Friday, October 30, 2009

Name This Spot!

Right on the heels of congratulating our most recent winner in my last post, I think we should have everyone try and figure out the location of this next image.
This is a spot within the Pncima region and any mariners with local knowledge of the Inside Passage would know this spot.

If you would like to try your best guess, you can email me at: or leave a comment in the comments section.
Winners will be announced on the next Name This Spot! post.

Good luck and thanks for checking out Coastal Voices.

Carbon dioxide: what it is, what it's doing, and what we can do about it - a Coastal Voices series

Coastal Voices series
Carbon dioxide: what it is, what it’s doing, and what we can do about it

This December, representatives from over 190 nations will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to hash out an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide. The timing is critical: scientists believe that the next decade will be our last, best chance to reduce emissions if we are to keep the climate from warming beyond an unacceptable level.

In addition to changing our climate, our carbon dioxide emissions are also making ocean water more acidic, and more corrosive to many marine animals with shells – an occurrence that is happening right now on the west coast, and which threatens the base of marine food webs.

Carbon dioxide is at the root of both climate change and ocean acidification – yet it is also a very common thing, so common that we exhale with every breath. Carbon dioxide is, in fact, essential to life. How can this be? How can it be both essential to life and threatening to life at the same time? And how can plain old carbon dioxide – an odorless, colorless gas that is all around us – be the cause of melting shellfish, spreading deserts, or threats to the national security of the most powerful nations on Earth?

We’ll dig into these questions, and more, over the next month in a five-part series on carbon dioxide, climate change, and ocean acidification, and what these issues mean for our region and for you. We’ll start at the most basic level – what is carbon dioxide and why is it an issue? – and work our way up to today’s most pressing concerns. Look for the first post early next week.

Part I: Carbon dioxide: the basics

· Why do people say that something that is essential to life is so dangerous for our future?

· Where does all of the extra carbon dioxide come from?

Part II: Carbon dioxide and climate change

· Why does more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to climate change?

· What does this mean for B.C. and Canada?

Part III: Carbon dioxide and ocean acidification

· How does more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere make ocean water corrosive to marine life?

· What does this mean for B.C. and Canada?

Part IV: What can we do?

· Why don’t we just remove it from the atmosphere?

· Wait - you mean I can’t really “offset” my carbon emissions?

· Won’t the problem be solved if we all become ‘carbon neutral’?

· So what can we truly do?

Part V: What is being done by Canada and the international community to reduce emissions of
carbon dioxide?

· Why is “Copenhagen” so important?

· How can we make our voices heard at Copenhagen?

Name This Spot! 4

Hey folks; we have another winner in our Name This Spot! contest!

Our most recent winner is Charlotte, who correctly identified the Wannock River in the October 13 - Name This Spot! 3 posting.
Ok, time for some disclosure here. I've known Charlotte since she was about 4 years old and I know she lives about 2o some odd miles from the Wannock River - so she should recognize the place!
Your prize will be arriving in a post office near you soon, Charlotte!

For those of you who don't know, the 6 km long Wannock River flows out of Owikeno Lake into the head of Rivers Inlet in the Central Coast, within the Pncima region.

The area has been and still is home to the Wuikinuxv Nation. There are approximately 70 Wuikinuxv people living in their village along the banks of the Wannock. This river and Owikeno Lake have provided food, refuge and home for the Wuikinuxv for thousands of years. The Wannock River and it's keystone salmon species are still relatively rich in biodiversity despite over a century of industrial activity in the area. In recent years, in order to enhance declining salmon stocks, the Wuikinuxv Fisheries Program along with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Rivers Inlet North Coast Salmon Enhancement Association have been been working with Snootli Hatchery in Bella Coola to enhance chinook and, on a smaller scale, sockeye from the Wannock River. There is also an ongoing eco-system study funded in part by the Tula Foundation whereby a research team headed by Dr. Rick Routledge of Simon Fraser University along with with local participation is undertaking research to better understand the early life stages of Rivers Inlet sockeye as they migrate out of their freshwater environment into the ocean.

Some of the west coast's largest chinook salmon, prized by sportfishers from around the world, spawn in the Wannock as well as sockeye, coho and chum.
All of the Owikeno Lake sockeye and other species of salmon have to transit the Wannock in order to get to their natal streams as far as 50 km up the lake.

