Concern for the 19 Marine Ecological Reserves which could be affected by the KM/TMX pipeline.

The  Board of Friends of Ecological Reserves,  submitted their final report as Intervenors in the National Energy Board Hearings on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

The report deals with what they see as a flawed process in the NEB and with the concern  for proper funding from the oil company and ecological monitoring to be provided in Marine Ecological Reserves before any approval of the project can be allowed. It deals with the 19 Ecological Reserves in the Southern part of Vancouver Island, and Juan de Fuca and Georgia Straits. Since Race Rocks Ecological reserve lies within a few kilometres of the proposed tanker route,  it is used extensively for examples in this report. Our thanks to the Race Rocks Ecoguardians of the past few years who have, through their observations and photos provided a valuable resource from which we have drawn data and images.  —Garry Fletcher.

finalreportcover

 

 

 

 

Misleading information in recent STANTEC report on Whales.

Also see the APRIL 23 post with graphs on Whale Observations from Race Rocks 2009-2014.
I believe that the increasing frequency in recent years in the number of humpback whales observed in the area which will be affected by increased tanker traffic from the Kinder Morgan/ TMX project has not been taken into account In the Consultant’s report issued today
Quantitative Assessment of Increased Potential for Marine Mammal-Vessel Interactions from the Trans Mountain Expansion Project TRANS MOUNTAIN PIPELINE ULC TRANS MOUNTAIN EXPANSION PROJECT -Prepared by: Stantec Consulting Ltd. 500 – 4730 Kingsway Burnaby, BC, V5H 0C6 Ph.: (604) 436-3014, 

Quoted from the report :
“While the BC CSN data includes numerous opportunistic sightings of humpback whales in the study area over the course of the last four decades, the majority of the Marine RSA is generally not recognized as a humpback whale hotspot, although the western extent just overlaps with the eastern-most extent of humpback whale critical habitat –(Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2013a). As such, and since actual humpback whale density values for the Marine RSA (Regional Study Area) do not exist, this species was assigned a density according to the lowest density observed for humpback whales during the surveys reported on in Best and Halpin (2011) elsewhere in BC ((Williams and Thomas 2007) did not observe any humpback whales during their summer 2004 survey in this area) This value corresponds to roughly 10 whales distributed across the majority of the Marine RSA

——As a result, humpback whales were assigned a proportion of time in the study area of 0.17 (i.e., two months of the year) based on the largest concentration of sightings from the BC CSN data (British Columbia Cetacean Sightings Network 2013)”

Here is a good example, in my opinion,  of how a decision having long term implications regarding the welfare of a species recovering from near extinction may be completely misdirected if based only on a consultants interpretation of officially published scientific resources which can quickly become dated.

G.Fletcher

2009-2014 Whale Observations from Race Rocks

Lester Pearson College has employed the Ecoguardians at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve since 1997. One of the benefits of this is in having observers on site 24 hours on this archipelago in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A great amount of citizen science is achieved as they record in their logs the events such as whale sightings of the area.

In the past year I have been working as an intervenor for the Board of Friends of Ecological Reserves to try to question and advise  the National Energy Board and the Kinder Morgan Corporation on the problems of increasing the traffic of oil tankers from the Westridge terminal through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The area of potential impact from chronic and catastrophic oil spills puts at risk the ecological integrity of  up to 17 of our Marine Ecological Reserves around southern Vancouver Island. In our submission I was able to draw upon the records from the Race Rocks Ecoguardian’s logs to demonstrate the increase in the incidence of whales in this area. A recent report of the Department of Fisheries (Sufficiency Review of the Information on Effects  of Underwater Noise and  the Potential for Ship Strikes from Marine Shipping on Marine Mammals  in the Facilities Application for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project )has criticized the Environmental assessment done by Trans Mountain as being ineffective to take account of the increasing potential of Impact on the large whales such as humpbacks and the underwater noise which will masking of the ability of whales to communicate and get food.

I put together the following graphs to show the increase in the number of days per month that whales were observed from Race Rocks:

orcasighting
humpbacksighting

Thanks to Ryan, Raisa, Adam, Alex, Virginie, Julie, Courtney, Nick, and Anne for contributing to this database.

Addendum :  see the April 27 post on the report issued today ” Quantitative Assessment of Increased Potential for Marine Mammal-Vessel Interactions from the Trans Mountain Expansion Project TRANS MOUNTAIN PIPELINE ULC TRANS MOUNTAIN EXPANSION PROJECT –Prepared by: Stantec Consulting Ltd. 500 – 4730 Kingsway Burnaby, BC, V5H 0C6 Ph.: (604) 436-3014,

Garry Fletcher, Race Rocks Ecological Reserve Warden.

 

New DFO Report highly critical of Kinder Morgan /TMX environmental assessment on Whales

The recentlly released DFO report:
(See Full PDF) SUFFICIENCY REVIEW OF THE INFORMATION ON EFFECTS OF UNDERWATER NOISE AND THE POTENTIAL FOR SHIP STRIKES FROM MARINE SHIPPING ON MARINE MAMMALS IN THE FACILITIES APPLICATION FOR THE TRANS MOUNTAIN EXPANSION PROJECT was very critical of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project Application documents. The Conclusion of the report is concerned with Vessel strikes on Whales and the overall impact of noise from increased Project-related traffic.  Included below are the conclusions of the report.

Conclusions

There are deficiencies in both the assessment of potential effects resulting from ships strikes and exposure to underwater noise in the Trans Mountain Expansion Project Application documents.

There is insufficient information and analysis provided with which to assess ship strike risk in the Marine RSA from either existing or Project-related traffic. Ship strike is a threat of conservation concern, particularly for baleen whales such as Fin Whales, Humpback Whales and other baleen whales (Gregr et al. 2006). If shipping intensity increases as projected in Section 4.4 in the Marine RSA and the Strait of Georgia and Juan de Fuca Strait as a whole, the significance of this threat to cetacean populations that occupy the region will increase.

Incidence of recovered whale carcasses is not considered to be an adequate measure of the frequency of ship strikes. No information is provided about the speed and maneuverability of Project-related ships or the distribution of whales in relation to the shipping lanes. Analyses that consider the statistical probability of ship-whale encounters and the risk of collisions are considered appropriate methodologies to assess this potential effect.

The JASCO MONM model, as it has been applied by the Proponent, is not adequate to assess the overall impact of noise from increased Project-related traffic. Although state-of-the-art acoustic modelling has been used to model the noise propagation associated with a single Project-related tanker in the Marine RSA, only four locations were chosen to represent the Marine RSA; therefore, the assessment does not adequately represent the noise exposure for the entire time a marine mammal would be in the RSA. The assessment represents only Project-related tanker traffic and not the current noise environment or the potential increase due to Project-related traffic. Finally, the method used to assess the significance of impacts from the modelled noise level contours resulting from a single Project-related tanker and tug on indicator cetacean and pinniped species is qualitative and the lack of an appropriate assessment framework reduces DFO’s ability to evaluate the assessment.

(See Full PDF) SUFFICIENCY REVIEW OF THE INFORMATION ON EFFECTS OF UNDERWATER NOISE AND THE POTENTIAL FOR SHIP STRIKES FROM MARINE SHIPPING ON MARINE MAMMALS IN THE FACILITIES APPLICATION FOR THE TRANS MOUNTAIN EXPANSION PROJECT

See other posts on Oil Spill Risk for the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve

The Tidal Current Turbine Energy Project in the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve

Erika Lee Brown Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

ABSTRACT

the full PDF can be linked here:tidalenergyreport
There is a predicted potential of 42 000MW stored in tidal energy off the coast of Canada which remains widely untapped by the energy industries.[1] Although there has been significant research and development done in the tidal energy sector, it has been a challenge to develop a cost efficient system which has a minimal environmental impact.
In 2006, the first tidal current generator to be built and installed in Canada was deployed north of the Middle Islands in the center of the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve off the coast of British Columbia. The current generator prototype was part of a six year joint research venture between Clean Current and the Race Rock project. The project aided to power Race Rocks using a combination of alternative energy technology to minimize the environmental impact of the facilities in the reserve while providing bases for testing of structural materials of the generator.
After numerous interruptions in power supply were experienced due to mechanical and electrical problems, the final phase of the project was completed in September 2011. The generator was retrieved from the seabed and transported to Vancouver for structural analysis.
The following paper will discuss the parameters of the study, as well as the challenges and problems encountered with the deployment, maintenance and retrieval of the tidal current system. A brief investigation of the outlook of tidal current generator systems as a means of power generation within Canada will also be completed.

 

See the full PDF: http://journals.library.mun.ca/ojs/index.php/prototype/article/view/397/496

Responses of Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus) to In-Air Blast Noise from Military Explosions

Read more: http://www.readperiodicals.com/201207/2767584211.html#ixzz3O0yxtiXa

The Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) is a species of conservation concern and is protected from anthropogenic disturbances by federal legislation in Canada and the United States. Although the breeding population has tripled since intensive culling ended ~40 y ago, conservation concerns persist due in part to the species’ vulnerability to anthropogenic factors, including noise. Published data on the nature and consequences of Steller sea lion responses to loud, impulsive noises such as explosions are sparse, yet useful where important haulouts are adjacent to such events. Herein, we document the short-term behavioural responses of Steller sea lions on a winter haulout complex to military explosions on southern Vancouver Island, Canada, over a period spanning 1997 to 2010. Blasting activities have been ongoing for over 70 y, involving ordnance disposal and on-land demolition training with high explosives-both of which disturb pinnipeds at nearby Race Rocks Ecological Reserve (RRER). Acoustic measurements confirmed that in-air noise reached levels capable of causing pinniped disturbance (i.e., > 109 dBF peak) but not injuries such as a permanent threshold shiftin hearing (i.e., < 149 dBF peak). Sea lions showed a significant increase in activity following blasting and were commonly displaced from haulouts. Within minutes of the disturbance, however, activity levels dropped sharply, and displaced animals usually began returning to haulouts. Activity levels on the day after blasting were similar to levels on days prior to blasting. General linear models showed no evidence (2 models) or no conclusive evidence (1 model) of an effect of blasting on sea lion abundance. Repeated exposure to in-air blast noise has short-term effects on Steller sea lions at RRER. We speculate that long-term effects on sea lions using RRER are unlikely-especially considering the increase in the peak numbers of Steller sea lions at RRER in recent decades while blasting has been ongoing. Key Words: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus, C4, disturbance, explosion, harassment, military, noise, ordnance, Race Rocks, Salish Sea, eastern stock.

Publication: Aquatic Mammals
Author: Demarchi, Mike W
Date published: July 1, 2012
Introduction

A segment of the eastern stock of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) occurs year-round in the marine waters of British Columbia (BC), Canada. There are four breeding areas in BC, and a number of others between Cape Suckling, Alaska, and California, and these sea lions also use numerous other locations along the coast as year-round or winter haulout sites (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2011). Hauling out at non-rookery sites confers a number of benefits to sea lions, including rest; decreased risk of predation by killer whales (Orcinus orca); and opportunities for nursing, grooming, and social interaction. Race Rocks Ecological Reserve (RRER) is one of at least 26 major haulout sites in BC that are used only by nonbreeding animals primarily during autumn and winter (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2011; LGL Limited, unpub. data); both sexes and all age-classes occur at RRER. Based on re-sight data from branded animals (Edgell & Demarchi, in press), RRER is used by Steller sea lions that breed in California, Oregon, and Alaska. The extent to which Steller sea lions from rookeries in BC use RRER is not known because no extensive branding or tagging studies have been conducted in BC. However, considering that the nearest rookeries in Canadian waters (i.e., Scott Islands) are closer than those in the U.S., we suspect that many of the Steller sea lions at RRER are from Canadian rookeries. Abundance of Steller sea lions in RRER varies by season and year, with counts ranging from 0 to 680 animals (Edgell & Demarchi, in press). However, the actual number of animals that use RRER during peak years is expected to be considerably greater as they use RRER as a temporary stopover while moving into and out of the Salish Sea. RRER is also frequented by California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), harbour seals (Phoca vitulina), and northern ele-phant seals (Mirounga angustirostris).

