Archive for category Conservation Internship Program

Sails, Stewards, and Sunshine

by Diana Chan

Last week Tavish Campbell, Max Bakken, and I were joined by six SEAS (Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards) interns from Bella Bella, Klemtu, and Hartley Bay for our inaugural sail training program.  During our five days aboard SV Habitat, we covered a lot of ground…and ocean.

As we sailed around the rugged outer coast of the Great Bear Rainforest, we combined classroom-style learning with hands-on experience focusing on topics like sail theory, knots, chartwork, anchoring, and tides. Each day we made sure to get ashore to stretch our legs and also do some exploring by foot. We hiked through the forest and found CMTs, tromped along streams and saw the first of the salmon returning, and beach combed until we found coveted glass ball floats. Throw in some aerial photography by kite flying, man overboard rescue drills, and plentiful huckleberry picking and we had ourselves a full week!

The lessons that we taught and the practical skills that the interns learned were only part of the experience.  As we watched them grow more confident on the water, taking on more and more responsibilities in running the vessel, we also watched them teach one another and develop friendships.  Cole and Chantal from Klemtu described their recent experience traveling to Kitamat to probe the Enbridge representative there on the issues.  Linden and Dominic from Hartley Bay and Gene and Greg from Bella Bella exchanged information on the marine acoustics research that they have participated in in their respective communities. The interns shared stories and traditional knowledge of their territories, and an eagerness to learn more.

Someday soon these six young men and women will undoubtedly be leaders in their coastal communities. Perhaps some of them will even work together as they manage their precious resources.  They can look back and remember the first time that they came together, took the helm, and explored the pristine waters of the Great Bear Sea.

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From NYC to the GBR

by Elliot Bok

As the New York City skyline faded in the distance, I closed the airplane window cover over the reddening sunset in favor of a nap on my way to Vancouver. Upon landing, I rode on a couple of increasingly tiny planes, going farther and farther into the Great Bear Rainforest, a wilderness oasis that few people know exist. The plane pulled into the tiny Bella Bella airport, and Diana and Max, two people on the team I would be working with for my time in the Great Bear, greeted me.


They got me settled in and quickly set me up looking over spectrograms for whale and dolphin sounds. Those hazy, blue graphs along with a range of other tasks became my life here. The work was satisfying, and I enjoyed the frequent spurts of wildlife action – from eagles to orca whales – that come with living here.

The local community was also a source of fascination for me. The small town experience was brand new, and it held much more appeal than I ever would have imagined. Despite the intrigue that I found during my first week of life in the Great Bear Rainforest, however, it was not until our trip to the outer coast that I began to understand the value of my adventure.

A boat ride of a few hours brought Ian McAllister and me to a small island on the edge of the Pacific with only one other sailboat resting in one of the beautiful lagoons. We dropped anchor and prepared for our mission the next day when the rest of the crew would join us to plant a hydrophone deep in the water and build infrastructure for wind mills, solar panels and a host of other equipment.

Later that day, I had the opportunity to take a canoe around the many beaches that glittered in the afternoon sunshine. The water was remarkably clear, and the pristine beauty of my surroundings truly struck me. I have always given the required “wow” at a beautiful sunset, but this island was the first time that I ever felt truly taken aback by scenery. I landed on the beach and walked through some woods to the other side. I reached a beach and, dipping my feet in the water, brushed a couple tiny pebbles off a big rock so that I might sit. It took a few minutes before I realized that these were not pebbles, but baby snails.

Suddenly, my surroundings seemed to come to life; fish swam through the water around my feet, and I finally noticed the crabs that I’m sure had always been running about the beach. Eventually, it became time for me to return to the boat, and, following my footprints back to the area in the woods I had come through, I realized that I had stepped over almost a dozen clear trails of wolf tracks. I returned to my canoe, and, after venturing among the tall reeds for another half hour, I made my way back to Ian. Those few hours gave me a new perspective to all of our work. My life trajectory may not have changed all that much because of this afternoon, but I am sure that on the plane ride home I will not close my window to the sunset.

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SEAS Internship – Week 7


What can I say about the last week out at Kvai? Well first of all, we were supposed to go up the river to check out the bear snares… but the river was too shallow and we couldn’t make it, which was heartbreaking kinda. We did see a juvenile bear not too long after though, so it was all good. We watched it for 15 to 20 minutes walking on the beach… eating grass, doing bear stuff. Was pretty awesome!

Tuesday, we went to Namu which was okay. We only tagged 22, but the second day out there was pretty crazy, 63 FISH!!!… In one set, not even joking! It was pretty epic, it took us all morning to finish. Then we watched Gene jump off the dock into the water… twice in a row, haha now THAT was epic!

Another crazy-awesome summer with SEAS.



One day we were supposed to go up river and talk about bear snares but the tide was too low and we couldn’t make it up river so we ended up just spotting a grizzly and just bear watching for about 20 minutes or so. Then all of the sudden this helicopter came out of nowhere and scared the bear, it ran into the woods. About five minutes later it came back out to the same spot and it slowly walked the beach going up river. That was pretty sweet. Closest I’ve been to a bear in a long time.

Another day we went to Namu to do some seining. Only had to do one set and we had the biggest set we ever got! We tagged sixty-three sockeye and coho. And we must have caught about 75 or 80 easy. One point I was in the water watching the net and I saw a lot of fish getting out because the lead line was being dragged over rocks and they’d slip under. After that we kind of just had a fun afternoon. We went swimming around and snorkeling, we were jumping off the floats at Namu and we have a couple funny videos of the crew jumping in.