Thank you, Charlotte and all the others who read Coastal Voices.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Environmental Disaster? or...Welcome Habitat for Endangered Species

This is an article published in The Onion in 2002. This is typical of the satiric articles written at the Onion. Consider this our Halloween Howl posting. Happy reading!

Sunken Oil Tanker Will Be Habitat For Marine Life, Shell Executives Say With Straight Face

October 23, 2002 | Issue 38•39

HOUSTON, TX—The 1,080-foot, 300,000-ton oil tanker Shell Global Explorer, which sank off the coast of Newfoundland last month, will provide a welcome habitat for many diverse species of endangered marine life, Shell Oil Company executives announced with a straight face Tuesday.

The new habitat, moments before sinking.

"In its new resting place, far beneath the surface of the North Atlantic, the Global Explorer is host to countless fish and an infinite variety of marine vegetation," a press release from Shell read without a trace of irony. "A ship that once helped run life above the waves now houses life beneath them."

The reading of the press release preceded public statements from Shell executives.

"We in the petroleum industry have long believed that we have a responsibility to protect and conserve the environment in our daily business operations," said Shell CEO Steven L. Miller to reporters in the face of all available evidence. "We view this commitment to projects that will conserve and protect the marine ecosystem as an important investment in our future."

"At Shell, we're proud to provide a niche for the struggling denizens of our oceans," said Shell vice-president of international shipping Dennis Gallsworthy, who apparently intended his words to be taken seriously.

Somehow maintaining his composure despite being able to hear the things he was saying, Gallsworthy added, "We have a strong commitment to protecting and preserving sea life."

On Sept. 27, radio messages from the tanker indicated it had suffered extensive damage to its hull following an explosion, which pierced its overloaded crude-oil tanks. By the time the ship slid to the bottom, Shell public-relations officials were touting its potential as an artificial habitat, often while looking straight into reporters' eyes.

"The many species of fish native to Newfoundland's Grand Banks have in recent years increasingly struggled to find feeding and breeding grounds," Miller said, as if Shell were deeply concerned with these circumstances and not, in fact, partially at fault for them. "We must take all available steps to help reestablish these species in their native waters."

Hoping to both deflect blame and take an opportunity for self-promotion, Miller took aim at the commercial fishing industry without so much as a smirk.

"The Global Explorer's new resting place will provide shelter for countless threatened, often over-harvested fish," he said. "At Shell, we're proud to use our multibillion-dollar, globe-spanning resources to aid a worthy environmental cause."

To see the rest of the article, click here.


Yes, it's a good chuckle. But what isn't so funny is that on our coast, shipments of crude oil have been increasing. Last year, thirty-four crude oil tankers were loaded through Westridge Marine Terminal in Burrard Inlet. And I would hazard that it is more a question of when there will be an accident, rather than if.

If you consider the number of near misses there have been in the last ten years, we've been incredibly lucky. And if proposed pipeline expansions go ahead, it may be that our luck will run out.

To find out more about the proposed BC pipeline expansion project, visit our website at

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Indisputable evidence

My work at Living Oceans puts me in touch with local folks trying to correct the problems with open net-pen salmon farming. Last week was a case in point when I got a phone call early Friday morning from a friend who was gillnetting for chums off the North Shore of Malcolm Island. He called to say he had a bunch of Atlantic salmon in his net and wanted to know if there had been an escape at a fish farm recently.
One of the problems with open net-pen salmon farms are the inevitable escapes that happen. Whether the cause is from accidents handling fish farm boats and equipment, pens breaking loose or sinking in bad weather or predators ripping through to get a free meal, the result is always the same; farmed salmon - Atlantics in this case - being introduced into the marine environment.
So why is that a problem? Aren't those Atlantics just more catch for my fisherman friend? Aside from the risks associated with an alien species escaping into the Pacific Ocean, farmed salmon can and do consume wild aquatic resources, thereby depleting local stocks. Salmon farming industry advocates want people to believe otherwise by saying farmed salmon will only eat pellets and so when they escape, they won't survive in the wild.
After dissecting some of the escaped Atlantics that my friend brought in after fishing closed I can dispel any doubt that farmed salmon will consume wild aquatic resources. The picture is indisputable evidence. This also means that since farmed salmon are capable of eating food other than fish pellets, they are capable of surviving in the wild.