The Steller sea lion is presently listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as a species of Special Concern and is on Schedule 1 of the Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA). It is the subject of a federal management plan that identifies acute noise disturbance as a management concern (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2011). In the U.S., the eastern stock of Steller sea lions, which extends from southeast Alaska to California, is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Prior to garnering protection in Canadian waters under the Fisheries Act in 1970, and under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972, Steller sea lions were extensively culled in an effort to reduce real or perceived conflicts with commercial fish-eries (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2011). Since then, the eastern stock has increased through 2002 (the year of the last range-wide survey) at a mean annual rate of 3.1% (Pitcher et al., 2007), and the number of breeding animals in Canadian waters has tripled (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2011).

At haulout sites, Steller sea lions are susceptible to disturbance and commonly enter the water when disturbed (e.g., Harestad, 1978; Lewis, 1987; Kucey, 2005; this study). The adaptive significance of this response is unclear given that overall mortality risk is likely greater in water (e.g., killer whale preda-tion, entanglement) than on land. However, such a response is appropriate in light of their vulnerabil-ity to harm by humans with rifles. Beyond RRER, sea lions are commonly shot for First Nations’ sub-sistence harvesting (e.g., as authorized under the Nisga’a Final Agreement and under Alaskan Native subsistence harvest agreements), animal control at aquaculture facilities (e.g., Hume, 2000; we note that in a recent review of human-caused mortality of Steller sea lions, Allen & Angliss 2012, indi-cated by way of a pers. comm. with P. Olesiuk that aquaculture facilities in BC have been forbidden from shooting Steller sea lions since 2004; how-ever, news reports of Steller sea lions being shot at aquaculture facilities do occur occasionally), and as perceived competitors with commercial fish-ing interests. Lewis (1987) reported that neonate Steller sea lion pups on a rookery were trampled to death by adult sea lions fleeing humans approach-ing by foot, but the extent of such mortality was low. Kucey (2005) documented numerous occa-sions of Steller sea lion disturbance, but no conse-quent injuries or mortalities were reported. Tershy et al. (1997) and Holcomb et al. (2009) concluded that human disturbance of California sea lions was short-term and localized.

The Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act prohibit people from disturbing any marine mammal in Canadian waters unless authority has been granted by the federal government. Those regulations are not based on empirical evidence of harmful effects of disturbance but, rather, on the premise that interfering with the normal life functions of a marine mammal exposes it and its population to risks. It therefore follows that conservation interests can be served by managing risk exposure. However, if the putative disturbance has no negative implications for population conservation, or even if the population consequences are sustainable, restricting human activities such as military training or ecotourism for the sake of preventing disturbance could have negative social or economic consequences that might not be justified by the restrictions. That said, the use of best practices toward achieving environmental sustainability dictates that viable options to integrate human activities with the interests of marine mammal ecology should be identified and implemented whenever possible.

Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt and Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot (CFAD) of the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) oversee exercises and operations involving explosives in Marine Training and Exercise Area WQ at Rocky Point on southern Vancouver Island, BC. The Rocky Point property was selected and subsequently appropriated by the DND in 1955 as the site for the West Coast ammunition depot, thereby replacing the Colwood depot in Esquimalt Harbour (Mathews, 2004). The training that occurs at Rocky Point has been ongoing for over 70 y and includes defensive exercises, service battalion training, and demolitions training (Ferg, 1996). Such training is imperative for those members of the Canadian Forces that are engaged in both domestic and foreign operations. To this day, Rocky Point is still the largest terrestrial training area under the administration of the CFB Esquimalt and plays an integral role in supporting the DND’s activities both on land and at sea. In order to aid in maintaining the current level of operational capability of the Canadian Forces, a high tempo of training is carried out at Rocky Point year-round and will continue into the foreseeable future.

Military activities involving explosives are known to disturb Steller sea lions and other pinnipeds at nearby RRER, and the in-air audiogram of Steller sea lion (Muslow & Reichmuth, 2010) confirms that blast noise is audible to this species. Ferg (1996) identified information gaps in our understanding of the implications of military training for Steller sea lion ecology in RRER. Since then, pinniped monitoring has taken place intermittently in conjunction with DND activities. We selected the Steller sea lion as the focal species for this study because of the four species of pinniped that occur at RRER, it has the highest conservation status (listing) and has been observed to be the most responsive to acoustic disturbances. In support of this goal, the research objectives of this program were to document the responses of Steller sea lions to military explosions and to quantify the short-term effects on the use of RRER by those animals. Depending on the nature of the short-term effects, the potential for long-term effects, which are far more complicated to measure and detect, might be gauged.

Materials and Methods

Study Area

Marine Training and Exercise Area WQ is located on Rocky Point, southern Vancouver Island, BC (48° 19’12” N, 123° 33’13” W). Two ranges within WQ are used for ordnance-based demolitions training: (1) the Whirl Bay Underwater Demolition Range and (2) the Bentinck Island Demolition Range (Figure 1). The Bentinck Island Demolition Range is used for above-water beach-clearing and obstacle-creation exercises (e.g., metal cutting and the displacement and demolition of rocks and logs). The range is used for up to ~12 training courses per year, each spanning 1 to 4 d. With the exception of one or two night courses annually, all blasting occurs during daylight hours.

During the study period, demolitions (aka projects) at Bentinck Island comprised up to a maximum of four slabs of C4 plastique. C4 is a white, plastic high explosive made of RDX (Royal Demolition Explosive; aka cyclonite or hexogen; chemical name, trinitrotriazine) and an inert plastic binder. On a typical day, one to three projects are detonated in a run (or series) with ~30 s to 5 min or more between projects and ~15 to 120 min between two to four runs (i.e., 4 to 12 blasts in total). Some project locations have a direct line-of-sight to most of RRER, and others are separated to a modest degree by beach and island topography. The nearest haulout used by seals and sea lions in RRER is ~1.3 km from the blasting site at Bentinck Island.

Surplus ordnance is disposed of on an as-needed basis on the Christopher Point Ordnance Disposal Range, which has a line-of-sight to RRER (Figure 1). Up to 12 detonations can occur per day. Use of the range varies greatly among years, but it is typically used fewer than 25 d/y. The nearest haulout used by pinnipeds in RRER is ~2.0 km away from the detonation site at Christopher Point.

The pinniped study area comprised the exposed portion of RRER (Figure 1). RRER is a complex composed of one island (Great Race Rock: 1.48 ha; 48° 17’55” N, 123° 31’54” W) and a number of smaller rocky islets and reefs. To facilitate animal counts and account for the spatial separation of individual haulouts within the RRER complex, the pinniped study area was subdivided into 14 sub-areas (haulouts) that varied in size and extent of use by pinnipeds. Terrestrial vegetation occurs only on Great Race Rock and consists of grasses and small forbs of both native and Eurasian origin. Great Race Rock has a number of buildings and infrastructure, including an automated light station operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. RRER is in the Salish Sea near the eastern end of Juan de Fuca Strait and is in the Nanaimo Lowland Ecosection of the Eastern Vancouver Island Ecoregion of the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince (Demarchi et al., 1990). The climate of the study area is mild, being moderated by the Pacific Ocean. Tides are semidiurnal with strong diurnal inequality. Actual tide height ranges between -0.367 and 3.707 m (chart datum), and tidal flow through Race Passage can reach 13 km/h.

Acoustic Monitoring

In-air sound levels of blast noise reaching Great Race Rock were obtained using a Larson Davis System 824 logging sound level meter (SLM), equipped with a 0.64-cm free-field microphone and windscreen during 4 d in 2007. The SLM logged broadband sound levels at Great Race Rock during the blast noise trials. Pressure waveforms from the SLM microphone were digitally recorded at 48-kHz sampling rate with 24-bit resolution for subsequent spectral and waveform analysis. The microphone was oriented toward Bentinck Island in a line-of-sight and was mounted on a tripod at a height of 170 cm above ground level near the northern limit of Great Race Rock nearest Bentinck Island.

The recording system was calibrated at the start of each day using a Larson Davis CAL200 94/114 dB re 20 µPa sound calibrator. The microphone was located ~1,950 m from the demolition area which is ~200 m (11%) farther from Bentinck Island than the main Steller sea lion haulout in RRER (i.e., “middle” rock; see Figure 1). The following three sound pressure level (SPL) metrics are presented: (1) peak SPL (the maximum instantaneous pressure level over the pulse duration), (2) impulse time-weighted SPL (i.e., the rms [root mean square] pressure level computed using a 35 ms exponential time-weighted moving average); and (3) 1 s energy equivalent SPL (denoted Leq) (i.e., the maximum rms pressure level over a fixed 1 s time window encompassing the pulse). The flat-weighted 1 s Leq was numerically equal to the unweighted sound exposure level (SEL) for exposure to single blast events since the duration of the measured blast pulses was less than 1 s. Both flat-weighted (i.e., unweighted) and A-weighted SPLs are presented, in units of dBF and dBA, respectively, in order to facilitate comparison of the results of this work to other studies.

A parabolic-equation-based atmospheric sound propagation model (INPM) was used to estimate the noise footprint of Bentinck Island blast operations. The model accurately computes frequency dependent sound propagation, accounting for diffraction, air turbulence, and ground interaction. Ground elevation data for the modeling area were obtained in the form of standardized 3 arc s resolu-tion Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED) files. Atmospheric wind and temperature profiles were measured using a weather balloon probe launched from the CFB Esquimalt MetOc station (CWPF), located ~15 km northeast of RRER. A single balloon launch was performed between 0800 h and 1000 h local time on each day of noise measurements. Modeling was performed in standard 1/3-octave fre-quency bands from 6.3 to 630 Hz.

Sea Lion Monitoring

The study focused on demolitions conducted on Bentinck Island, but detonations on Christopher Point were occasionally monitored because of their potential to disturb pinnipeds. We did not conduct a thorough study of the underwater demolitions in Whirl Bay, though we know from previous work that the in-air noise levels of underwater explosions are greatly reduced compared to in-air noise levels of above-water detonations (LGL Limited, unpub. data, 1997 to 2010).

