Posts Tagged spirit bear

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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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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Speaking from the heart: an Enbridge Joint Review Panel Oral Statement

by Sarah Stoner

I arrived at the Delta Hotel about half an hour early. There had been so much hype about protests and security I didn’t really know what to expect. I made my way to the third floor and in my angst, realized that I was the first to arrive. I signed in and decided to go check out the rally outside. There were about a hundred people gathered in solidarity to express their opposition to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project and the way in which the public had somehow been excluded from the “public hearings”.

As it approached one o’clock, the crowd dispersed quickly in order to make it to the offsite location to view the live broadcast of the “public hearings” taking place inside the Delta. I made my way back upstairs.

Those of us that were registered to speak that afternoon gathered in a room down the hall from the actual hearing room. There was a projection screen with the actual hearings being video-cast in this room, so at least we could see what type of an environment we were to be speaking in. We were allowed to have one guest with us, which was definitely a relief in this intimidating environment. The Joint Review Panel officials brought speakers in three at a time, while the rest of waited patiently for our turns. Once you were done presenting your oral statement, you weren’t allowed to return back to the viewing room. If you wanted to watch the presenters that came after you, you were asked to go to the offsite viewing location. Luckily, I presented second to last so was able to watch all of my fellow presenters from the comfort of the waiting room screen down the hall.

I was definitely very nervous when it was my turn to talk.  My heart was pounding so hard it made my voice quiver.  Despite the nerves and the overly intimidating environment, the experience was empowering and I felt great afterwards.

Below is the speech I presented to the JRP. As a staff member of Pacific Wild and a passionate advocate for keeping our coast oil-free, I would be happy to answer any questions or provide advice to those of you that will be giving their oral statements in the coming weeks. Please feel free to get in touch: sarah@pacificwild.org.

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Dear members of the Joint Review Panel,

It’s a pleasure to meet you again. We crossed paths at the Oral Hearings in Hartley Bay nearly a year ago now, but let me re-introduce myself.

My name is Sarah Stoner and I am a resident of Denny Island on the Central Coast of B.C.

I have lived in British Columbia my whole life. I grew up travelling like a yo-yo between Vancouver and Whistler, Mum’s and Dad’s houses respectively. I learned to love the mountains and the ocean at a young age and spent lots of time outdoors exploring what has come to be known as Beautiful British Columbia.

I completed my BA in Geography and Environmental Studies at UVic and went on to pursue a master’s degree in Disaster Planning. My research focused on evaluating the social vulnerability of people living in urban, rural and remote communities on southern Vancouver Island to natural hazards.

Over the last five years, I have stepped outside of my ‘southern B.C. comfort zone’ and started to explore the Northern regions of our beautiful province. I have lived and travelled from Prince George to Haida Gwaii, and from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert. Last spring, my partner, Michael Reid and I, moved aboard our sailboat, Skomalt. Our destination was the North Coast and we were fortunate enough to spend the summer months exploring, working and living between Bella Bella and Hartley Bay.

You have now visited both of these communities and know that they are each unique blends of human and natural ecosystems, modernity and tradition. But where you haven’t been are the places in between. And these places, I assure you, are some of the most sacred in the world.

British Columbia is a province that prides itself on its’ natural heritage and has invested a huge amount of resources into diversifying its’ extraction based economy through developing the tourism and eco-tourism sectors. We have done this successfully, welcoming an average of 5.6 million visitors per year, generating around 12 billion dollars and over 120,000 direct jobs to help foster a sustainable economy. People are drawn to B.C. from all over the world to experience what is a true wilderness.

B.C. is home to the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world. You might have heard of it, it’s come to be known as the Great Bear Rainforest. But, as Helen Clifton, matriarch of the Gitga’at Nation once said: “what will be great about it when there are tankers here?”

And this is a question we must ask ourselves. Turning one of the world’s most pristine and wild ecosystems into a supertanker freeway would be detrimental to the social, environmental and economic systems that maintain our ways of life.

The recommendation you make on the proposed ENGP matters deeply to me and the direct and indirect impacts that this proposed project may have would be devastating. Devastating to me as an individual, to my family, to our community, and to all of our neighbours up and down the coast.

Personally, the impacts of supertankers running through Douglas Channel and out to the open ocean would first off deter me from visiting areas along, and within view of, the tanker route. I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one avoiding the route. I’ve spoken to tourism operators in the Great Bear Rainforest and that’s exactly what they’ve said: If Enbridge comes here, we’ll just have to go someplace else where our guests won’t see the tankers.

Playing with Porpoises.Photo by Michael Reid.

Playing with Porpoises.
Photo by Michael Reid.

When living, travelling and working aboard Skomalt, there are many things that I have come to love doing that would be directly impacted by the introduction of oil supertankers to the Great Bear Rainforest. It is rare to go a day travelling the waters of the Central and North Coast of B.C. without seeing some species of cetacean, whether it be porpoises, white sided dolphins, the endangered orca or the threatened humpback.

The deep fjords and narrow channels of the Great Bear Rainforest are some of the quietest oceans in the world, creating acoustic sanctuaries where these cetaceans can echolocate, feed, socialize and practice their mating songs.

