Salish Sea Marine Survival Project

Salish Sea Marine Survival Project
Author: Ryan Frederickson, MABRRI Student Researcher

On Wednesday morning, my wife and I left our home, which is located in the MABR next to the Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. We made our way to Deep Bay marina approximately 15 minutes north of Qualicum Beach, where we launched our boat and met a team of biologists, researchers, and a small TV crew filming on behalf of the popular television show Daily Planet, which airs on the Discovery Channel.

The project was created to monitor the Chinook, Coho and Steelhead stocks within the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) to help develop a better understanding as to why the stocks have been in decline despite all of the hatchery enhancement projects on the local rivers feeding into the strait. Due to the efforts of the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF), 40,000 juvenile salmon were coded, wire-tagged, and released into the Big Qualicum River. Our goal was to help catch 5 seals and attach satellite tracking devices on their backs and monitors on their heads that would record every time the seals feed on one of the tagged juvenile salmon in order to gain an understanding of how salmon predation from seals impacts juvenile salmon population.

The teams divided into groups and boarded 4 different vessels. Research scientists and biologists were among the members on board 3 of the vessels while my boat housed the filming crew. We headed to Norris Rocks where the first 2 seals were captured and equipped with high tech monitoring devices. During the process, one of the team members was bitten on his hand, however the wound was minimal. We then headed to the mouth of the Big Qualicum River where the team deployed a large gill net and managed to catch another 3 seals to be equipped with these cutting edge monitoring devices.

The seals didn't seem to mind their new attire as they ventured back out to sea to hunt. This was a “first of its kind” monitoring program and an incredible adventure to be a part of that took place in the marine portion of the MABR. No seals were harmed that day and the teams were extremely pleased with the job done. Future analysis will be done using the data received from the monitoring devices installed, and hopefully we will learn more about the pressures to salmon stocks caused by predation.  

Adventure tips:

  • If you're out in the boat and looking to view some wildlife, head over to Tribune Bay. If you're lucky you may see the Elephant seals that comes to Hornby Island every year to molt in the summer.

  • If you're getting the winter blues, visit Qualicum Beach from mid February to April and you should see large clumps of sea lions, swarms of sea birds and bald eagles frenzy feeding on herring and having a good ol’ time!

  • For more info on the “Salish Sea Marine Survival Project”, or to donate to the “Pacific Salmon Foundation”.