Observations of Steller sea lions on haulouts were made by two biologists using binoculars and a spotting scope from atop the lighthouse on Great Race Rock (Bushnell 8 × 40; 15 to 45 × 60; ~30 m above sea level; ~650 m to farthest haulout) intermittently from 1997 to 1998, 2002 to 2003, and 2007 to 2010. On several occasions in 2008 it was necessary to count sea lions on part of one haulout from the water during daily boat trips to and from RRER because animals had shifted to a previously unused part of the haulout that was not visible from the tower. Most observations occurred during the peak of sea lion abundance, September to January. For Bentinck Island, monitoring was conducted on days prior to blasting (Pre-Blast BI), during blasting (Blast BI), and following blasting (Post-Blast BI), though not all Bentinck Island monitoring was part of such a sequence. For Christopher Point, monitoring only took place on days when detonations occurred. Pre-Blast BI monitoring provided a measure of baseline conditions ≥ 1 d prior to demolition exercises or ordnance disposal. Post-Blast BI monitoring provided an indication of animal abundance and behaviour 1 d after blasting. From the light tower, we maintained radio or visual contact with military personnel regarding the blasting schedule. Blasts, as heard by the observers, were noted to the nearest second.

Morning (AM) and afternoon (PM) censuses of Steller sea lions in RRER (i.e., all haulouts) provided information about daily changes in the total number of animals using the study area. The morning census occurred prior to any blasting. With one exception, the afternoon census occurred after the last blast of the day. Only animals that were supported by terrestrial features (i.e., islands, islets, rocks, jetty, etc.) were counted because of the difficulties in seeing and counting animals in the water. Although some animals were hidden from view, in our opinion and based on our familiarity with the area (including views from the water during travel to and from the island), most (> 90%) hauled-out individuals were visible from the tower. Crowding also may have biased the estimates because some animals obscured our view of others-especially when they were resting in the prone position. Increased activity (e.g., heads up) sometimes resulted in a higher and more reliable sea lion count per a given haulout.

Scan sampling of Steller sea lions on specific haulouts (sub-areas) within RRER allowed us to evaluate differences in behaviour and haulout density pre- and post-disturbance. Whereas the twice-daily census tallied all animals in RRER, scan samples comprised animals on a subset of haulouts in RRER, and, as such, the reactions of all Steller sea lions in RRER to disturbance stimuli were not monitored. Haulouts monitored for scan sampling were selected and sampled in the morning (prior to any blasting) and had ≥ 10 animals present during the first sample. Those haulouts were then monitored throughout the remainder of the day. Behaviour was defined as active or inactive. An active animal was one with its head up, was moving about the haulout, or was engaged in social interaction as per Harestad (1978). Counts of Steller sea lions on sub-areas selected for daily monitoring prior to any blasting were usually made at ~30 to 60 min intervals during the observation period, plus additional counts were made immediately before and in the minutes following a run (or projects within a run if time between projects permitted). Post-blast counts were made soon after all animals entered the water or it was apparent to the observer that movement to the water had largely ceased. Two visible measures of disturbance were recorded: (1) the relative change in behaviour (i.e., activity level) and (2) the change in number of animals hauled out after a disturbance as compared with before the disturbance. The proportion of active animals (i.e., activity level) was calculated by dividing the number of active individuals by the total number in a given sub-area. Displacement from a given haulout was quantified by comparing sequential samples.

Environmental data were collected periodically throughout all monitoring days. These data were recorded at the start and end of each day (approximately concurrent with the AM and PM census events), and whenever weather changed notably. Environmental parameters included air temperature, wind direction and speed, Beaufort sea state, swell height, cloud cover, precipitation, and tidal height. Swell height was recorded as a categorical variable with four levels (none, low, medium, high). Precipitation was recorded as a categorical variable with five levels (none, fog, light rain, hard rain, snow). Wind data were obtained from Coast Guard instrumentation on the light tower. Hourly tide data were obtained from Fisheries and Oceans Canada for Victoria Harbour.

Activity Analysis

Activity data were imported to MS Excel and SYSTAT 12 for graphing and statistical analyses. Activity data (percentages) were arcsine transformed before analysis, and the homogeneity of variance was examined using Levene’s test. Activity data were analyzed using ANOVA and Tukey HSD tests. Activity data were averaged over the course of a day because daily averages were more appropriate for statistical testing than individual values obtained from repeated observations of the same animals on the same day. To account for potential biasing effects of proportions resulting from samples with few animals, in addition to testing all records involving ≥ 1 animal, we set an arbitrary minimum threshold of 10 or 50 animals, depending on the analysis.

Census Analysis

Census data from eight monitoring sessions comprising consecutive pre-blasting (1 d), blasting (1 to 4 d), and post-blasting (1 d) days were compared. In addition, census data were analyzed with general linear models (GLM) using R, Version 2.13.2. Three such analyses were conducted, each using different predictive parameters to examine the effect of blasting. In the first analysis, a continuous blast parameter called “Blast Number” was used. It was the number of blasts that occurred leading up to the associated census observation. For all AM censuses, the Blast Number was 0. For PM censuses, the Blast Number was the number of blasts that had occurred on the monitoring day prior to the census (PM Blast Number was 0 on non-blasting days). In the second analysis, two categorical blasting parameters were used: (1) “Blast-day” (yes/no) and (2) “Census” (AM/PM). For this analysis, a statistically significant interaction between these two parameters would indicate an effect of blasting (i.e., the AM/PM sea lion counts would be expected to vary on days when blasting occurred but not on non-blast days). In the third analysis, a categorical blasting parameter called “Day-type” was used. Day-type categories included “pre-blast days,” “blast days,” and “post-blast days.” Because data from only 5 d of blasting on Christopher Point were collected, they were excluded from all three analyses. The first two analyses included 144 censuses, recorded on 72 d (2/d) between 2002 and 2010 (not all environmental data were collected in 1997). Data for the third analysis were restricted to the PM censuses.

For all models, the number of sea lions hauled-out was the response variable. As is typical when the response variable is a count, the models were initially run with a Poisson error distribution (Crawley, 2007). Initial tests showed strong evidence of overdispersion (the residual deviance was much greater than the residual degrees of freedom), thus all subsequent models were run using an overdispersed Poisson error distribution (i.e., “quasi-Poisson”).

As a starting point for all three analyses, the models included the full suite of environmental variables as covariates. Some environmental variables were included “as measured,” including air temperature, Beaufort sea state, cloud cover, and tide height. Both swell height and precipitation were recorded with too much precision, and categories needed to be pooled for analysis. Swell height was collapsed to three categories (none, low, and medium-high), and precipitation was collapsed to two categories (yes and no). Wind was componentized into a “north-south wind speed” and an “east-west wind speed” for analysis. Componentization was done by taking the sine (or the cosine) of the recorded wind direction and multiplying it by wind speed.

For these analyses, fully factorial models could not be evaluated due to over-parameterization and limited degrees of freedom (e.g., 3,069 degrees of freedom would be required to evaluate a fully factorial form of the model in Analysis 1). It was therefore necessary to limit the “saturated” model to main effects and first-order interactions (Analysis 2 also included three-way interactions involving Blast-day and Census). Models were reduced in a stepwise progression by removing parameters one or a few at a time and evaluating the reduced model against the previous version. Reductions occurred in order of decreasing “significance,” starting with interactions before proceeding to the main effects. Main effects were not removed if they were involved in an interaction term that was retained in the model. F-tests were used for model comparison (since AIC could not be evaluated for models with overdispersed error distributions), and the reduced model was selected as the more parsimonious when no significant difference was observed. For each of the three analyses, a final model was selected. To test the significance of each model term, we fit models with and without the term and then compared the models using an F-test.

Results

Acoustic Monitoring

Acoustic measurements were obtained on Great Race Rocks during 31 detonations of C4 on Bentinck Island (Table 1). SPLs received at Great Race Rock were independent of charge size (r = 0.044, n = 31). Acoustic propagation modeling indicated that SPLs at those haulout areas in RRER that were closer to the demolition range (~1,300 to 1,750 m cf. 1,900 m) would be within ±3 dB of SPLs measured at Great Race Rock, depending primarily on prevailing wind conditions.

Sea Lion Activity

A total of 113 d of monitoring was conducted. No on-site night monitoring was conducted during this study, although a single blast at dusk (~2005 h) on 12 September 2008 was viewed remotely via a webcam. That blast caused sea lions to raise their heads, but none were observed moving to the water. Average activity levels were variable but tended to be greatest during Blast BI and lowest during Pre-Blast BI; activity levels during Post-Blast BI and Christopher Point detonations were intermediate (Table 2). A comparison of the mean daily activity levels among days when no range or one range was active indicated a significant difference (F = 7.818, df = 3, 76, p < 0.001 for samples involving ≥ 50 animals, and F = 8.078, df = 3, 95, p < 0.001 for samples involving ≥ 1 animal). Regardless of the minimum number of animals, pairwise compari-sons showed that the only significant difference was the result of greater activity levels on Blast BI days vs Pre-Blast BI days (p < 0.001).

Immediately following most blasts, activity levels spiked as animals raised their heads in response to the noise. None of our in-field observations or digital images suggested that the animals oriented toward the noise. Within minutes, activity levels of those animals remaining on the haulout dropped sharply and continued to diminish significantly with increasing time since the most recent blast (Figure 2; r = -0.322, p < 0.001, n = 1,087). By ~240 min since the most recent blast, average activity level approached the average level observed during Pre-Blast BI days (i.e., ~30%; Table 2 & Figure 2), but actual levels were variable.

Blasting was the most predictable cause of displacement, but Steller sea lions were observed to leave a haulout in response to approaching boats, swells washing over the haulout, pedestrians on Great Race Rock, and unknown factors. Departure from a haulout was greatest on those days when blasting occurred on Bentinck Island or Christopher Point, but notable decreases in numbers, including complete haulout abandonment, were also observed on days prior to and after blasting on Bentinck Island (Figure 3). Similarly, increases in the number of sea lions on a given haulout were observed, including on days when blasting occurred. The distribution of data > 0 for the Bentinck category of Figure 3 shows that animals displaced by blasts commonly returned to the haulout. Note, however, that these haulout-specific counts do not account for animals that were displaced but that hauled out elsewhere in RRER.

Sea Lion Census

Four analyses were performed on the census data, and none provided evidence of significant effects of blasting on the numbers of Steller sea lions hauled out in RRER.

Eight monitoring sessions comprised consecutive monitored days of Pre-Blast BI, Blast BI, and Post-Blast BI. Despite increases in activity levels and displacement from haulouts during blasting days, we observed both decreases and increases in the maximum count of any census during the day of Post-Blast BI monitoring as compared to the maximum count observed during the day of Pre-Blast BI monitoring or the first census on the morning of the first day of blasting (prior to any explosions) (Tables 3 & 4). Moreover, the highest counts (627 and 630) of the eight sessions were observed during the respective mornings of a Pre-Blast BI day and a Post-Blast BI day during a single session in October 2009 (Table 3).

For analysis GLM 1, the model examining the effects of Blast Number was reduced to its most parsimonious form (r2 = 0.16), including Beaufort sea state (p = 0.007), cloud cover (p < 0.001), air temperature (p = 0.006), and the cloud cover × air temperature interaction (p < 0.001). Models including Blast Number were not significantly better than those that excluded it, thus the simpler, reduced models were more parsimonious.