Transitioning open net-pen salmon farms into closed containment would eliminate or greatly reduce the problem of escapes along with a number of others. Those include;
  • solid wastes from the farms entering the ocean and contaminating the marine environment under the pens
  • Marine mammals drowning in predator nets
  • Disease and parasite ( like sea lice) transfer between wild and farmed salmon
  • The need for anti-biotic and chemical treatment of farmed salmon

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Climate Change Action - Saturday October 24

The most important number for this fall is 350.

Why “350”? Well, you’ve probably heard a lot about climate change, and often it can seem overwhelming. But now, the world has a goal: 350. Why? Because this is the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2, in parts per million) that scientists are identifying as a safe target. It used to be 280, back before the Industrial Revolution. Today, we’re at about 390. Scientists are beginning to agree: if we can keep CO2 under the 350 mark, climate change may be more manageable. So, we need to bring it down, which means that we need to cut back on CO2 emissions.

On October 24, thousands of people across the world will take part in the International Day of Climate Action to bring attention to the critical issue of climate change, and to show how we can address it. Here in Sointula, we are doing our part by leaving our cars and trucks at home on that day and teaching our neighbors about the issues and the importance of 350. Learn more about the issues and how to take part in the Day of Action at

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How ya doing, chum?

Warmish temperatures during the day, cool ones at night, and my pumpkins are actually turning orange, which is a rarity in Sointula! With fall in full swing, and looking towards winter, I thought I would make my first blog posting since returning from maternity leave about something that also points to this time of year on the coast….the chum salmon run.

Some of you may be rolling your eyes. Why talk about the dog salmon (named because of their large teeth at spawning time), when there are cataclysmic events happening on the Fraser with the sockeye this year? Even the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) website says our poor chum is “the least sought-after of the Pacific salmon species”. Well, I have to ask, least sought after by whom? By the commercial and recreation fishing sectors? By the consumer?

Chum salmon are the last of the species of Pacific salmon to return to our rivers to spawn. In the ocean, they can often be confused with sockeye because of their silver bright colour, but as they approach their natal streams, they differentiate themselves by their distinctive vertical streaks. They are historically extremely abundant and spawn in more than 880 streams and rivers along the BC coast. In my neck of the woods, chum are just now returning to the Nimpkish, Kokish, Cluxewe and Quatse Rivers.

Last month, the Globe and Mail reported that bears on the Central Coast are starving because of the lack of chum salmon. Last year this was happening in Knight Inlet because of the lack of pink salmon. Poor cousin or not, every species of salmon has a place in the ecological web on this coast. And every species of salmon is under threat, whether by infestation of sea lice, warming ocean temperatures, or just plain mismanagement.

Stock outlooks posted by DFO for the 2009 chum runs for Johnstone Strait and Mainland inlets are either low or near target. What floors me is that the difference between the definitions of what is “low” and what is “near target” is substantial. An area that is getting a near target assessment is defined as “stock is (or is forecast to be) within 25% of target and stable or increasing”. An area that is getting a low assessment is defined as “stock is (or is forecast to be) well below target or below target and declining”. It’s like the point at which the pendulum will swing from one side to the other. Is it increasing or decreasing? Are we going to focus less on “managing” a stock if its near target?

And what are the consequences if we are mistaken?

* In researching this blog posting, I looked up the predicted returns on chum this year. All well and good until I want to see it in a bit more detail by stream. I have to admit I am mystified at how anyone can even find this information, let alone interpret it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Part 6: Interviews from Sointula - LEK from BC's Central Coast

Part 6 of a 6 part series by Kirie McMurchy

Working on the water for so long, people get the chance to see things that those of us lowly land-dwellers could never even imagine. During my time conducting Local Knowledge interviews for the Living Oceans Society, I felt honored that people were willing to share their stories with me as well as the general public. This is an excerpt from my interview with Jon Taylor, a fisherman, woodcarver, and avid story teller living in Sointula.

Excerpt from interview with Jon Taylor, (contributed with permission).

"You see things out on the water only if you spend time, and only if you know what is and isn’t there. I take people out whale watching and they don’t see the whales until they’re right there. You learn to see. The significance of the way the birds are acting, the way the water ripples. There are various people who swear they can smell a salmon run. That’s how they did their fishing. I certainly smelled the smell. Over the course of many years I’ve seen many things, I’ve also seen a lot of empty water. There’s the feeling that you’re always about the see something."

