BC Nature is a large network of people who know nature in BC and work hard to keep it worth knowing. The BC Nature Conference was in Victoria this week and as I am teaching marine science at nearby Pearson College, I went in for the Saturday sessions.
Coastal biodiversity, marine invertebrates and whales are all favourite topics of mine and I had the chance to see Brian Starzomski, John Ford and David Denning do fabulous presentations on those topics. Each speaker inspired the audience with stunning photography and video, astonished and humbled us with new and exciting information about the complexity and sophistication of nature and reminded us about our responsibility to ensure that this incredible life-support system (aka nature) is strong and resilient for future generations.
There was a feeling of hope as we saw students making a difference at Hakai, heard about the recovery of the Humpback Whale and the first BC sightings of the north Pacific Right Whale since 1951. Youth was in the forefront as we learned about Salt Spring Island Secondary School’s ambitious plans for solar power. Lunch was next and I was lucky to I reconnect with friends David and Margaret, both passionate about nature for future generations.
The sound of bagpipes heralded a grand entry, befitting BC’s Lieutenant Governor, BC’s vice-regal representative, the down to earth, Judith Guichon. She spoke, opening the BC Nature AGM and shared insights about her role, projects, and background in holistic management, which resulted in environmentally sound ranching practices in BC. Best of all she reminded us of the importance of being positive.
As a volunteer involved in a smaller, younger non-profits, (NAME, CaNOE and BCSA) I attended the AGM to learn how a venerable and well-respected organization like BC Nature conducts its business. Simply, respectfully and efficiently describes the process.
We finished 35 minutes early so I made a dash for the door and headed out to the end of the breakwater. En route, I had a bird’s eye view from the top of two undisturbed Black Oystercatchers feeding on limpets (Lottia spp.). It was all the more interesting to watch since my first year classes had just been using population ecology techniques to estimate limpet numbers across the water in Pedder Bay and we had seen Black Oystercatchers at Race Rocks.
Going back, I took the lower route to get a better view at the water’s edge. The new bull kelp was sprouting up all fresh and gorgeous. Fishermen were casting for lingcod and losing their lures and people were enjoying being out at sea without leaving land. Drifting along past the huge rock slabs, there were smacks of cross jellies feeding on smaller plankton.
As I rounded the last bend heading for shore, a grandmother, daughter and grandson were staring into the water, astounded by what they saw. At first I couldn’t figure out what they were looking at. In the low evening light these creatures looked like giant sperm with bioluminescent heads and metallic orange flashers. They were swimming amongst the surf grass and feather-boa kelp. Were these some sort of new, weird invertebrates introduced in ballast water? As I got closer, I recognized them as tube-snouts Aulorhynchus flavidus, a common species of fish in BC.
Now I have seen tube-snouts, their eggs and developing babies, on docks all my life but I had never seen them like this. Tube-snouts look a bit like pipefish but a little more stout, without that straightened out, sea-horse look. Male tube-snouts don’t get “pregnant” like male pipe fish do and female tube-snouts glue their yellow-orange eggs onto seaweed or other things (like docks) in the water.
The remarkable fish in front of us were male tube-snouts strutting their stuff. Their density was high, probably 20 fish per square meter and they were right at the surface flashing and pulsing. As they say on the Vancouver Aquarium blog, they were “at it again”. It was wild to see, almost alien, like deep-sea fish, flashing at potential mates and competitors. But we were not in the abyss, it was right there on the surface in a busy urban setting. BC nature at its best….right in front of us. Lets keep it that way.