For analysis GLM 2, the model examining the effects of the Blast-day × Census interaction was reduced to its most parsimonious form (r2 = 0.23), including Blast-day (p = 0.006), swell height For analysis GLM 2, the model examining the effects of the Blast-day × Census interaction was reduced to its most parsimonious form (r2 = 0.23), including Blast-day (p = 0.006), swell height (p = 0.027), cloud cover (p = 0.002), Beaufort sea state (p > 0.05), air temperature (p = 0.049), and two interaction terms: Blast-day × Beaufort sea state (p = 0.002), and cloud cover × air temperature (p = 0.007). Models that included the Blast-day × Census interaction were not significantly better than those that excluded it, thus the simpler, reduced models were more parsimonious. Although the interaction term was of greatest interest for this analysis, the Blast-day term was nevertheless retained in the final model. Specifically, the number of Steller sea lions was significantly and negatively affected by sea state on blast days (regardless of whether the observations were made in the morning before the blasts or in the afternoon after the blasting) but not on non-blast days. Reconfirming that Census was not an important factor, there was no significant difference between the final model and one which was expanded to include Census and the Census × Blast-day × Beaufort sea state interaction (p = 0.490).

For analysis GLM 3, the model examining the effects of Day-type was reduced to its most parsimonious form (r2 = 0.15), including only swell height (p = 0.005). Models including Day-type were not significantly better than those that excluded it, thus the simpler, reduced models were more parsimonious.

Discussion

During monitoring spanning 1997 through 2010, explosions in Military Training Area WQ led to increased activity levels and caused Steller sea lions to move from haulouts to water in RRER. The explosions produced received sound levels in RRER that exceeded the threshold level for behavioural responses of pinnipeds to in-air noise of 109 dBF (peak) as proposed by Southall et al. (2007), but they were well below the level of 149 dBF (peak) proposed as a threshold for injury (i.e., permanent threshold shift[PTS] in hearing) by those same authors. Consequently, the direct impacts of military training are believed to have been mediated via a behavioural, and not a physiological, pathway-although non-auditory physiological responses (e.g., stress) cannot be ruled out. The first visible response by a sea lion to a blast was typically the change from a prone or other relaxed position to an alert, head-up pos-ture. Sea lions typically reacted to detonations on Bentinck Island or Christopher Point by quickly raising their heads and assuming an alert posture. In many instances, some or all of the animals then moved offthe haulout and into the water. Thereafter, activity levels of those animals that remained on the haulout diminished within min-utes of the disturbance as animals began returning to a prone position (Figure 2). Although the differ-ence was not statistically significant, mean activity levels did suggest that there were some residual effects of disturbance during the post-blast moni-toring day. If this was not a spurious observation, it could have been a result of ongoing recovery since blasting, increased sensitivity to other stimuli (e.g., weather, ecotour boats), or both.

There was no indication that blasting displaced a majority of sea lions from RRER. The maxi-mum counts observed the first day after blasting were sometimes higher and sometimes lower than during the first count made ahead of any blasting on those days when the Bentinck Island range was active. Models showed no adverse effect of blast-ing on sea lion census counts, except in conjunc-tion with higher sea states. However, this latter result was likely spurious because the same trend was observed for census counts made before blast-ing began on blast days. Other researchers have shown that pinnipeds leave haulouts in response to loud noises or other anthropogenic disturbances, but that numbers on haulouts returned to pre-dis-turbance levels within timeframes of several hours to several days (e.g., Bowles & Stewart, 1980; Stewart, 1982, 1993; Stewart et al., 1994; Tershy et al., 1997; Holst et al., 2005, 2011; Kucey, 2005; ManTech SRS Technologies [MSRS], 2008; Holcomb et al., 2009).

Steller sea lions are well adapted to the extremely harsh environmental conditions of the North Pacific, and severe marine weather can cause increased activity and haulout abandonment similar to the behavioural responses to explo-sions (e.g., MWD, pers. obs., 9 September 2011). Although one might speculate that being hauled out confers a measure of protection against preda-tion by killer whales, we only witnessed one pred-atory event during 113 d of monitoring between 1997 and 2010. However, the predominance of resident (i.e., fish-eating) as opposed to transient (i.e., mammal-eating) killer whales in the Salish Sea might, in part, explain this result.

Kucey (2005) documented that disturbance during scientific research (visiting haulout sites and branding animals or collecting scats) caused a significant short-term decline in Steller sea lion numbers at haulouts after the disturbance period. Sixty percent of disturbed sites in her study reached full recovery within ~4.3 d after the disturbance. Lewis (1987) noted that disturbance of Steller sea lions at a breeding site during post-pupping censuses caused an increase in activity and female territoriality and aggression, as well as changes in the numbers of animals hauling out after dis-turbance. Lewis also documented a decrease in numbers of sea lions in the disturbed area and an increase at a nearby undisturbed area.

Lewis (1987) documented a negligible amount of Steller sea lion pup mortality as a result of trampling following human-caused disturbance. As part of a pup census, biologists walking through a rookery purposefully drove non-pups into the water. Of 483 pup carcasses examined, at least two but up to three (< 1%) were believed to have resulted from trampling; the two deaths due to trampling accounted for 0.03% of pups born that year. RRER is not a Steller sea lion rookery; and by the time pups arrive in late summer and early autumn, they are highly mobile and not as susceptible to trampling by adults as are neonates. No pup injury or mortality at RRER as a result of trampling by conspecifics has been documented during hundreds of hours of observations of numerous disturbance events since 1997.

In the absence of a large sample of radio-tagged animals, one cannot conclusively determine what proportion of the local population might be tempo-rarily or permanently abandoning RRER follow-ing each disturbance. Similarly, in the absence of a large number of marked animals, it is not possi-ble to distinguish sea lions that return to a haulout after being displaced due to a blast from those returning from at-sea foraging or those migrat-ing individuals that arrive at the haulout after, and independent of, blasting activity. In spite of these limitations, the increases in the number of animals on haulouts that were commonly observed after a recovery period following a disturbance event were greater than increases observed during non-blasting days. This strongly suggests that recently displaced animals, and not newly arriv-ing migrants or animals returning from foraging trips, were returning to the haulouts. On a few occasions, we observed branded individuals leav-ing and returning to a haulout. Additionally, for those years when enough counts were conducted to reveal a seasonal peak in numbers, the number of Steller sea lions at RRER increased steadily (r2 = 0.672, p < 0.001, n = 17) from fewer than 10 ani-mals in 1965 (Bigg, 1988) to at least 680 in 2009 (Edgell & Demarchi, in press). That increase, at a time during which ordnance disposal and military training with high explosives occurred in Training Area WQ, provides further evidence that it is unlikely that military activities have caused any significant, long-term adverse effects on Steller sea lions using RRER. For greater certainty, by adverse effects we are referring to habitat exclusion, injury, or mortality. Considering the foregoing, it is not surprising that non-injurious acoustic stimuli would cause short-term behavioural effects persisting for no more than a few hours or a few days.

In conclusion, blasting in Marine Training and Exercise Area WQ causes short-term disturbance of Steller sea lions in RRER, and such disturbance is regulated under the Fisheries Act. However, the disturbance appears to be reversible and of a magnitude that is not believed to have caused significant adverse effects-at either a local scale or, by extension, a regional scale-for that segment of the eastern stock of Steller sea lions that occupies RRER. Despite this, the use of best practices dictates that options to mitigate the disturbance effects of blasting and other human activities be employed whenever practical. For example, seasonal blasting windows could be highly effective to the extent that overlap in blasting schedules and periods of peak sea lion abundance is reduced.

Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the Canadian Department of National Defence, Formation Safety and Environment, Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt and by LGL Limited. G. Smith, D. Freeman, D. Smith, and T. Cornforth (DND, Formation Safety and Environment) provided important project support. R. Price, A. Smith, R. Sharp, A. Steele, and A. Ransome-Hodges (Public Works and Government Services Canada) coordinated project administration. Dr. S. R. Johnson, then of LGL Limited, provided invaluable assistance initiating the study. We acknowledge the support of other DND personnel over the years and that of staffwith the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard, BC Ministry of Environment, and Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific. This research was done in accordance with ecological reserve permits issued by the Province of BC. Two anonymous reviewers kindly provided beneficial comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Literature Cited

Allen, B. M., & Angliss, R. P. (2012). Alaska marine mammal stock assessments, 2011 (NOAA-TM-NMFS-AFSC-234). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce.

Bigg, M. A. (1988). Status of the northern sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 102(2), 315-336.

Bowles, A. E., & Stewart, B. S. (1980). Disturbances to the pinnipeds and birds of San Miguel Island, 1979-1980. In J. R. Jehl, Jr. & C. F. Cooper (Eds.), Potential effects of space shuttle sonic booms on the biota and geology of the California Channel Islands: Research reports (pp. 99-137). San Diego: Center for Marine Studies, San Diego State University, and Hubbs/Sea World Research Institute for U.S. Air Force.

Crawley, M. J. (2007). The R book. Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9780470515075

Demarchi, D. A., Marsh, R. D., Harcombe, A. P., & Lea, E. C. (1990). The environment. In R. W. Campbell, N. K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J. M. Cooper, G. W. Kaiser, & M. C. E. McNall (Eds.), The birds of British Columbia, Volume 1 (pp. 55-144). Victoria, BC: Royal British Columbia Museum.

Edgell, T. C., & Demarchi, M. W. (in press). Understanding forty-five years of California and Steller sea lion use of a major winter haulout in the Salish Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Ferg, V. D. (1996). Training Area Planning System (TAPS) Phase II: An assessment of military training at CFB Esquimalt. Victoria, BC: CFB Esquimalt, Department of National Defence.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada. (2011). Management plan for the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) in Canada (Species at Risk Act Management Plan Series). Ottawa, ON: Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Harestad, A. S. (1978). Diurnal activity of Northern sea lions, Eumetopias jubatus (Schreber). Syesis, 11, 279-280.

Holcomb, K., Young, J. K., & Gerber, L. R. (2009). The influence of human disturbance on California sea lions during the breeding season. Animal Conservation, 12, 592-598. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-1795.2009.00290.x

Holst, M., Lawson, J. W., Richardson, W. J., Schwartz, S. J., & Smith, G. (2005). Pinniped responses during Navy missile launches at San Nicolas Island, California. In D. K. Garcelon & C. A. Schwemm (Eds.), Proceedings of the Sixth California Islands Symposium, Ventura, CA, Dec. 2003 (National Park Service Technical Publication CHIS-05-01, pp. 477-484). Arcata, CA: Institute of Wildlife Studies.

Holst, M., Greene, C. R., Jr., Richardson, W. J., McDonald, T. L., Bay, K., Schwartz, S. K., & Smith, G. (2011). Responses of pinnipeds to Navy missile launches at San Nicolas Island, California. Aquatic Mammals, 37(2), 139-150. http://dx.doi.org/10.1578/AM.37.2.2011.139

Hume, S. (2000, June 14). 5,000 sea lions, seals legally killed in B.C. in decade. Vancouver Sun, p. A7.

Kucey, L. (2005). Human disturbance and the hauling out behavior of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) (Master’s thesis). University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Lewis, J. P. (1987). An evaluation of a census-related disturbance of Steller sea lions (Master’s thesis). University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

ManTech SRS Technologies (MSRS). (2008). Final report for the 5-year programmatic permit for taking marine mammals incidental to space vehicle and test flight activities from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, 6 February 2004 through 17 October 2008. Lompoc, CA: MSRS for the U.S. Air Force.

Mathews, D. (2004). Rocky Point training area, ammuni-tion depot and PMQ: An archaeological inventory study. Report prepared for Public Works and Government Services by Millennia Research Ltd.

