The bounty of the ocean around Bowen
At this year’s Nature Dive, many of the participants were captured, not only by the fascinating creatures from the sea that were brought to the surface, but also on camera. The Marine Life Sanctuaries Society of B.C. (MLSS) joined Bowen’s divers and nature enthusiasts on Galbraith Bay on June 24 for the annual Bowen Island Nature Club event and filmed the proceedings.
This week, the society released a short video titled Bowen BIP [Beach Interpretation Program] 2012 and those who missed the event, can watch (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sfGDEbZRFM) as divers bring up nudibranchs, sea cucumbers, crab species, brittle stars, leather stars, sun stars and urchins and explain the bounty of the ocean surrounding Bowen Island to a young (and surprisingly knowledgeable) audience.
Claudia Schaefer, the event’s coordinator, said that the Nature Dive started six years ago. “The Bowen Nature Club was hoping to engage more young families and get kids out to appreciate the nature just past our backyards. We came up with the idea of bringing sea creatures to the shore,” she said. “Anyone on Bowen with young kids has made a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium but this has potentially more meaning since it is right here on our island, and the critters are from our waters. It is also more interactive as the kids are able to touch and hold some of the organisms.” Schaefer said that the idea found resonance with Bowen Islanders. “We were amazed by how successful it was in its very first year, with over 60 people attending. Now we get double that,” she said, adding that not everyone is there at once - people drop in over two hours while the tide is low and the divers can more easily reach deeper waters without going far.
Morgan Reid, beach interpretation program leader of the Marine Life Sanctuaries Society, explains in the video, “This is not an industrial wasteland. For a little while, Howe Sound was hit pretty hard, by a mine and a mill, by pollution and by fishing. But now, after the mine and the mill closed, it’s much more natural around here. The herring have been coming back, and the humpback whales are coming back.”
Adam Taylor has led the diving group into the waters for the event over the last six years. He shares the positive outlook but thinks that additional steps are in order. “The bottom line is many of the components are there for a full marine environment recovery for Howe Sound. Many of the pollutants have been removed, and other than commercial prawning, there are no commercial interests to impact.” he said. “What is lacking is a will to set aside certain areas as sanctuaries/nurseries to allow fish stocks to recover.”
Roy Mulder, president of the MLSS, said the society is currently developing a Beach Interpretation Program and Bowen Island seemed a good place to start. “Adam [Taylor] has been holding these programs on Bowen for years now,” he said. “We believe the answer to marine protection lies in community engagement and we use videos to promote marine conservation and to show people what lives in the ocean. We use a non-invasive system that pays particular attention to the health of the animals. We make sure to monitor the animals in our viewing tanks and make sure to return them to their proper ‘homes’ once done with the viewing.”
Mulder added that the Bowen Nature Club is supportive of MLSS’s effort to create voluntary marine sanctuaries in Howe Sound. For information on the Marine Life Sanctuaries Society of BC, please see www.mlssbc.com, to learn about the Bowen Nature Club, see http://bowennatureclub.blogspot.ca.