Cafe Guido
Friday, October 10th: Alert Bay Inner Coast Natural Resources Centre
Saturday, October 11th: Sointula (2pm) Old Fire Hall and Port McNeill Black Bear Resort

All screenings will be at 7pm apart from the Sointula "matinee".

Monday, September 22, 2008

Low pink salmon returns in the Broughton Archipelago

As I blogged last week, I have been touring around the North Island coordinating video interviews. One subject came up quite often in Port McNeill and Alert Bay, and interestingly enough, there was an article in last Friday's Globe and Mail about it. "It" would be the low pink salmon returns, particularly to the Glendale River in Knight Inlet and the effect that this is having on the grizzly bears up there. I've included the article here, and while this wouldn't be the first time that low salmon returns have had an effect on grizzly bears around here (I'm thinking of the fallout from the chinook collapse in the Wannock around 1999), it is still unpleasant to think about what things will be like next spring.

Declining salmon runs blamed for wilderness tourism slump

From Friday's Globe and Mail

September 19, 2008 at 4:31 AM EDT
VANCOUVER — Few people in British Columbia know how to find killer whales better than Bill MacKay, who tracks them in a high-speed, super-quiet boat from Port McNeill, on northern Vancouver Island.
But Mr. MacKay, who with his wife, Donna, runs MacKay Whale Watching, has had an increasingly difficult time finding large numbers of killer whales to show his customers this year.
All along the B.C. Coast, wilderness tourism operators who run bear-viewing, whale-watching and sport-fishing resorts are reporting tough times because of declining salmon runs.
But the biggest impact may be occurring in the Broughton Archipelago, where Mr. MacKay operates, and where pink salmon runs have all but vanished, sending a shock wave through the region's ecosystem.
"Some of the northern pods are just not here," Mr. MacKay said yesterday. "And we've had three occasions [this summer] when we did not see any orcas at all. That's pretty weird."
He said northern killer whales visit the area during the summer months, collecting in big social gatherings where breeding takes place.
"When they get together like that it's called Super Pod Day, and we will see over 100 dorsal fins out there at a time," Mr. MacKay said. "That didn't happen this year, for the first time since we've been collecting data, which is almost 30 years."
Mr. MacKay said it's not coincidental that the whales have vanished along with the salmon.
"It's pretty simple. ...What do you think these orcas eat?" he said.
Surveys by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans indicate pink salmon stocks have fallen to extremely low levels in the Broughton Archipelago. In Glendale Creek, a key indicator stream, there have been only 19,000 spawners counted this year, compared with 264,000 last year.
Pink salmon, which usually spawn in prodigious numbers, are a keystone species on the West Coast. Chinook salmon, the mainstay of the orca diet, feed on young pinks, while grizzly and black bears depend on spawning adult pink salmon to bulk up for hibernation.
Howard Pattinson, owner of Tide Rip Tours, a grizzly-bear viewing business based in Telegraph Cove, said the pink collapse has forced bears to rely on late berry crops and sedge grasses for nutrition.
"We're used to seeing bears eat 15 to 20 fish an hour. Now once a day we might see a bear catch one fish," Mr. Pattinson said. "We are seeing big male bears killing [yearling] cubs and eating them. ...It's pretty shocking for the tourists when they see raw nature like that."
Mr. Pattinson said he's worried about the future of his business.
"The bears are now eating berries and sedges. It's enough to get through the winter, but not enough for pregnant females. They'll either reabsorb their embryos or abort this winter. ...Next spring, I don't think there'll be any cubs," he said.
Brian Gunn, president of the Wilderness Tourism Association, said the collapse of salmon stocks is threatening the survival of ecotourism businesses.
"The bear-viewing businesses, the whale-watching operations, they built up a lot of equity showing people these wild animals. Now the fish aren't there and they are seeing their equity drain away. ...If the salmon go, so does the wildlife, and so does the business."
Mr. Gunn blamed the fish-farming business, saying a heavy concentration of net pens in the Broughton Archipelago has created sea-lice epidemics which kill young salmon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kingcome Inlet

Yesterday, I had the privilege of flying into Kingcome Inlet, BC as part of the work that I have been doing with the North Island leg of the video interview project. Once the fog lifted in Port McNeill (around 1230pm), the float plane could fly the short 3 minute flight across to pick us up in Sointula.

It was an absolutely spectacular day to fly in there. We saw a huge group of Pacific white-sided dolphins and a pair of humpback whales. I also had a chance to pass over some of the many fish farms that dot the route on the flight path through the Broughton Archipelago.