Muslow, J., & Reichmuth, C. (2010). Psychophysical and electrophysiological aerial audiograms of a Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus). The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 127, 2692-2701. http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.3327662

Pitcher, K. W., Olesiuk, P. F., Brown, R. F., Lowry, M. S., Jeffries, S. J., Sease, J. L., . . . Lowry L. F. (2007). Status and trends in abundance and distribution of the east-ern Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) population. Fishery Bulletin, 105, 102-115.

Southall, B. L., Bowles, A. E., Ellison, W. T., Finneran, J. J., Gentry, R. L., Greene, C. R., Jr., . . . Tyack, P. L. (2007). Marine mammal noise exposure criteria: Initial scientific recommendations. Aquatic Mammals, 33(4), 411-522. http://dx.doi.org/10.1578/AM.33.4.2007.411

Stewart, B. S. (1982). Behavioral response of northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) and California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) on San Nicolas Island to loud impulse noise. In Studies on the pinnipeds of the southern California Channel Islands, 1980-1981 (HSWRI Technical Report 82-137, pp. 4-35). San Diego: Hubbs/Sea World Research Institute for U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Systems Organization and the National Marine Fisheries Service, Washington, DC.

Stewart, B. S. (1993). Behavioral and hearing responses of pinnipeds to rocket launch noise and sonic boom. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 94(3), 1828. http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.407787

Stewart, B. S., Francine, J. K., & Thorson, P. H. (1994). Taurus launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base, 13 March 1994; sound levels and behavioral responses of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardsi) at Purisma Point and Rocky Point (HSWRI Technical Report 94-252). San Diego: Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute for U.S. Air Force, SMC/CEW, Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.

Tershy, B. R., Breese, D., & Croll, D. A. (1997). Human perturbations and conservation strategies for San Pedro Mártir Island, Isla del Golfo de California Reserve, México. Environmental Conservation, 24(3), 261-270. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0376892997000349

Author affiliation:

Mike W. Demarchi,1 Meike Holst,1 Dave Robichaud,1

Mike Waters,2 and Alexander O. MacGillivray3

1 LGL Limited, environmental research associates, 9768 Second Street, Sidney, BC V8L 3Y8, Canada

E-mail: demarchi@lgl.com

2 Formation Safety and Environment, Building 199D, Room 302, Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt,

PO Box 17000 STN Forces, Victoria, BC V9A 7N2, Canada

3 JASCO Applied Sciences, Suite 2101, 4464 Markham Street, Victoria, BC V8Z 7X8, Canad

Monitoring Demolition Training Impacts in Military Training area WQ on Sea lions

MONITORING DEMOLITION TRAINING IMPACTS IN
MILITARY TRAINING AREA WQ ON SEA LIONS IN THE
RACE ROCKS ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, BRITISH COLUMBIA
PROGRESS REPORT #1 REVISEDOVERVIEW1

LGL Limited successfully completed 5 days of monitoring (28P30 lgl-reportNovember and 1P2 December 2010) of demolition training (OfficerTs Course) in Exercise and Training area WQ. Monitoring comprised a day of pre-blasting, 3 days with blasting, and a day of post-blasting. We have not yet reviewed information on the sizes of the projects that were detonated, but expect that all were  4 slabs of C4 as per past courses. Projects within a run were spaced at a minimum interval of 5 min. Time between runs varied considerably (~0.4P3.2 hrs). All other ranges in WQ were inactive during monitoring. Weather was modestly overcast and unsettled. Although a gale warning was in effect for local waters during the first few days of the session, winds only reached 20 knots on one day (30 November); they were mostly below 10 knots for the session. Light rain fell at times, and swell height was moderate and high for most of the session. Seas were Beaufort 1P3. Air temperature ranged from 5P8 °C. As per the table below, numbers of sea lions fluctuated considerably within and between days in response to natural and human-caused disturbances. There were no California sea lions in the Reserve and only 1 northern elephant seal. Significant displacement of sea lions from a haulout was observed in response to a single ecotour boat on the pre-blasting day and in response to blasting on days when the range was active. Only one ecotour boat was observed during the 5-day session, but that boat caused a disturbance that saw all sea lions become active (heads up) and most (~100) animals scramble off the haulout. Steller sea lion response to blasting ranged
from modest increases in activity to complete haulout abandonment. The number of sea lions hauled out in the Reserve at the end of the session (i.e., at the end of the post-blast monitoring day) was practically identical to the number at the beginning of the session (i.e., 130 cf. 131).
The total at the end of the session was off by a modest 20 animals from the peak count during activity samples (i.e., 150) P a difference that could be accounted for by animals not in view from the tower at their new location atop Area 2P5 at the end of the session and animals
swimming near the haulouts. Although nearly all animals were on haulout Area 2P5 at the beginning and end of the session, they had shifted their position to the highest part of the haulout in response to large swells that inundated the lower reaches of the haulout. As of 7 December,
the upper reaches of Area 2P5 continued to be used by most of the sea lions in the Reserve (as evident from the LBPC web cam).
No further monitoring is anticipated until summer/fall 2011.

See the of the full report at lgl2010progreport.

See other LGL reports at:

http://www.racerocks.com/racerock/research/LGL_report/DNDreportbyLGL.htm

STRATEGIES FOR A SUSTAINABLE MARINE FUTURE

1.0 Introduction:

The key message of this resource is on global marine issues, and the integral role of all humans in maintaining environmentally sustainable marine ecosystems. Examples from the British Columbia marine environment are used to illustrate the principles which can also apply on a global scale. The over-arching concept of this resource is what marine environmental sustainability means locally and how people can be encouraged to commit to contribute to the process. We believe that people of all ages can use the tools to actively participate in making our marine environment sustainable.

 

logoWe thank the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, formerly the New Marine Centre in Sidney on Vancouver Island in British Columbia for supporting the development of the document that provides the basis for this curriculum resource. I encourage you to visit this centre opened in the spring of 2009.

Garry Fletcher
Marine Education Consulting
Victoria, BC.

Proceed to 2.0 Marine Environmental Sustainability :

Index

DND Blasting and Disturbance Of Marine Birds and Mammals at Race Rocks

PART 35.2.2.6 Disturbance by Pedestrians and Domestic Animals
Observed pedestrian effects were confined to monitoring areas on Great Race Rock. Pedestrian traffic was fairly constant throughout the year with a daily average of nearly three events (Table 9). The Reserve’s caretakers had a dog that was observed outdoors infrequently on Great Race Rock. No wildlife displacement was observed in response to the dog. A domestic cat was observed outside the house on one occasion, but no disturbance was noted. Pedestrian traffic, other than that of the researchers associated with this study, was common and occurred on most days. The Reserve’s caretakers and their family members, staff and students affiliated with LBPC (Photo 14), maintenance personnel, DFO enforcement officers, and tourists constituted the pedestrian traffic on Great Race Rock during monitored days. Although a sign-in log is maintained by LBPC to track the number of human visitors to Great Race Rock, those data were not analyzed in this study. Pedestrians displaced seal and sea lions on Great Race Rock. Pedestrian-caused disturbances typically involved: intentional clearing of northern elephant seals off the boat launch; incidental displacement of harbour seals in monitored Sub-Areas A, B, C, and H (Photo 15; Figure 20); incidental displacement of California sea lions (Figure 22) and to a lesser extent, northern sea lions in monitored Sub-Area A (near the dock); and incidental displacement of gulls throughout Great Race Rock (Table 8). On one occasion, two tourists were observed wandering through a grassy area that was being used for nesting by glaucous-winged gulls (Photo 16).

Photo 14. Students and staff from Lester B. Pearson College were frequent visitors to Great Race Rock. California
sea lions, such as those near the end of the dock, were often displaced from the vicinity by boats and people.
18 September 2003.

Photo 15. Approximately 200 harbour seals moved quickly from the shore of eastern Great Race Rock into the water immediately after being apparently startled by a high-pressure power washer being operated by a resident of the
island. This photo shows some of those animals displaced from Sub-Areas A&B. 25 September 2003

Photo 16. Two tourists wander through an active glaucous-winged gull nesting area (Sub-Area H) on Great Race
Rock; causing disturbance and risking egg destruction by trampling. 25 May 2003.

5.2.2.7 Disturbance by Aircraft
Very low numbers of aircraft were observed in or near the monitored area throughout the
monitored period (Figure 17; Photo 17). Most aircraft passed over or near the monitored area,
causing little or no apparent disturbance to wildlife (Table 8). Only one landing on the helipad on
Great Race Rock was observed. In January 2003, a Coast Guard helicopter did a brief landing in
order that we have an opportunity to observe the responses of birds and mammals. Some sea
lions, cormorants, and gulls were displaced. As reported by the ecoguardians in the 11 August
2003 entry of the Race Rocks Daily Log11 (a day on which LGL researchers were not present),
“A Coast Guard helicopter touched down several times, forcing young birds into other nests
where the adult birds pecked them apart. The disembodied heads and dismembered bodies of
seagull chicks now litter the island.” On 15 August 2003 we observed the carcasses of 6
glaucous-winged gull chicks near the eastern base of the light tower.
An aerial survey of
pinnipeds was conducted by DFO from a fixed-wing aircraft occurred on 10 April 2003. That
plane circled over Race Rocks for approximately 4 minutes at an estimated minimum altitude of
150 m asl. No birds were observed to flush, nor were any pinnipeds seen going into the water as
a result.

Photo 17. Most aircraft overflights did not cause animals to leave the rocks for the water or air. 17 October 2002.

5.2.2.8 Disturbance by Boats
Kayakers were rare in the monitored area. Only birds were observed (once) flushing in response
to the approach of a kayak. Boats operated by LBPC were observed regularly throughout the
monitored period (Figure 17), and together with the LGL boat, were the only boats to regularly
dock at Race Rocks. LBPC and LGL boats displaced modest numbers of birds and pinnipeds
from the dock area during most arrivals and departures (Table 8). Displaced animals included
California sea lions in Sub-Area A; northern sea lions in Sub-Areas A, 2-5, and 8-12; cormorants
and gulls from Great Race Rock and Sub-Area 2-5. Most trips by LBPC boats were between
Pedder Bay and the dock at Great Race Rock, via routes through the east-central part of the
reserve (Figure 25). Some illegal harvesting of fish and shellfish by recreational fishermen and
recreational scuba divers, respectively was observed during the study.


Figure 25. Relative distribution of Lester B. Pearson College boats observed in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve
during monitoring sessions from October 2002 through November 2003. Numbers represent observations in each
cell expressed as a percentage of the maximum total number (57) observed in a given cell. Colour coding: 0=blank;
>0-33.3=yellow; >33.3-66.7=orange; >66.7-100=red. Islands and the Ecological Reserve boundary are indicated.
Great Race Rock is identified as “GRR”. Note that for each separate trip to the area, vessels were recorded a
maximum of once in any given cell. Refer to Figure 2 and Figure 3 for further spatial information.

Pleasure boats (Photo 18) were observed throughout the monitored period, but were most
common during summer (Figure 17). Harbour seals, sea lions, and cormorants, were all
displaced by pleasure boaters (Table 8; Figure 20; Figure 22; Figure 24). Observations indicated
that rental boats and boats used for scuba diving typically caused the most disruption because
they approached haulouts the closest and sometimes anchored (contrary to regulations) near
haulouts. Most trips by pleasure boats were in the northern part of the Reserve (Figure 26).

