Posts Tagged Photography

Spring in the Rainforest

Spring in the Rainforest – By April Bencze

June 2014

It is difficult to understand a place you have never been before. Pacific Wild introduced me to the ecosystems thriving in the Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia’s wild coast long before I came here. They have unveiled the behaviours and interactions of wildlife using non-invasive, high-quality camera systems streaming live from remote locations, bringing you a piece of the Rainforest, wherever you may be in the world. Before I ever set foot here, Pacific Wild brought me face to face with wolves, bears and marine life with still images that captivated, inspired and introduced me to the many faces of this place.

I first met the wolves of this coast through Ian McAllister’s photography and conservation efforts. Then I met the bears, followed by the inhabitants of the underwater world. Ian’s images and those from the remote cameras brought me into the heart of a place I had never been, uncovering the lives of creatures I would not have known existed, like the spirit bear. I felt connected and driven to protect the Great Bear Rainforest, and all those who call it home. As a diver and wildlife photographer, I knew my future would be tied to British Columbia’s central coast, due to the strength with which it affected me. So here I am, at Pacific Wild headquarters operating the remote cameras from the Float Lab.

I was born and raised in Campbell River, on the east coast of Vancouver Island in Southern British Columbia. I spent a year scuba diving in Australia and Indonesia, before returning to my home waters to dive my days away. Photography slipped itself into my life through an urge to share the underwater world with the people around me. It quickly became much more and I find myself in the pursuit of a life dedicated to conservation of the natural world through photography. There is a responsibility to the subject after the shutter is pressed and an image is created. It is an obligation to share their story, and unfortunately many of the lives I am photographing are threatened.

This is what brings me to the Great Bear Rainforest, to do what I can to help protect the wildlife from the many threats they are facing. Pacific Wild has been an inspiration and I am thrilled to be volunteering my time to aid in their conservation efforts. Three weeks ago, I loaded up my touring bicycle with my camping equipment, camera gear and a cooler of food. Six days of riding from Campbell River brought me to Port Hardy, where I jumped on a short flight to Bella Bella.

I am blown away by the diverse habitats and life seen in my short time exploring this coast. I have traveled to many corners of the world, yet nothing can compare to the natural beauty I have witnessed in my time here. After the past few weeks of listening to whale song on the hydrophones and observing the wildlife in the Great Bear Rainforest, I am beginning to understand just how devastating supertankers in these waters would be. It would be destructive for the people, the land, the wild and marine life of the most untouched place I have ever seen. I’m incredibly thankful to the First Nations people and conservation groups who are working, and will continue to work, tirelessly to stand up for our coast.

Yesterday, Ian and I left Pacific Wild headquarters to do some camera maintenance. We headed out by boat during calm seas. As we passed numerous small, rocky islands, it was apparent that it was June in the Great Bear Rainforest. Harbour seals with newborn pups dotted the shorelines, sea otters bobbed in the kelp, and Oystercatchers trilled from their nests. New life was buzzing all around us as we cleaned the camera housings and completed some electrical maintenance.

The remote camera systems are proving to be a powerful tool in telling the story of this coast. Right now, one of the cameras is trained on a Steller sea lion rookery on the outer coast. It is capturing the birthing and nursing of this year’s pups on the live feed and distributing it to the world. I am in awe recording the intimate daily behaviors of the sea lions, in a way I have never been able to when out photographing them in the field. Please watch a compilation of sea lion and bird footage I pieced together in the weeks I have been here. The stories of the numerous species of wildlife continue to unfold before my eyes with these cameras. I hope you are watching the live cameras and meeting the local wildlife who call this coast home as well!

April

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Help support our Digital Technitian Geoff Campbell and his friend Mikhayla’s “Ride for the Wild” Indiegogo campaign. Geoff and Mikhayla are undertaking a A2,500km bike expedition down the Pacific Coast to raise money to fight pipeline development & increased tanker traffic in British Columbia.

 

 

 

 

 

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From D.C. to B.C. Part III

by Loren Clark-Moe

Hi everyone! October in the Great Bear Rainforest continues to be amazing!

One of the first things I heard about Pacific Wild was their Great Bear LIVE program, and in particular, their camera along a riverbed where we can watch live footage of wolves and their pups feeding on salmon. It’s amazing footage, but this camera has a unique challenge: just like their domesticated distant cousins, wolf pups love finding things to chew on, and they keep finding the cable that runs from the Great Bear LIVE camera to the power supply. The cable can’t hurt the wolf pups, but the wolf pups can definitely cut out the camera feed!

