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Underwater video reveals stunning ‘Howe Sound ballet’

Bob Turner captures a swirling mass of anchovies trying to elude seals and gulls under the surface of Mannion Bay
Anchovies in Mannion Bay Bowen Island
Bob Turner was amazed when he lowered his camera under the surface of Mannion Bay. Thousands of anchovies were being chased by seals, gulls and one very big sea lion. YouTube screenshot

A teeming ball of anchovies spotted last month in Howe Sound has spawned a YouTube sensation but the video shot by kayaker Bob Turner is no mere fish story.

Turner, who lives on Bowen Island, was out for a paddle in Deep Bay in early January. Turner said he always takes his camera (an underwater rig on a pole) with him just in case.

“In a sense it’s dumb luck when you bump into [a school of anchovies], but I’m prepared to photograph them if I bump into them,” Turner said, and on this outing luck was on his side.

Turner’s luck that day extended to the water conditions as well. “The thing that really made that video work was the clarity of the water. It’s winter water now – no plankton – and it was a period when we had a break in the storms, so there wasn’t mud coming down from the Squamish River.”

The result is a stunning display of flashing fish and hungry seals, seagulls, cormorants and sea lions trying to snap them up.

Turner said anchovies are great subjects to shoot. “What you see with anchovy, typically, is this silver dollar flash you don’t get with herring. Rather than the flash you might expect from a long skinny silver fish, it’s a circular flash. That flash comes from the fact that anchovy open their mouths wide when they filter feed and they flare their gill covers.”

“Howe Sound Ballet” has already topped 7,000 views since being posted Jan. 28.

As Turner’s narration makes clear, the presence of anchovy in Howe Sound is more than a photo-op – it’s a sign of the steadily improving health of the marine environment. And, he’s hoping the message people take away after watching is that health is fragile and needs protection. 

“I’m hoping to give a voice to nature, so that we collectively consider more our wildlife neighbours in Howe Sound and their needs,” he said. “I am seeing a remarkable coming together right now of commitment to protect Howe Sound, and it’s happening in so many ways… There’s a lot of energy being directed at Howe Sound and its protection and in that fast moving mix I, along with other people, want to make sure that we are continually reminded of our animal neighbours that need our help and protection.”

You can see “Howe Sound Ballet” and Turner’s other videos here.