Figure 26. Relative distribution of pleasure boats observed in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve during monitoring
sessions from October 2002 through November 2003. Numbers represent observations in each cell expressed as a
percentage of the maximum total number (43) observed in a given cell. Colour coding: 0=blank; >0-33.3=yellow;
>33.3-66.7=orange; >66.7-100=red. Islands and the Ecological Reserve boundary are indicated. Great Race Rock is
identified as “GRR”. Note that for each separate trip to the area, vessels were recorded a maximum of once in any
given cell. Refer to Figure 2 and Figure 3 for further spatial information.


Ecotour boats constituted the greatest amount of boat traffic in the monitored area, with peak visitation rates during the height of the summer tourist season (Figure 17; Photo 19). Daily numbers of ecotour boats ranged from 0 to 43, with as many as nine present in the study area at the same time. Some ecotour boats were observed to displace harbour seals, sea lions, cormorants, and gulls (Table 8; Figure 20; Figure 22; Figure 24), but most caused no observable effects. According to VHF radio communications among ecotour boat operators on marine channels 71 and 72, the presence of ecotour boats in the monitored area was a function of the location of killer whales within the ecotour operating region. For example, if killer whales were near the San Juan Islands, few if any ecotour boats travelled to Race Rocks. If killer whales were in the vicinity of Race Rocks, operators usually toured the Reserve. If no killer whales were known to be in the region, operators toured the Reserve as a “next-best” option. Most trips by pleasure boats were in the central part of the Reserve, focused on Sub-Areas 1, 2-5, 6-7, 8-12, and northern Great Race Rock (Figure 27).

Figure 27. Relative distribution of ecotour boats observed in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve during monitoring
sessions from October 2002 through November 2003. Numbers represent observations in each cell expressed as a
percentage of the maximum total number (211) observed in a given cell. Colour coding: 0=blank; >0-33.3=yellow;
>33.3-66.7=orange; >66.7-100=red. Islands and the Ecological Reserve boundary are indicated. Great Race Rock is
identified as “GRR”. Note that for each separate trip to the area, vessels were recorded a maximum of once in any
given cell. Refer to Figure 2 and Figure 3 for further spatial information.

5.2.2.9 Disturbance by Blasting
Observations of the effects of blasting on birds and pinnipeds were made during days when at
least one of the three ranges was active. Because so few observations were made during blasting in Whirl Bay (4 days) and on Christopher Point (1 day), the value of any inference made from
those data is limited. Further, on the only day that the Christopher Point Range was active,
blasting on that range had commenced prior to our arrival at Great Race Rock, precluding any
pre-blast observations. Additionally, blasting occurred on Bentinck Island that day also (Table
1). On one of the days that Whirl Bay was active, Bentinck Island was also active.
None of the data we collected suggested that blasting in Whirl Bay had any adverse effects on bird or pinniped behaviour in the study area (Table 8, Figure 19, Figure 21, Figure 23).(See Editor’s comments in the discussion below )

Some blasts in Whirl Bay were barely audible to us outside the top of the light tower and a spray of
water was occasionally observed.
The Christopher Point Range was active on 11 days during the study period. Four to 20
ordnances were detonated per day, most of which were <100 g (Appendix 9). Blasting monitored
on Christopher Point occurred at a time (20 February 2003) when few birds and pinnipeds were
in the study area (Figure 6 through Figure 12). Four basic charges, 454 g each, were detonated
separately. The first blast we heard was clearly audible and occurred just as we were arriving at
Race Rocks. Approximately 10 northern sea lions were observed leaving a haulout, apparently in
response to the blast. Some sea lions remained in the water near Sub-Area 8-12 all day, but were
not observed to haul out again that day.
Blasting on Bentinck Island was the most frequent form of blast-related, potential disturbances
observed (Figure 18). That range was active with demolition activities throughout the study
except mid-June through early October 2003, due to an extreme fire hazard caused by prolonged
drought. Demolitions on Bentinck Island are tabulated in Appendix 8. In summary, blasting
occurred on Bentinck Island on 26 days (5.2%) of the 502 day period 13 July 2002 through 27
November 2003.

6 DISCUSSION
6.1 Relevant Legislation
A number of provincial, federal, and international acts have direct implications for the
conservation of marine life in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve (Appendix 1). Presently,
legislation contained within the federal Fisheries Act (by way of the Marine Mammal
Regulations), the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Migratory Birds Convention
Act, the provincial Wildlife Act, and the provincial Ecological Reserve Act have the greatest
relevance for human-caused influences on wildlife in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. The
federal Species at Risk Act and the Oceans Act are likely to play an increased role in the future
given the recent trend in concern about some species (e.g., killer whales and northern sea lions)
and in the event that Race Rocks achieves Marine Protected Area status.
A strict interpretation of the Fisheries Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act, the Wildlife Act and
the Ecological Reserve Act would indicate that these acts are violated regularly within Race
Rocks Ecological Reserve by factors within the Reserve (e.g., boats and people) and by factors
outside the Reserve (i.e., military exercises involving ordnance). In addition to several violations
of the tidal waters fishing regulations (under the Fisheries Act) events we witnessed during the study, human activities frequently disturb and disrupt bird and mammal activity patterns. Such factors are discussed in greater detail in subsequent sections.
Best practices of dive vessels, divers, tour operators (Province of BC 2002; Appendix 1) are
voluntary guidelines for the conduct of selected recreational activities within Race Rocks
Ecological Reserve. Those guidelines cannot eliminate adverse effects of boats on marine life,
but they can reduce them. While we did not collect detailed data on all aspects of compliance
with those guidelines, it was apparent to us that the guidelines were often not followed by boat
operators and others in the Reserve. In general, commercial tour boats conformed best to the
guidelines—perhaps due to an awareness of the guidelines and the importance of proper conduct
on the part of the boat captains. On the other hand, dive vessels and pleasure boaters were more
likely to operate in a manner inconsistent with the guidelines.

The people who live on Great Race Rock serve as “ecoguardians” in the employ of LBPC and
are charged with ensuring that the laws pertaining to the Reserve are respected. The
ecoguardians have no authority to enforce any of legislation listed above, but do attempt to
prevent or stop people from violating laws by confronting them and informing them of the
situation. The ecoguardians also report infractions and apparent infractions to the Department of
Fisheries and Oceans. Two Department of Fisheries and Oceans enforcement officers visited
Race Rocks via boat on one occasion (23 January 2003) during the days we monitored. Their
presence that day displaced two northern sea lions, 12 cormorants, and 13 gulls.