The crew after seining



On Friday we went out with Davie, Richard, and Carey from HIRMD to set up a new hydrophone station. When we got out there we met up with Max and Rob from Pacific Wild and Matt (a diver). We started off getting sacks of gravel to put over the hose in the intertidal rocks to weigh it down. We also started lowering the hydrophone cable inside the hose wrapped in lead line into the water from the boat. Matt was in the water and told us where to lower the lead line so it would lie along the ocean floor properly. Afterwards we lifted the anchor with the hydrophone on it onto a board in the speedboat and tipped it into the water. It was tied to two buoys so it didn’t fall in the water too fast. Then we got to look at the setup of the box where the solar panel charges the battery. It was a pretty good trip to help set up. I’d like to use this hydrophone to hear the pod of killer whales we saw in the area last year by the Gosling Rocks. That would be pretty cool.

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SEAS Internship – Week 6

We tagged 15 fish in Namu this week. The water was both cold and warm depending on where we were. We went up to the river and I fell in when I was trying to get in slowly. It was very very cold at the bottom. I snorkeled for a couple minutes before we left, but I didn’t see any fish though, just rocks. It was my first time snorkeling this summer. I liked it. It reminded me of when I was a kid. I’m excited to go back to Namu next week. Hopefully we’ll get more fish so we can get to our goal of tagging 200 sockeye.

On Thursday we started at 9am going up the river. We had to paddle up for a bit, but the tide was going down so we had to drag the canoes for a bit because the water was too low to paddle. We all met where the trail begins, and we started walking the trail. After awhile we had to walk on the river bank because the river was full of rapids. When we got near the stream we were going to set g-traps in, we got to snorkel in the river. It was the highlight of the day. I saw lots of fish that were between 9 and 11 inches long and a whole bunch of fry and parr. I was wearing jeans and it felt like a weight belt. We stayed back up there for 2 hours while the traps soaked. When we headed down, we snorkeled and floated down the rapids. We got a little beaten up on the rocks, but it was worth it. It was a day worth remembering.

This was the last week of Kvai camp for the kids this summer. It was a busy week, I’m sad that the kids won’t be around for another two weeks. Friday was feast day; 82 people came out here from the villge. It was amazing. The kids were practicing all week to show the community members what they learn while they’re out here and the kids have learned a lot.
After the first part of the ceremonies was performed, some people stood up and made speeches; one of the elders from Bella Bella got up and spoke in Heiltsuk to William Housty. Her whole speech was in Heiltsuk. It was pretty amazing to hear because I haven’t heard anyone speak of lot of Heiltsuk like that in a long time. Hearing her talk inspired me to learn my Heiltsuk language. I want to be able to fluently speak it. In the next couple years I want to take the time to learn.

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SEAS Internship – Week 5

From the intern crew

During this week we went to Namu twice to do seining. We caught 82 fish in total during the two days. We caught fish in every set this week, something that has never happened before. Blake tagged her first fish and so did Gene.This week the water was the coldest it has ever been since it was raining the first day. The tide came up much higher than usual and everyone got soaked that first day, even the people in waders. While we were waiting for the fish to jump so we could close the net, Blake found an old spear head below the old restaurant. It’s hard to believe she could find something like that on the beach.


As our second day progressed we were sitting there, waiting for the seine net to soak searching for hermit crabs and more arrow heads. As we did that, we saw several jumping fish in the bay so we tried to close the net. We started to get pulled out in the high tide so Louis took off his waders and jumped in, screaming in pain from the cold water. The weather on the second day was super nice, so after we were done with our tagging we hung out in the bay with our snorkels for a little while hanging out and laughing with friends.

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SEAS Internship – Week 4

Check out this video that Gene created during the fourth week of the internship program:

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SEAS Internship – Week 3

Here are a few notes and a photo slideshow from this past week.


Well my week went something like this: it was busy, fun and awesome. Day 2 was busy. We went to set some g-traps up river two times in two places. We actually caught a lot of fish this time: Chinook and coho fry. Then as we were coming back to camp we saw a bear. That day was pretty awesome. And the last day of the week is always fun watching the kids from camp dance in the big house.

Coho fry


Wednesday was the day we went to Namu. We left early in the morning at about 9:00am. I thought it wouldn’t be much fun to catch and tag fish, but I thought wrong. On the first set we caught two fish, which was exciting at the time. As soon as they were tagged, we let them go. It was also a fun experience trying to catch fish in a seine net. Everybody would be in hip waders or shorts in the water pulling in the net. Some things were challenging, but after one or two sets I got the hang of things. I liked that we went to Namu to do the tagging because it was fascinating but also eerie to see all the old buildings there; some collapsed in, some half intact. Overall, it was hard work but enjoyable. I am looking forward to the coming weeks of working at Koeye and surrounding areas.

Richard’s Slideshow on the Tagging Process


On Thursday the 19th we went to do Dolly Varden stomach content research for Will. We caught a whole bunch of Dolly Varden. As soon as we got there Louis and I tried to cast. Within a minute we both lost our hooks. We had to hike back to the big house and Louis ran back to the lodge to get more buzz bombs. Then we had to hike all the way back to the kids camp. We got the hooks all set up on the fishing rods and Louis and I cast off again. Louis caught a fish but the line snapped off and he lost the fish when it was within five feet of him. Louis was trying to chase the fish and he did an epic roar. We caught ten fish that day and eight of them had stomach samples to collect. After that we went up river to see if there was a stream to survey in the future. We were checking it out to see if it was surveyable. On the way back to the lodge we were going down the river and we saw a grizzly bear just past the grass flats. We were roughly 25 feet away from it.

Gene with a Dolly Varden

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