We awoke on Wednesday to find that the pups had once again found the cable, so Rob and I took the boat out to the riverbed to make some repairs. Rob knows everything about cables and wiring, but it’s slightly different when the cable you want to work on has been knawed through in the middle of a river. So, while standing in knee-deep water, I held all the wires out of the water while Rob meticulously wound and sealed them all back together. We checked the systems and the camera was back up, so all we needed now was for the wolves to come visit again!

Loren investigating the cable that connects the remote camera to its' power supply.  It turns out that wolf pups had gnawed right through the cable!

Loren investigating the cable that connects the remote camera to its’ power supply. It turns out that wolf pups had gnawed right through the cable!

On Thursday morning, I heard a happy yell from Diana, announcing that the wolves were back on camera! We spent the morning watching 5 wolves lounging, eating and playing together; I hope you got to see it too! If you haven’t yet, be sure to sign up for Pacific Wild’s Great Bear LIVE Alerts so you’ll know when we’ve caught something on camera. We were all really happy to be able to watch these beautiful animals for such a long time; even Diana’s puppy Clay was excited!

Clay the dog, intently watching a pack of wolf pups on the live camera feed.

Clay the dog, intently watching a pack of wolf pups on the live camera feed.

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The Great Bear Rainforest – Taking the Inside – OUT!

Spring, Summer and Autumn are busy, exciting and often hectic times for ‘happenings’ not only in the field, but also further afield from our base in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia. While my colleagues install hydrophones and field cameras in even more remote locations to monitor cetacean life and capture rare camera footage of wildlife in the wilderness, and work closely with First Nations communities on the No Tankers campaign, I am busy on the outreach side of Pacific Wild.  I firmly believe by using these visual and auditory techniques, we can raise public awareness to pipeline/tanker issues and further threats from industrial logging, LNG, trophy hunting and open net-cage fish farms. This beautiful short video was just released which illustrates the wildlife, underwater ecosystems, and temperate rainforest we are dedicated to protecting.

The spring started off in spectacular fashion at the Solidarity for Salmon event on March 31st in Victoria. Along with 7 other people, including a life-long supporter and great friend of Pacific Wild, Mary Vickers, we proudly pushed M’ia, a 27 foot spawning sockeye salmon puppet, through the streets of Victoria, B.C. to the Legislature buildings. M’ia is a symbol of what films like the insightful yet disturbing Salmon Confidential are opening the general public’s awareness up to.

We got even more ‘hands on’ at the Creatively United Festival in Victoria on April 19-21.  Filling an aquarium with various kinds of kelp and other ocean matter, we dropped in a portable hydrophone to invoke listening to the ‘depths’ off of recordings from the Pacific Wild hydrophone network in the Great Bear Sea. Sharing our tent at the festival was one of my personal heroes, Charlie Russell, the Grizzly Bear Legend. He is a gentleman that I am most in awe of for his life work on bear behaviour and their emotional and physical relationship with humans and human interaction. He is truly a legend. I thank him dearly for watching Pacific Wild remote field camera footage with us and treasure his insight into coastal bear behaviour.

June saw the release of STAND. Without a doubt, the absolute highlight so far of the summer was to be at the screening of STAND in Bella Bella with the young adults from Bella Bella Community School. Featured in the film, these students put such heart, soul, and effort into building their personal paddleboards. Their voices are eloquent and strong in voicing their opinion for an oil-free coast. This award-winning film is a ‘must see’, and is currently being screened across North America.

Throughout the summer, various kids camps have been implementing and incorporating lessons, ideas and learning from The Salmon Bears and The Sea Wolves, books by Ian McAllister and Nicolas Read. It has been a joy to work with children and the instructors in watching remote field camera footage, listening to hydrophones, recreating the GBR in camp forests.  Being involved in youth education and nature outreach programs is a passion of mine. If you, your child’s school, or educational facility would be interested to learn how to incorporate the nature of the Great Bear Rainforest into your classroom, please contact me – colette@pacificwld.org

We would love to see you at upcoming events….