Kingcome is located a two miles up the Kingcome River at the head of Kingcome Inlet on the BC mainland. There are about 85 year round residents. We flew in to interview the local culture and language teacher, and all that I can say is that I can't wait for the two-minute clip! All of the interviews that I have sat in on so far have been really informative, and it's amazing that even though there is a real diversity of opinions about the importance of different coastal communities to its residents, there are some common concerns that emerge regionally. I won't go into them though, because I would rather that you watch the clips for yourselves. They should be finished in the new year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Research Into Public Engagement With The 'Undersea'

I just read a summary of a study that was conducted in the U.K. on the public's perception with the 'Undersea'. The project was conducted by Natural England to try to understand the best way to engage (and not engage) the English public when it comes to the underwater landscape of the ocean.

The findings from the research suggest that most conventional campaigns that focus on 'issues' or 'problems' to promote Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are unlikely to 'work' for 60% of the population and will probably undermine attempts to create a political constituency advocating for MPAs. Even more surprising, less than 1% of the population can name a real undersea landscape feature. Essentially, there is no sense of place for the undersea landscape in England in the way there is for terrestrial landscapes, despite a high affinity for the sea as part of the coast.

While the results are for the U.K. only, the study definitely provides food for thought when it comes to our own work around MPAs here in B.C.

The full report can be viewed at:

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Days of PNCIMA - Introduction

I was hired in 2006 as Living Oceans Society's Marine Planning Specialist. The idea was that I would be the person from LOS who worked to ensure that DFO's imminent planning process for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) includes the establishment of a network of MPAs. Everyone thought that the PNCIMA process would be starting that Fall. Well, it's now 2 and 1/2 years later, and the PNCIMA process has yet to officially begin. Needless to say, my job description has changed in that time.

But PNCIMA has pretty much been my life during this time (at least my working life). And sometimes it has very closely resembled a soap opera. There have been tears of joy and frustration, marriages as organizations formed coalitions, lots of gossip, divorces as coalitions dissolved, and car chases (kidding). The plot has managed to move right along, even though the process itself has yet to begin.

Once the PNCIMA process does start, there will be lots to keep track of. So I am starting this blog post as a take on 'The Days of Our Lives', because for many of us, 'Our Lives' can easily be replaced by 'PNCIMA'.

As things move forward with PNCIMA I will try to recap the progress that is being made or notable highlights in 'episodes' on this blog.

Stay tuned for Episode 1!

Video interviews happening on the North Island

We are helping to coordinate video interviews on the North Island for a project that World Wildlife Fund in Prince Rupert is working on entitled "Your Values, Your Vision".

We are collecting interviews and stories in video format from people that live near British Columbia’s Coast and connected watersheds.

We want to know:
why this place is important to you?
how are you connected to the environment?
what are your greatest concerns in this region?
what your hopes are for the future of this region?

By gathering these interviews and linking them to an online map of the region, we will create a visual representation showcasing the different values and visions shared by you.

Interviews will be happening in and around Campbell River, Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Alert Bay, and Sointula between September 13th and 20th, 2008. Email me at if you are interested!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision-making

This new report - Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision-making - from the US National Research Council may be of interest to Coastal Voices readers. This book assesses whether, and under what conditions, public participation achieves the outcomes desired. Claims from all sides are considered and evaluated as a central point of the study in order to provide an overall assessment of the merits and failings of participation. The book also offers guidance to practitioners and identifies directions for further research.

The executive summary of the book can be downloaded from

12 Key Principles for Influential Advocates

Last week I attended an 'ENGO Advocacy' workshop in Ottawa. (ENGO = Environmental Non-Governmental Organization). One of the hand-outs we received was titled "Twelve Key Principles for Influential Advocates". It lists tips for people who are meeting with decision makers, and I think this is relevant not only to people who work for non-governmental organizations, but also for anyone who is advocating for something. So I'm sharing the list here.

1. It's a Conversation - don't bring a laundry list.
2. Stay Calm, but be Yourself - show that you're confident.
3. It's about Relationships - the first question should be "How are you?".
4. Be Mainstream - if you say you're on the sidelines, you will be seen as such.
5. Do Your Homework - make sure you know who the person you're meeting with reports to, and what they're able to make decisions on.
6. Focus on Solutions - research what works and be prepared to share that information
7. Responsiveness - this is essential.
8. Work All Levels - political, senior and junior staff, agency, regional if applicable
9. Get Representation Right - don't go into a meeting representing a group or entity that you don't have the authority to speak for.
10. Timing - some things just can't move sometimes and it's better to ride the wave and wait for the right moment.
11. Put a little water in your wine - you almost never can get it all.
12. Thank - whether you get what you want or not, maintain the relationships of those you trust.

Salmon Bycatch in the Bering Sea

This is the second story I've come across recently about salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea. Glad to hear the closures that they implemented may have had the right effect. The news stories from earlier in the year were about how the bycatch on Chinook in the Bering Sea was a whopping 120000 in 2007! A lot of those fish migrate down to BC rivers.

Here is the original news story.

Here is the most recent one.