6.2 Use of Race Rocks by Marine Birds and Pinnipeds
The biophysical environment of Race Rocks provides habitat for many species (Table 3;
Appendix 5). The value of the area for foraging by marine birds appears modest compared to the
value of nearby areas outside the Reserve. The value of the area for foraging by marine
mammals is not known. We observed seals and sea lions feeding on salmon and unidentified fish
species, and harbour seals were observed once feeding on an octopus. Northern elephant seals
appear to be using the area mainly during the moulting seasons. Harbour seals use the area as a
haulout year-round, but that species does not exhibit the same degree of site selection as the three
other pinniped species. For example, harbour seals are the only pinnipeds that haul out on the
nearby shores of Bentinck and Vancouver islands. The area serves as a staging site for California
sea lions passing through Juan de Fuca Strait en route to the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound.
Race Rocks is also a wintering, and perhaps staging area for northern sea lions. Killer whales use
the area occasionally as part of their movement corridor and possibly for foraging though we
made no such observations.
The fact that Race Rocks provides highly suitable habitat for marine birds and pinnipeds is
indisputable. However, an assessment of the extent to which Race Rocks provides important or
critical habitat for any given species is not so straightforward. According to the Species at Risk
Act:
“Critical habitat is habitat which is necessary for the survival or recovery of a
listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species’ critical habitat in the
recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species.” For species that are not listed under the Species at Risk Act, we use the term critical habitat to
refer to any habitat that is essential to the life processes of a species and that in the absence of
that habitat, the population would suffer detectable adverse effects.
In this context, it is not clear to what extent the population sizes of marine birds and pinnipeds
that presently occur in or that migrate through or over the waters of Juan de Fuca Strait and the
Strait of Georgia would differ in the absence of the exposed land in Race Rocks Ecological
Reserve. For example, while Race Rocks provides harbour seals, pigeon guillemots, black
oystercatchers, and glaucous-winged gulls with suitable breeding habitat, such habitat occurs
elsewhere in the marine areas of the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince (e.g., Campbell et al 1990
a, b; Jeffries et al. 2000; Evenson et al. 2001; Chatwin et al. 2002; Sullivan et al. 2002).
However, there are few if any areas like Race Rocks that provide suitable breeding habitat and
that are presently unoccupied. As such, the loss of Race Rocks likely could result in reduced
population sizes for species that breed there.
6.2.1 Birds
Gulls and cormorants, the most abundant birds in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, typically used
the area as a resting site from which they would fly to marine feeding areas within a few
kilometres. Depending on the species, the Reserve provides breeding, staging, wintering, and
year-round habitat. The area provides nesting habitat for glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon
guillemots, and black oystercatchers, and serves as migration/staging and wintering habitat for
several species of gulls and three species of cormorants. Most use by shorebirds appears to be for
migration/staging.
6.2.2 Northern Elephant Seal
Use of Race Rocks by northern elephant seals has increased substantially in recent years, most
likely as a result of the species dramatic recovery from near extinction in the early 20th century
and the species’ tendency to be highly migratory. The peak number (22) of adults and subadults
observed in spring 2003 may well represent a record number for BC during recorded history. In
recent years, northern elephant seal pups have been sighted at haulouts in the inland waters of
Washington State (Jeffries et al. 2000) and at least three are reported to have been born there
(Hayward 2003). It is likely that numbers of northern elephant seals using Race Rocks will
continue to increase. Given the recent records of breeding in Washington (Hayward 2003), Race
Rocks might be used for pupping, though it is unlikely that it would ever become a breeding
rookery of any significance—especially as long as there is infrastructure on Great Race Rock.
The primary value of Race Rocks for this species will likely remain as a haulout for a modest
number of animals during seasonal moulting periods, but because such a small fraction of the
population occurs there, it is unlikely that the Reserve provides the species with any critical
habitat.
6.2.3 Harbour Seal
Harbour seals occur year-round at Race Rocks, and use the area for all aspects of their life
history. Whereas northern elephant seals and sea lions moved to locations above the high tide
level on haulouts in the study area during flood tides, harbour seals remained confined to
intertidal areas where they were displaced by tides, swells and waves. Thus, their numbers exhibited considerably greater fluctuations at hourly, daily, and seasonal time scales compared to
other pinnipeds in the area. Numbers hauled out in the study area peaked during the summer
pupping and moulting periods, which is consistent with other research on the species (e.g.,
Jeffries et al. 2003).
Numbers of harbour seals have rebounded since the end of Canadian and U.S. government-
sponsored culling programs prior to the early 1970s. The result of this increase is that numbers of
harbour seals in the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince are likely as high as they were prior to the
onset of the culls and may be at or very near the predicted carrying capacity of local habitats. For
example, Olesiuk et al. (1990) estimated that from 1973-1987 (the period they examined)
harbour seals in British Columbian waters had a mean annual rate of increase of 12.5%, resulting
in nearly a 10-fold increase in numbers. Those authors speculated that 12.5% annual population
growth was close to the maximum intrinsic growth rate of the species. Similarly, Jeffries et al.
(2003) calculated that harbour seals in nearby Washington State waters increased 7-10 fold
between 1970 and 1999 and that the population of harbour seals in Washington State could
decline by up to 20% and still be above the maximum net productivity level for the population.
Harbour seals are known to move across the international boundary in the Georgia Depression
Ecoprovince (Huber et al 1993, cited in Calambokidis and Baird 1994). Clearly, there are no
reasons for concern about local harbour seal conservation based on population status alone.
Numerically speaking, the local population is in good shape and there is an abundance of high-
suitability habitat elsewhere in the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince (Jeffreies et al. 2000). Thus,
it is unlikely that Race Rocks Ecological Reserve presently provides critical habitat for this
species.
Bioaccumulation of anthropogenic toxins and their effects on immune-responses and fertility of
harbour seals is a subject matter that is receiving increased attention—particularly because of
parallel concerns about killer whales (see Calambokidis et al. 1994 and references therein).
However, we are not aware of any empirical data that presently indicate that toxins are adversely
affecting total numbers of harbour seals in the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince.
6.2.4 California Sea Lion
The number of California sea lions in British Columbian coastal waters has increased
substantially during the latter 20th century, particularly since 1980 (Bigg 1988a). The species
does not breed in BC, nor are there any records that it did so in the past. This increase is also the
result of a rebound in numbers following the termination of government-sponsored culls. Bigg
(1988a) reported that California sea lions were not present on Race Rocks prior to 1965.
Numbers have increased since then. P. Olesiuk (pers. comm. 2002) indicated that California sea
lions are expanding their non-breeding range northward within BC. Little is known of this
expansion, or of its present or future impacts on other marine resources. The patterns of
abundance at Race Rocks observed during this study indicate that the value of Race Rocks for
this species is primarily as a migration/staging area. California sea lions migrate to BC from
southern waters (e.g., California) then move between various haulouts and feeding areas,
including Race Rocks. Range expansion to the north may also explain the apparent decline in
peak numbers occurring at Race Rocks. An apparent increase in the use of the Victoria
waterfront and Trial Island haulout by California sea lions may partially explain an apparent
decline in use of Race Rocks by that species in autumn 2002. For example, data in Bigg (1988a) indicate that numbers of California sea lions at Race Rocks during February (not the peak month
according to recent data) increased from 13 in 1978 to 320 in 1982, to 799 in 1984. Demarchi et
al. (1998) reported a peak count of 836 in October 1997. In the present study, peak counts were
considerably lower at 244 individuals in September 2003. It is unlikely that Race Rocks
Ecological Reserve presently serves as critical habitat for this species.
6.2.5 Northern Sea Lion
The number of northern sea lions in British Columbian coastal waters has increased substantially
during the latter 20th century, and in particular, since 1980 (Bigg 1988b). This increase is also the
result of a rebound in numbers following the termination of government-sponsored culls. Recent
trends in the abundance of northern sea lions suggest an average annual rate of increase of 3.2%,
resulting in a population size that is more than double what it was when the species was
protected in 1970 (P. Olesiuk, unpublished data). No new breeding rookeries have been
established in recent years. Numbers of northern sea lions using Race Rocks have also increased
since culling ended. For example, Bigg (1988b) indicated that prior to 1965, northern sea lions
had not been recorded at Race Rocks. In 1971, no more than 71 northern sea lions were recorded
there. In 2002 we recorded a maximum count of 528 and in 2003, 555 individuals (Figure 12).
Observations made during this study indicate that numbers of northern sea lions at Race Rocks
fluctuate seasonally. Our findings concur with those of Bigg (1988b), who identified Race Rocks
as a winter haulout. Adult males are first to arrive in late summer. Females, subadults, and young
arrive later, with total numbers peaking in early winter. Though pups born at distant rookeries
were seen at Race Rocks, nursing behaviour was observed only occasionally. As winter
progressed animals began to leave the area and by late February few if any were present. This
pattern indicates that the area is used as a wintering site and may also serve as a
migration/staging area for animals moving between the Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait,
and outer coastal areas north and south of Juan de Fuca Strait.
Of the four species of pinnipeds that commonly occur at Race Rocks, only the northern sea lion
might be considered to be presently using the area as critical habitat. This opinion is predicated
on the following points: 1) the Western Stock of northern sea lions has exhibited a dramatic
decline in numbers in recent decades for unknown reasons. For the same reason(s), it is possible
that the Eastern Stock could also decline in the future; 2) Despite data suggesting that the
population is growing at a modest rate, the northern sea lion has recently been up-graded by
COSEWIC to a species of Special Concern and has been Red-Listed by the Province for several
years.
6.3 Effects of Natural and Human-Caused Disturbance
Animals respond to changes in environmental conditions for many different reasons and in many
different ways. This study focuses on only two responses to disturbance: increased activity
(pinnipeds only) and displacement from a terrestrial site to the air (birds) or water (birds and
pinnipeds). During this study it was clear that Race Rocks Ecological Reserve is exposed to
substantial fluctuations in many natural factors—often over very short time scales. Factors
operating at or below a daily time scale, including changes in tide and swell height, blasting on
Bentinck Island and human-caused disturbances on Great Race Rock exerted strong influences on the abundance of some species. None of the data we collected suggested that blasting in Whirl Bay had any effects on bird or pinniped behaviour in the study area. Although Demarchi et al. (1998) did observe northern sea lions responding to blasts in Whirl Bay, C-4 charges detonated during that study were considerably larger (thus, louder) than those used on the range during this
study. At best, some of the blasts in Whirl Bay were barely audible to us outside the top of the
light tower and a spray of water was occasionally observed. Insufficient monitoring during days
when the Christopher Point Range was active limits our ability to draw conclusions about the
effects of such blasting on birds and pinnipeds at Race Rocks. It should be noted that explosions
in WQ are not the only shore-based ones with the potential to disturb marine birds and pinnipeds
near southern Vancouver Island. The fireworks display at Butchart Gardens on Saanich Inlet
(approximately 32 km to the north) each Saturday evening during summer results in a
considerable amount of explosives-generated noise near the marine environment. Additionally,
there are fireworks associated with Canada Day, BC Day, and Halloween. Blasting in rock
quarries and for highway construction also occur periodically on southern Vancouver Island. The
potential for the foregoing to disturb marine wildlife is substantial, though the actual effects are
unknown.

Editor’s Note: This discussion of the results of DND Blasting is somewhat problematic and perhaps the result of too few observations by the research team when actual blasting was taking place. It must be noted that most of the blasting events occurring during the year of the study were not observed and recorded by the researchers. The following two references point to some archival footage that may lead to different conclusions:

http://www.racerocks.ca/before-and-after-images-of-dnd-blasting-effects/

DND Blasting Disturbs sea lions

DND Demolition Blasts affects Mammals and Birds at Race Rocks

The purpose of examining how marine birds and pinnipeds at Race Rocks responded to changing
environmental conditions and human-caused disturbances is to provide a better understanding of
the local ecological environment, and allow management actions to be sensitive to normal
processes. There are many reasons why animals respond to disturbances. Responses to
disturbance by birds and pinnipeds at Race Rocks are most likely the result of learning
experiences elsewhere or simply the result of reactions to sudden changes in the environment.
For example, not long ago, seals and sea lions were hunted extensively as vermin. Outside Race
Rocks Ecological Reserve animals continue to be shot and shot at for First Nations’ harvesting,
animal control at aquaculture facilities (Hume 2000), and as perceived pests and competitors by
commercial fishermen. Gulls and cormorants are also shot and shot at for purposes of wildlife
control at some airports and may be shot at by waterfowl hunters. As long as animals are
persecuted with firearms they can be expected to associate loud noises with danger; responding
by becoming alert and moving to the relative safety of the air or water. Such behaviour would be
expected even though animals are not shot or shot at in the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve to
our knowledge.

Humans and their actions have the potential to disturb wildlife. The following classification is
based on Wilson and Shackleton (2001), who described 3 theoretical classes of animal responses
to disturbance:

  • 1. Short-term acute behaviours—include responses that happen immediately in response to
    a disturbance. They include: increased vigilance, fleeing, group dissolution, mother-
    offspring separation, and injury.
    2. Medium-term chronic behaviours—include behavioural responses that occur over a
    period of days to months in response to disturbance. An example is temporary or
    permanent range abandonment.
    3. Long-term demographic consequences—are likely the most important aspect of matters
    surrounding wildlife disturbance. Demographic consequences include: population
    decline, extirpation and extinction.

Marine birds and pinnipeds at Race Rocks are exposed to a number of different disturbance
stimuli that alter normal behaviour patterns. The fact that human activities disturb wildlife does
not in itself provide a basis to ban such activities. Indeed, if that were the case, no people or
boats would be permitted in the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve without authorization. If
disturbances have no consequences for the population, or even if the population consequences
are sustainable, restricting human activities for the sake of preventing disturbance is likely to
have negative social consequences that are out of proportion to the impacts that are being
avoided or mitigated.

It is necessary to place the disturbance of marine life at Race Rocks into context in order to begin
to assess the significance of any adverse effects. The effects of disturbance can be viewed in a
hierarchical framework where effects on a population or species range from benign to severe
(Figure 28). Consequences of disturbance at the extremes of the range are obvious—stimuli that
do not elicit reactions are of no consequence while those that cause extirpation or extinction are
of great concern. Quantifying the existence and significance of the effects in-between these
extremes poses a far greater challenge. The US National Marine Fisheries Service
(50CFR216.103)12 defines a negligible impact as:

  • “ …an impact resulting from the specified activity that cannot be reasonably
    expected to, and is not reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock
    through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival.”

Ecoguardians resident on Great Race Rock provide a measure of protection for marine life in the Reserve, but the presence of inhabitants and infrastructure is not without impacts. In recognizing
some of those impacts, efforts are being taken to avoid or mitigate them (Province of BC 2002).
The infrastructure and various activities required to support the ecoguardians and the light station
undoubtedly affects use of the area by birds and pinnipeds and poses some risks to animals using
the area. Several potential effects are summarized below.

  • • Spatial footprint—Buildings and infrastructure eliminate or restrict use by some species. For example, the net area of grassy sites available for glaucous-winged gull breeding is reduced by a substantial amount.
    • Accessibility—The presence of a dock and boat launch makes Great Race Rock
    accessible to humans via boats. In the absence of those structures, boat access would be very difficult and extremely hazardous. The presence of a helipad provides safe helicopter access, however the island would still be accessible without it.
    • Disturbance and displacement—The presence of people and active machinery outside the buildings often disturbs and displaces birds and pinnipeds.
    • Noise pollution—Diesel generators operating during the study period did so without a properly functioning muffler, resulting in high levels of noise on the south side of Great Race Rock.

12 http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/get-cfr.cgi?TITLE=50&PART=216&SECTION=103&YEAR=1999&TYPE=TEXT

• Risk of fuel spill—Diesel required for the generators poses a risk of spill during fuel
transfer to the island and during storage and use on the island.

Figure 28. Conceptual model of the hierarchical effects of exposing a wildlife species to a non-directly lethal visual
or aural disturbance stimulus.