"Exhaustion, alcohol, fog, and no radar. Great stories. There was a lot of that, and then there was a lot of genuine, unexplained things. All of us have seen stuff that shouldn’t be there. Between fog and alcohol and extreme fatigue, that’s one thing, but sometimes it’s [different]. There are four of us that I know of that have seen this very large animal that was officially extinct in 1780 or something, it’s called the Stellar Sea Cow. You find it in the book, it’s all documented."

"Before I’d heard any of the stories I met one face to face down in Blackfish Sound. I started asking around quietly. I saw it on the way down to the fish camp and I had just headed out and I ran into this thing. Thought 'that’s the damndest dead head I’ve ever seen in my life.' It’s all covered with shaggy cedar bark. Put the binoculars on it and it’s got a face and it’s staring at me. It’s got these tiny little arms that I thought were just branches. And I realize it’s watching me. I arrived in Double Bay maybe twenty minutes later and the guys said 'What is wrong with you?' and I said 'I’ve just seen a fully furred whale and it was spy hopping and it was staring at me.' 'Oh you’ve been doing dope or something.' Well I don’t do dope. You try and report something like that to the authorities and the first thing that happens is somebody says 'Oh, what you really saw was…” And you’re just going 'I’ve been at sea since I was four. [I know this was different]'"

"[Outlandish] stories thirty years ago were very, very common here. Guys with small boats go out, be alone for days, nobody else is around, they’d see things, hear things, think things. Some of them I have no doubt are real, some of them I have no doubt were the DTs from alcohol. When you get further and further from home you see things differently sometimes. This is right in home waters where we’ve all seen the Stellar Sea Cow. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and it was not a whale, it was not a dead head. I drew a sketch of it and didn’t hear the word ‘Stellar Sea Cow’ for years and went and looked them up, and that’s it. It has the face like a dog or a pig and it has these two tiny little useless arms that look almost like bent twigs. An absolutely peaceful kelp grazer. They were a great food source if you had ship loads of men there. It’s not in any form mythic. They have the hide, they have the skin. Stellar was a great botanist who explored this area. Stellar jays, stellar sea lions, all named and documented by him. This is the late seventeen early eighteen hundreds. We still to this day have pieces of skin in the museums."

Kirie McMurchy is a Guest contributor to coastal voices blog. If you have Local Knowledge about the ocean or about living on the Central Coast of British Columbia - we want to hear from you! Contact us at

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fraser River Sockeye Statement

Living Oceans Society is deeply troubled by the collapse of the 2009 Fraser River sockeye run, and the implications of this collapse for affected First Nations, commercial and recreational fishermen, and marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems. The famed Fraser River sockeye are an icon of the cultural, environmental, and social health of B.C.

The collapse of the Fraser River sockeye sends a sad but important message: the marine ecosystem is complex, and it is difficult to know how dramatically all of our human impacts will affect the species that depend upon healthy oceans. However, this collapse makes it dramatically clear that the result of what we do is directly linked to the health of our communities. It is equally difficult to isolate which specific source of disturbance has most negatively impacted the Fraser River sockeye. Throughout their lives, salmon depend upon a variety of habitats–freshwater, estuaries and nearshore waters, and open oceans. In each of these environments they are faced with many natural and human-sourced obstacles to their survival. At Living Oceans Society, we are working to maintain, ensure and even restore the health of our oceans in several ways.

Sea Lice and Wild Salmon
Living Oceans Society is concerned with the impacts that dozens of salmon farms in the Wild Salmon Narrows of northern Georgia Strait have on wild salmon. When Fraser River sockeye smolts travel from fresh water to the ocean, they swim through the Wild Salmon Narrows past dozens of open net pen salmon farms that frequently contain high levels of sea lice. Lice infestations have been shown to be fatal to wild salmon smolts and lice are now known to be a disease vector, capable of carrying disease from farmed to wild fish. We have been advocating for a move to closed containment salmon farms that prevent the spread of parasites and disease to wild salmon. Until we transition to closed containment, LOS and other members of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform are calling for an emergency closure of five active salmon farms in the Wild Salmon Narrows.

Climate Change and Wild Salmon
Living Oceans Society has been researching the impacts of climate change on the oceans. Some salmon researchers suspect that the Fraser River sockeye collapse may be attributable in some degree to changes in the ocean food web due to both temperature increases and alterations in the chemical composition of our oceans due to climate change. This is another reminder that we need to continue to tackle the causes of climate change, understand its impacts and how to mitigate them, and be precautionary in our management of living resources.