When we sight cetaceans from our sailboat, one of the first things we do is drop our hydrophone (a portable, underwater microphone) so we can listen to the whales or dolphins communicate. There is nothing more phenomenal than hearing a school of dolphins giggle away underwater as you watch them splish, splash, jump and twirl on the waters’ surface. The main thing that interferes with us listening to cetaceans via hydrophones, and thus interferes with cetaceans being able to communicate, echolocate and feed is the sound of ships. You can hear a ship underwater long before you can see it approaching. The sound emanating from a ship’s engine uses the same frequencies that cetaceans use, thus blocking any clicks, pings and songs coming from the many species of cetaceans that use acoustics for survival on a daily basis.

Another past time we have come to love while living aboard Skomalt is to hike

Photo by Sarah Stoner

Photo by Sarah Stoner

up and explore the many estuaries that intersect the coast to view wolves, grizzly bears, black bears and the illusive spirit bear. All of these animals rely on salmon as their primary source of food and in the late summer and early fall, you can easily find bears and wolves fishing in the rivers of the Great Bear.

This is how I came to meet my first Spirit Bear. It was mid-August and the salmon were congregating at the mouth of the river, waiting for a big rain to bring the water levels up so they could begin their migration upstream. We crept up the side of the creek bed and after walking for only a few minutes, I spotted his glistening white fur through the salmon berry bushes that separated us from the creek. I watched in awe as the giant creature loafed around, unsuccessfully looking for a tasty salmon breakfast. We observed this bear in peace for some time. He was aware of our presence, but was not concerned by us in any way. My first experience with a spirit bear was absolutely magical. This creature is a true gem, unique to this part of the world and just like the Dogwood is B.C’s official plant, the Spirit Bear is our official mammal. What will happen when a pipeline leak or oil-tanker spill decimate salmon habitat on the coast or in our inland rivers?

Exploring and learning about the natural wonders of the Great Bear Rainforest is indeed one of my favourite past times and I feel so blessed and honoured to be able to have spent time in this part of the world and to call this place home. But what is truly unique and inspiring is being able to spend time listening to and learning from the First Nations’ people that have called this coast home since time immemorial.

We have spent time in Gitga’at, Kitasoo and Heiltsuk territories learning from elders, leaders and community members what it means to really live on this coast. Being most familiar with the Gitga’at nation, I can say with confidence that their culture is rooted in the natural world, that the natural world is what provides sustenance and health to the Gitga’at people and that their traditions are dependent on what the natural world is able to provide. The inter-connections and inter-dependence of the Gitga’at Nation with their surrounding ecosystem is so deep that an oil-tanker spill of any substantial size along the proposed tanker route would cause a cultural genocide of the Gitga’at people. And we all know that it’s not a matter of if an oil spill were to happen, but when.

That leaves me with a question: how many years will the Gitga’at nation continue to thrive in the territory that they have occupied for thousands of years before they are forced to leave, to abandon their culture and ways of life.

And it’s not just an oil spill that will erode the culture of the Gitga’at nation and other First Nations along the Central and North coast, but the very proposal and this associated review process have already begun to have detrimental effects on coastal peoples. The very introduction of the proposal and the extensive and expensive JRP process has manifested into a source of stress for Gitga’at people and their families and has instilled a sense of “uncertainty about the future” (Gill & Ritchie, 2011).

And then there’s the expansion. Currently, ENGP is being assessed at 525,000 bpd, but what about Enbridge’s four-phase expansion plan that would increase throughput of 850,000 bpd? As currently proposed, the pipe would be built to accommodate this increased capacity. Will the risks ever be considered and adequately assessed, especially on the marine side?

And it’s not just ENGP that we are concerned about, here. In addition, five proponents have already, or are in the process of, filing applications to develop LNG export terminals out of either Kitimat or Prince Rupert on the North Coast. I have a deep concern that the cumulative social, environmental, economic, health and cultural impacts of these 6 major industrial development projects are not being adequately considered, as part of this environmental assessment process.

The proposed ENGP project, which seeks to export raw bitumen through one of the most unique, pristine and sacred parts of the world at the expense of entire societies and ecosystems, is absolutely not in the national interest. As a citizen of Canada, and a resident of the Great Bear Rainforest, I urge you to give the proposed ENGP project a negative recommendation, for the future of our nation, our economy and our planet.

I fell in love with the Great Bear Rainforest. We fell in love in the Great Bear Rainforest. We recently got engaged in the Great Bear Rainforest and we would do anything to ensure that we will one day be able to share this sacred place with our children and our grandchildren.

Thank you.

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Firsts

This is an excerpt from friends of Pacific Wild, Mike Reid and Sarah Stoner’s blog. To view the full blog, and read a letter a day to Mr. Harper, visit http://www.dearmrharper.com

 

Dear Mr. Harper,

A few days ago, Mike told us about his encounter with the Spirit Bear. This morning I had the opportunity to spend some time with this majestic creature.

We crept up the side of the creek bed and after walking for only a few minutes, I spotted his glistening white fur through the salmon berry bushes that separated us from the creek. I watched in awe as the giant creature loafed around, climbing up and over a log in search for more berries. He quickly lost interest in the berries and made his way up the riverbank where he proceeded to dig for roots to complete his morning meal. Within minutes, this bear had dug a whole larger than himself, munched all the tasty roots he could find and moved on.

We observed this bear in peace for some time. He was aware of our presence, but was not concerned by us in any way.

My first experience with a spirit bear was absolutely magical. This creature is a true gem, unique to this part of the world.The pristine watersheds and abundant salmon are what nourish the spirit bear, and their black furred relatives. The spirit bear is thus a creature of the land and the sea. Let’s not spoil this unique ecosystem and home of the spirit bear, Mr. Harper.

For the coast,

Sarah and Mike

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