July 31The Fortune Wild premiere at The Imperial (319 Main St. Vancouver). Doors open at 8pm.This event is a fundraiser for Pacific Wild and Haida Gwaii CoAST (Communities Against Super Tankers), featuring live music, an exhibit and silent auction of Ian McAllister’s stunning photography and of course, the first ever public screening of Fortune Wild!

August 23+24 – Join an amazing line-up of musicians, bands, and artists at the first annual Otalith Music Festival in beautiful Ucluelet, B.C. Feauturing Current Swell, The Cave Singers, Jon and Roy, White Buffalo and so much more. Otalith are looking for volunteers!

September – Release of The Great Bear Sea – Exploring the Marine Life of a Pacific Paradise. This new book by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read explores the intricate relationship between this mysterious underwater ecosystem and the life it supports. Watch an interview with Ian McAllister discussing the book on Global News, July 31, 2013. The book is available to purchase on the website.

September 14 – Salmon Festival – If you find yourself in the Great Bear Rainforest, namely in Bella Bella on this day, join us for this community event – The Wild Gourmet Salmon Cook-Off – Masterchef Style in the great outdoors!

Mark November 21st in your calendars for a Gala night at The Garth Homer Society in Victoria. Featuring a presentation and slideshow by Ian McAllister on underwater photography as well as a gallery opening of themes from the Great Bear Rainforest created by incredibly talented Garth Homer clients.  More details to come on this event.

As you can tell, I love my “Jill-of-all-Trades’ work at Pacific Wild. We are a very close team, and I am motivated by them everyday. Who wouldn’t be? Check out blog posts by staff on their activities in the field. Most recently the sail training internship with SEAS (Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewardships) Initiative.

Huge thank you to all the volunteers who help myself, and the Pacific Wild team in making these outreach programs, events and festivals come together. Please contact me at colette@pacificwild.org if you are interested in volunteering, hosting a film event, want to know ways to take action, want to bring the life and nature of the Great Bear Rainforest into your classroom, or just to say hello!

Hope to see you around!

Colette

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Herring Confidential

Claire Hume

How did one of the most important herring stocks on the BC coast suddenly collapse, contributing to a cascade of economic, cultural and ecological decline?

As with most things related to fisheries mismanagement in Canada, it starts with DFO.

The long-standing DFO policy to allow a Sac-Roe Fishery (SRF) to harvest herring eggs for Asian export has always been an incredibly wasteful and shortsighted industry. Using seine or purse nets to capture schools of pre-spawn herring SRF boats can kill thousands of tonnes of fish in a matter of minutes. Of those huge catches, only the roe is removed for human consumption; the carcasses are treated as by-product and used to make feed tablets for fish farms, bait or put into garden fertilizers. As herring can spawn seven or eight times over their lifetime, this kill-fishery not only removes huge biomass from the overall herring population, but also destroys their ability to reproduce in future years. Also, by targeting the larger herring, the ‘elders’ are removed and therefore the years of teaching that normally would follow through the ranks of the herring schools is eliminated. Unlike salmon, who have evolved strategies to survive without ever having met their parents, herring are not born orphans. They rely on their parents and elders to teach them the ways of the north Pacific.

One of B.C.’s most important foundation or keystone species continues to be systematically extirpated in the annual SRF harvest for fish food and bait. Granted, there are many other wasteful industries in our country, but what makes this one so spectacularly so is the fact that there is a clear, effective, and sustainable alternative. It is not a new method of harvesting herring eggs, quite the opposite, it has been used along the Great Bear coast for thousands of years. Herring bones that have been uncovered deep in the substrate of ancient village sites provides evidence of the long relationship between the first peoples of this coast and herring.

This year I was fortunate enough to witness the Heiltsuk people carrying out this age old practice, and I have concluded that fishing for herring eggs is one of the most elegant and sophisticated fisheries that still exists on this planet. The Heiltsuk people today, like the countless generations before them, travel to the traditional herring spawning grounds in anticipation of the inshore herring migration. Heiltsuk families anchor logs and other floatation devices to the seabed and attach lines of hemlock branches or seaweed to them – essentially mimicking ideal herring spawn habitat. With luck, herring will see these branches and kelp fronds and choose them as a spawning location, after a few days multiple layers of eggs will coat the vegetation and the harvest can begin.

