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."