2001 Events

In 2001, World Wildlife Fund Canada focused Community Outreach activities on getting people out to discover the kaleidoscopic intertidal life in their frontyards. Islands residents of all ages and visitors alike, enjoyed interpretative beach walks throughout the summer! Local biologists and fisheries technicians also gathered to conduct a Shorekeepers’ Survey in Port Clements using Fisheries and Oceans Canada methodology.

Marine Matters booths at community events were collaboratively hosted by World Wildlife Fund Canada, Gwaii Haanas & Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Community Events

  • Oceans Day • Second Beach, Skidegate • Photo Gallery
  • Hospital Days • Queen Charlotte Community Hall • Photo Gallery
  • Edge of the World Music Festival • Tlell
  • Tlell Fall Fair • Tlell Fairgrounds, Tlell • Photo Gallery

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Intertidal Explorations

Welcome to the Jungle • Jungle Beach • Photo Gallery

Nudibranchs, otherwise known as sea slugs, were the focus of Intertidal Explorations at Jungle Beach. Nudibranchs are marine snails, relatives of abalone and limpets, who have evolutionarily lost their shell.

Three different nudibranchs were found, in addition to a plethora of cosmic creatures hiding under rocks and in crevices – blood stars regenerating arms, shore crabs smaller than little fingernails, red rock crabs live and their moults, decorator crabs the texture of sea weed, bright green shrimp holding eggs, light bulb tunicates, little octopus and dens, and flowing ribbons of nudibranch eggs. A funny little fish called a grunt sculpin was a highlight of the morning, being rarely seen in intertidal areas. Thanks to the twenty-odd adults and children who came out to enjoy the morning low tide!

For those who are curious about nudibranchs, they come in a diversity of shapes, sizes, colours and patterns such that they defy “typical” description. Feeding on sponges, bryozoans, hydroids, tunicates and barnacles, particular sea slugs are often associated with certain food types and sometimes, they even look like their food! At Jungle Beach, we found a tiny red sponge nudibranch which looks like and feeds on velvety red sponge.

The word nudibranch means “naked gills”, referring to the fact that their gills are on the outside of their bodies. Over 200 species of nudibranchs call the Pacific Northwest their home so keep your eyes peeled next time you are on the beach at low tide!

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Terebellids in Tlell • Tlell • Photo Gallery

It’s the stuff of nightmares…if you are a small larval creature travelling in the whims of ocean currents. Contact with a seemingly harmless tuft of feathery tentacles could mean sudden death in the jaws of the terebellid tube worm! Okay – so maybe the gaping maw is no more than 3mm across but when you are a larva measured in micrometres, that’s scary!

Terebellids are a group or segmented worms which live in tubes – perhaps you have seen their better known cousins, the red tube worm with bright red and white-banded “tentacles” (cirri) and white curvaceous tubes, attached to the docks around town.

Unlike the feather dusters who secrete their own tubes, terebellid worms secrete a cement-like substance which they use to glue pieces of sand and shell together, much like a tile mosaic! Balance is necessary in their place of residence since they must live at a tide level where the sand around them is stirred up enough for them to build with, yet where it is calm enough that their fragile houses are not destroyed by ocean waves.

Reproduction involves releasing large amounts of sperm and egg into the water all at once (broadcast spawning), which then find one another in the water column and create a fertilized egg. This then develops into tiny larva which is attracted to settle down when it comes in contact with the cement-like secretions of its parents. In this way, terebellids tend to stay together in one big happy extended family!

This past weekend, twenty people tiptoed in gumboots, sandals and running shoes, down the breakwater in front of Dress of Les in Tlell, to visit the world of their marine neighbours at low tide. “Coral heads” of fragile terebellid colonies greeted them along with 22-armed sunflower stars, pipefish, leather stars, sea slugs and sea anemones. Camouflaged in tidepools were juvenile sole who have painted on themselves a perfect imitation of the sandy bottom, and decorator crabs who encourage encrusting sponges and kelp to grow on their shell in order to blend into their surroundings.

If you go to visit the terrible terebellids in your frontyard, remember to take care where you walk - although they appreciate visitors, they and their intertidal friends are easily damaged under heavy footsteps!

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Shorekeepers' Survey • Port Clements

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Soaking it up at Skonun Point • Masset • Photo Gallery

A Giant Pacific octopus smaller than my hand was the star attraction of the morning low tide at Skonun Point on Sunday August 19th. The yearling emerged from its dark hiding place in the crevice of a rock, slithering quietly on the surfgrass towards a tidepool. In the quiet of the water, it propelled itself towards a cobble, curled down on all eights, and morphed colour to match the light mottling of the sandy bottom. There it sat for all 30 of us to admire.

The Giant Pacific octopus is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world – The largest reputed to weigh over 600 pounds! Believe it or not, the average octopus only lives 3 to 5 years. At about 3 years of age, the females are mature. She mates (usually in autumn), finds a sheltered crevice for nesting, and hangs 30 to 100 thousand eggs in beautifully beaded strings from the ceiling of her den. She then hunkers down for the next 5 to 6 months, fanning and defending her brood. During this time, she ventures no more than an arm’s length from her den and thus cannot hunt and eat. By spring, when the eggs are ready to hatch, she has weakened and dies.

Over a period up to a week long, her entire brood hatches out. The newly freed juveniles, a quarter-inch long, run the gauntlet of hungry mouths for about 2 months during the free-swimming planktonic stage of their lives. Once they settle to the ocean floor, they eat and they grow. After a year and a half, the little guys weigh just over 2 pounds – In less than 3 years, they may weigh up to 38 pounds! A truly impressive rate of growth fuelled by an equally impressive ability to eat! Hunting primarily under cloak of night, the voracious octopus prefers a diet of crabs, shrimps, scallops, clams and snails. An octopus den is often revealed by the jumble of the shells tossed out the door after dinner! As there is no free lunch in nature, even the cunning octopus must beware of predatory sea lions, seals, sea otters, dogfish, lingcod, larger octopuses and humans.

In the octopus’ garden of boulder, bedrock and tidepools at Skonun Point, clumps of feather duster tubeworms, encrusting sponges, blood stars, ochre stars, colonial tunicates, sculpins, nudibranchs, shrimp and juvenile sole patiently waited for the tide to flood back in, whence they could continue to breathe, eat and play under the caress of saltwater.

Intertidal Explorations was sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund Canada throughout the low low tides in late spring and summer 2001. In total, over 100 Islanders and visitors of all ages ventured out to visit their intertidal neighbours! I encourage everyone to continue exploring the wonderfully rich and diverse intertidal areas around the Islands. Be aware of the delicate creatures under your footsteps and marvel at what you will discover!

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Speaker Series

  • Dr. Jon Lien, Memorial University • Queen Charlotte
    Marine Conservation:The Bona Vista Experience
  • Dale Gueret, Fisheries and Oceans Canada • Skidegate & Old Massett
    The Bowie Seamount

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