Food Webs and Wild Salmon
Some people are suggesting that changes to the sockeye’s marine food web may have played a role in their collapse. This shows why it is important for us to understand our impacts on marine food webs: how our actions alter them and how they affect us. Understanding our impacts on marine food webs is an essential part of an ecosystem approach to fisheries.

Ocean Management
When individual aspects of human impact are managed in isolation, management measures do not account for the complex reality of how all the various effects combine to degrade an ecosystem. Living Oceans Society advocates for the integrated management of our oceans through marine planning that accounts for all our impacts, and sets aside marine protected areas that act as sanctuaries for marine species and the habitats they depend upon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Name this Spot! 3

Well, loyal readers, it has been a month or two but, back by popular demand is our - "Name This Spot" contest.
The winner of our last one was Ralph, who correctly identified, Koeye River as the subject of an aerial photo. Ralph, your prize will be mailed to you shortly.
Koeye River flows in a westerly direction emptying into Fitzhugh Sound in the Central Coast at about 52 degrees 46.5 minutes North by 127 degrees 52.8 minutes West.
The Koeye (Kway) River Valley, one of the few remaining intact coastal river valley ecosystems, is home to all species of salmon and is prime grizzly bear and wolf habitat.
The Heiltsuk First Nation has a summer camp geared up to celebrate and experience Heiltsuk history and cultural activities for their youth.
Their Koeye Lodge also provides bear watching and bird watching opportunities for paying guests who wish to experience a unique wilderness retreat.

If you can name the spot in the photo above please send an email to:

A modest prize will be awarded to the knowledgable winner and we would love to hear any stories about the area depicted in the photo if you would care to share them.

Hint: Within the PNCIMA region - north of Cape Caution but south of Portland Canal and home to some of the largest chinook on this coast.

Stay tuned, the winner will be announced in about a week and a new spot will be posted.
Good luck!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Part 5: Interviews from Sointula - LEK from BC's Central Coast

Part 5 of a 6 Part Series - by Kirie McMurchy

During my interview project with Living Oceans Society, I heard many different hypotheses for what happened to the fish stocks and the fishing industry. I thought that this excerpt from my interview with Dan Griffith, a Sointula resident since 1974, addressed the over fishing element of the problem quite well. In his interview, Dan also addressed the mis-management issue as well as the issue of logging destroying salmon spawning streams.

Excerpt from interview with Dan Griffith, (contributed with permission).

"Fishing was a way of life that disappeared for us and we had no real way of dealing with it. And greed got in the way because everybody wanted to catch more fish."

"A few years ago I went to Nicaragua. Somebody from [the fishermen’s] union had gone there and witnessed a huge storm that washed a bunch of their boats ashore and wrecked their little fishing fleet. So they thought: 'oh gee we could do a real good thing so we’ll build a boat and send it'. "

"It took ten years but they built this boat, a beautiful big boat that we would love to have here. So they send it down there and they had all manner of fishing gear on it – it was a total combination boat. You could fish whatever you wanted with this boat. [It has a] nice, big diesel engine in it."

"Well... Most of their fishing is done there out of twenty foot skiffs with thirty-five horse-[power] outboards. They go out in the morning, they catch some fish, [they] bring them home, sell them to their neighbors, and then they take the afternoon off and then they go fishing the next day."

"[When] that boat [project] first started, we were still fishing most of the time. By the time they shipped that boat to Nicaragua, we were cut down to fishing two or three weeks a year. We get down there and we find out that they’re still fishing three-hundred and sixty-five days a year, and they can keep anything they catch. We could only keep a salmon, if we caught one, unless we put out another hundred grand and bought another license."

"And so we’re trying to send them our technology and our way of doing things that has totally failed us. It took me a couple of years after I got back to finally recognize the reality of this whole situation and what it meant. It kind of made me really stop and think.
They were trying to fill their bellies, we were trying to fill our bank accounts. You can’t do it unless you’re keeping your rivers supplying the planet with the fish, you cannot keep catching them to the point that we were. It’s the same with the logging. They cannot keep on cutting down the trees as fast as they are to feed the mills in the United States. All of our industries are disappearing. What will we become?"