Photos by Artie Ahier taken offshore of Clayoquot Sound (Starting at top left: Parasitic Jaeger, Pigeon Guillemot and Common Murre, Pink-footed Shearwater, Cassin's Auklet, Rhinocerous Auklet, Black-footed Albatross, Tufted Puffin and Laysan Albatross)
BC’s coastal waters provide habitat to an immense amount of diversity. Within the Pacific waters off Canada there has been over 27 marine mammals identified and over 120 marine bird species, from Black-footed albatross to Tufted Puffins. Though many of these birds return to land for feeding and nesting, a significant amount of their lives are spent offshore. These animals rely on healthy ecosystems and with changing oceanic conditions, there is a great need to understand which species are off our coastline and in what abundance so it is possible to detect ecological shifts and provide data for conservation efforts.
Surveys and Methods
In the 1990’s, Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society spent 5 years running an offshore transect between the 10th and 20th of every month off the coast of Clayoquot Sound. Using the organization’s research vessel, “Eco”, an 8 m (26’) Boston Whaler, we ran the same 64 km transect between Wilf Rocks off Clayoquot Sound (49' 08.174 , 125' 58.507) passed the continental shelf to the Abyssal plain (48' 50.700, 126' 43.150). Birds and marine mammals sighted along the way were recorded along with species, number of animals, distance from shore, depth and temperature of water. Although the purpose of the study was originally limited to birds, the abundance of marine mammal sightings prompted us to include them in our data collection. This dataset now provides a foundation and historical baseline to compare with current population studies.
We are currently working with our pelagic survey data and will soon have a map available.