The Heiltsuk choose hemlock branches because of the needles’ spicy flavour and medicinal benefits, but also because the natural resins provide a lot of sticky surface area for the eggs to attach themselves. Certain species of kelp are preferred over hemlock by some families, and spawn on kelp remains the main product used for export.

These days, as the world’s oceans are picked clean for human consumption, the words ‘sustainable fishery’ have lost their meaning. In contrast, this traditional fishery has a very small footprint. It also maximizes ecological and economic benefits as the herring get to live and continue to spawn for successive generations.

Compare this to the DFO industrial scale kill fishery model and it becomes shameful that the Heiltsuk and other Nations have not been more supported  for the long battle that they have been waging against DFO,­ both in the courts and by active blockades on the herring grounds – to shut this unsustainable fishery down. Like the east-coast cod and so many other fisheries that have collapsed at the hands of DFO, herring stocks here are following the same path and hundreds of traditional spawning areas in the territory have gone silent. A few years ago DFO finally shut the seine fishery down for lack of biomass – the local herring populations were overfished and getting wiped out.

Today a few small areas on the central coast continue to produce small spawns, this year was actually the largest return since the commercial fishery was shut down.  Is it because of the lack of industrial fishing pressure, or was it better ocean survival conditions?  Impossible to know, but what is agreed upon is that the stocks are still just a fragment of their former days.

When the Heiltsuk fishers go out on the grounds they are bringing with them generations of experience and knowledge.  Unlike the DFO commercial fishery with its massive clanking of machinery and diesel belching seine boats with helicopters and airplanes overhead searching for herring schools, local fishermen keep their voices down on the herring grounds and boats idle slowly out of respect and patience for the herring. People here recognize herring as intelligent fish that spook quickly if an unnatural sound is detected.

The logic behind the SRF industry is completely lost on me. One does not have to use much foresight to see that a fishery founded on the mass and unnecessary killing of future spawning populations is doomed to harvest itself into the ground. All of the hallmarks of hunter-overkill are evident with the herring fishery. More corporate control of the fishery, more technology being used with bigger boats and hi-tech sonars while the fish get smaller in size forcing more immature fish to be harvested. This not only destroys the fish with greatest lifetime spawning potential, it is not even profitable as immature fish (2-3 years old) have fragile stomach linings that burst before any roe can be harvested.

The DFO releases an annual ‘Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan’, which, on the surface, appears to be a comprehensive report. Reading ten years worth of these documents, however, only further convinced me that the DFO not only has a limited understanding of herring’s ecological importance, requirements, or how to safely manage them, they also don’t seem to care. Take this section of the 2004 report, for example: “At this time there is no information available on the appropriate conservation limits for the ecosystem as it pertains to the herring stocks”. It continues on to talk about harvest rates, and ends with: “Research is ongoing to better understand these ecosystem processes and the role herring plays in maintaining the integrity and functioning of the ecosystem.” This paragraph appeared sincere enough when I first read it, a commitment to future herring research is definitely important. I then read the exact, word for word, statement in the 2013 report. Nine years later they have failed to do any of the conservation research they claimed to be working on, and they don’t even care enough to write a new excuse.

Today about 85% of the herring caught is by SRF and about 6-8% SOK (spawn on kelp).

In 1996 conflicts between First Nations’ fishing practices and DFO’s regulations reached the Supreme Court of Canada when two Heiltsuk brothers, William and Donald Gladstone, were arrested for selling SOK. In what has become known as the Gladstone Commission, the Heiltsuk Nation argued their case and became the first Nation in Canada to be granted a court-affirmed, un-extinguished aboriginal right to commercially harvest and sell SOK. Unfortunately, this victory was not the end of the Heiltsuk Nation’s struggle with DFO. The SRF continued to kill thousands of tonnes of herring biomass every year resulting in extirpation of stocks throughout the territory.

The historical and ongoing treatment of herring by DFO is a tragedy. The constant theme underlying years of collapses and management failures is a complete disregard for the essential role these forage fish play in B.C.’s ecosystem and First Nations culture. This miraculous, mysterious species – which provides a foundation for so many – needs more support.

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Diving with Sea Lions in the Great Bear Rainforest

Ian McAllister being filmed photographing a playful group of sea lions along the proposed Enbridge and LNG tanker route in the Great Bear Rainforest. This group of sea lions lives less than one kilometer from an estimated 2000 tanker trips being proposed for the BC north coast. Footage supplied by Tavish Campbell 2013.

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