6.3.1 Birds
Of the birds observed on the rocks of the monitored area, cormorants appeared to be the most
sensitive to human-caused disturbances. Cormorants sometimes took to the water or air following a blast or close approach of a boat, often simply moving to another part of the study
area. The reduced probability of displacement in response to a blast on days when the
temperature was higher might have implied that warm weather was particularly valuable for
thermoregulation and that birds were reluctant to lose opportunities to dry their plumage or to
remain dry. The apparent avoidance of Great Race Rock by Brandt’s cormorants during winter
may suggest that that species is particularly sensitive to disturbances by people. However,
because cormorant attendance at the rocky areas of Race Rocks is normally very dynamic as
individuals move between terrestrial roosting areas and marine feeding areas, it is not possible to
assess the extent to which such disturbances adversely affect cormorants. Their continued
presence in the study area indicates that any adverse effects of disturbance are likely modest.
Gulls were very sensitive to overflights by bald eagles and often reacted by taking flight. In most
instances, gulls settled back within seconds or minutes of the disturbance. During the breeding
season, glaucous-winged gulls were particularly sensitive to the presence of people on Great
Race Rock and often acted very aggressively, dive-bombing at and defecating on anyone that
approached within a few meters of a nest. The influence of swell height on gull abundance at
Race Rocks (higher swells resulted in more gulls in the study area) might have reflected reduced
foraging due to unsuitable off-shore feeding conditions, reduced areas for loafing, and/or other
factors. It is also possible that some gulls moved to Race Rocks from the vicinity of Bentinck
Island during days when blasting occurred there.
Adult pigeon guillemots breeding on Great Race Rock commonly roosted on the periphery of the
island and on the dock during the morning. They were often flushed by boats and people, though
the birds usually returned soon after the disturbance had passed.
The apparent avoidance of Great Race Rock by bald eagles and Brandt’s cormorants is believed
to be in response to the presence of humans and the sensitivity of those species to disturbance.
However, we doubt that the maximum numbers of these species in the Reserve would be
significantly different in the absence of humans and infrastructure on Great Race Rock because
other resting areas exist in the Reserve.
Sullivan et al. (2002) speculated that disturbance and predation by bald eagles at glaucous-
winged gull colonies might be important factors contributing to the observed decline in the
reproductive output of those gulls in the Southern Strait of Georgia. Chatwin et al. (2002) made
similar conclusions regarding bald eagle impacts on pelagic and double-crested cormorant
colonies. Concerns about recent declines in numbers of glaucous-winged gulls and pelagic
cormorants at specific breeding sites in the southern Strait of Georgia may place increased
importance on the value of Great Race Rock as a breeding area, particularly for glaucous-winged
gulls. Because so few pelagic cormorants breed at Race Rocks and because breeding is sporadic
there, it is unlikely the area provides the species with critical nesting habitat. The situation at
Great Race Rock poses somewhat of a dilemma in this regard because on one hand, the presence
of buildings, infrastructure and people substantially reduces the area of land available for nesting
by glaucous-winged gulls. On the other hand, we suspect that the presence of people serves to
deter bald eagles from using Great Race Rock (see Table 2), thereby affording a measure of
protection to the gulls that do breed there. Race Rocks could be providing glaucous-winged gulls
with important nesting habitat that is relatively free of bald eagle disturbance. If other colonies
continue to decline, the importance of Race Rocks might increase in the future. However, it is unlikely that the Reserve presently provides critical habitat for glaucous-winged gulls. Further, while recent declines in numbers breeding at some colonies have been noted (Sullivan et al. 2002), the breeding population in the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince is believed to have doubled between 1960 and 1986 (Mahaffy et al. 1994). Expanded food availability at landfills and the fact that the species nests successfully on a number of human-made structures (e.g.buildings and structures associated with port facilities) have likely contributed to the increase (Vermeer et al. 1988).

6.3.2 Northern Elephant Seal
Of all pinniped species that occur at Race Rocks, northern elephant seals were the most tolerant
of any forms of disturbance we observed. Holst and Greene (2002) also found that military
training activities that generated noise elicited few noticeable reactions from northern elephant
seals. We did not detect any meaningful responses of northern elephant seals to either natural
factors or blasting. It is not known whether the decline in numbers of northern elephant seals that
occurred in the weeks following blasting on Bentinck Island in early May 2003 represented a
reaction to blasting or not. However, given the species’ lack of responses to blasting on a daily
time scale and the fact that animals hauled out at that time of year are expected to depart haulouts
following the moult, the decline was likely coincidental with blasting. The significance of the
complex interaction term of tide height, swell height, and blasting (Table 4) might reflect
increased afternoon counts of individuals that were present in the morning, but that were
previously hidden from view in the morning by sea lions that moved or departed the area in the
afternoon. It is also possible that the significance of the term is spurious. In any event, we found
nothing to suggest that northern elephant seals in the study area were adversely affected by
environmental factors or blasting in a meaningful way. Considering this and the status
information discussed in section 6.2.2, at present, no significant adverse effects stemming from
single or cumulative disturbance types on the regional population of this species are expected to
originate in or immediately adjacent to the study area.

6.3.3 Harbour Seal

In situations where most harbour seal activity did not proceed to the point of displacement,
blasting on Bentinck Island was the only factor that caused noticeable increases in harbour seal
activity (i.e., moving from a head-down to head-up position). Other factors such as pedestrians
caused increased activity. However, because animals moved quickly to the water in such events,
the sampling data do not reflect this as no counts were made between the time that the
disturbance occurred and the onset of displacement. Aside from seasonal effects, the abundance
of harbour seals in the study area was dictated primarily by tide height. As shown in Photo 11,
harbour seals were particularly sensitive to changes in tidal height because they selected
primarily the intertidal reaches of the study area for hauling out. Rising tides displaced harbour
seals from haulouts, while falling tides provided opportunities for hauling out. Harbour seals
haul out year-round, but the peak in this behaviour that occurs in the summer corresponds to two
biologically important events. First, harbour seals give birth while on land where mother-pup
pairs spend 90-100% of their time during the 4-6 week nursing period (Huber et al. 2001).
Second, each summer harbour seals moult (shed) their fur and grow a new coat. The fact that
harbour seals moult in the summer and that they haul out to do so likely reflects
thermoregulatory constraints (Ling et al. 1974). By hauling out, moulting seals reduce heat loss at a time when their coat provides the least amount of insulation. Also, basking in the summer
sun and on sun-warmed substrates heats the skin surface, likely increasing the metabolic rate of
hair follicles, thereby increasing the rate of hair growth. Evidence that thermal constraints affect
haulout behaviour is provided by seal responses during days when blasting occurred on Bentinck
Island. While greater numbers of projects (blasts) per run resulted in increased probability of
displacement, both swell height and air temperature also appeared to affect the probability of
displacement to the water. Following blasts on Bentinck Island, harbour seals were more likely
to go into the water when the air temperature was higher and the swell height was lower (Table
5). On cooler days with higher swells, harbour seals were more likely to remain hauled-out after
a disturbance stimulus possibly because of a relatively greater need for dermal warming at that
time. Despite variable reactions to individual blasting events, overall changes in the numbers of
harbour seals hauled out in the study area appeared to be adversely affected by blasting on
Bentinck Island, but the effect was not statistically significant. This was most likely because of
two reasons: 1) the dramatic effects of increased tide height masked any effects of blasting, and
2) small sample sizes. Although we were unable to observe seal responses to blasting during
summer because of a military range closure, the same pattern of declining abundance in response
to increased tide heights would have likely masked any effects of blasting. Data shown in Figure
14 suggest that with increased sample sizes, the effects of blasting on Bentinck Island would
likely have become statistically significant.

Harbour seals hauled out on Great Race Rock were usually very skittish in the presence of
humans. Seals near the dock (Photo 1; Sub-Areas A&H) seldom remained hauled out when boats
or people approached. Those on the east side of Great Race Rock (Sub-Areas B-D) were quick to
respond to human-caused disturbances that resulted in noise (e.g., an aluminum ladder dropped
on a concrete walkway, machinery starting up, close approaches by pedestrians). For example,
approximately 200 harbour seals moved quickly from the shore of eastern Great Race Rock into
the water immediately after a gasoline-powered high-pressure power washer started near the
caretaker’s residence.

Unlike the other pinnipeds in the study area, harbour seals do not undertake long-distance
migrations. A non-migratory life strategy is more conducive to a greater degree of familiarity
with certain aspects of an animal’s home range than is a migratory one. Harbour seals are long-
lived (up to 30 years; Bigg 1981) and individual harbour seals probably stay in the vicinity of the
study area year-round. Because the study area has been exposed to blasting, boats, and
pedestrians for many years, it is not unreasonable to assume that some harbour seals have
habituated somewhat to some disturbances there. The ability of harbour seals to habituate to
disturbances is supported by the fact that they are easily kept in captivity and exhibit a rapid
adjustment under restrained conditions (Bigg 1981). Harbour seals at Race Rocks, although
skittish in the presence of people, are more tolerant of close approaches by humans than are
harbour seals in areas where they are shot and shot at (M. Demarchi pers. obs.).

Harbour seals in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve exhibited short-term acute behaviours in
response to disturbances resulting from natural factors, blasting, boats, and pedestrians. Holst
and Greene (2003) made similar observations of harbour seals during noisy military training
exercises in California. The fact that such responses occur in response to human activities
indicates that disturbance (in the context of the Fisheries Act; or “takes” in the context of the US
Marine Mammal Protection Act) occurs. However, it is unlikely that any seals are seriously injured by any of the disturbances, nor is it likely that mother-pup pairs are permanently
separated resulting in dead pups, in a manner reported by Johnson (1977). We observed three
dead adult/subadult harbour seals on the shore of Great Race Rock, but did not observe any dead
pups during the study. Considering this and the status information discussed in section 6.2.3, no
significant adverse effects stemming from single or cumulative disturbance types on the regional
population of this species are expected to originate in or immediately adjacent to the study area.

6.3.4 California Sea Lion
Blasting on Bentinck Island and boat traffic increased the activity levels of California sea lions
hauled out in the study area. Pedestrians on Great Race Rock also caused increases in activity,
but usually fewer than ten animals were involved. Aside from seasonal effects, the abundance of
California sea lions in the study area was dictated primarily by swell height. As swell height
increased, so did the probability of a decline in abundance. According to the pattern of declining
abundance observed in autumn 2003 prior to blasting, the decline in numbers of California sea
lions following blasting in early October 2002 was more likely the result of natural migration
patterns than displacement due to disturbance (Figure 11).

Blasting on Bentinck Island, pleasure boats, and pedestrians all displaced California sea lions to
the water. Holst and Greene (2003) made similar observations of California sea lions during
noisy military training exercises in California. California sea lions were increasingly likely to be
displaced due to blasting on Bentinck Island with greater numbers of projects in a run and when
wind directions acted to amplify blast noise. Tide height did not appear to influence the
abundance of hauled-out California sea lions because they typically hauled out above the
intertidal zone. Pleasure boats that approached haulouts too closely were observed to displace
animals. California sea lions hauled out on Great Race Rock usually tolerated the presence of
humans nearby, but there was consistent displacement involving animals moving off the dock
and nearby shore in response to boats and pedestrians. It was occasionally possible to dock a
boat without displacing all individuals nearby, possibly because those animals had habituated to
such disturbances (Photo 14).

California sea lions in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve exhibited short-term acute behaviours in
response to disturbances resulting from natural factors, blasting, boats, and pedestrians. Such
responses to human activities indicates that disturbance (in the context of the Fisheries Act; or
“takes” in the context of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act) occurs. However, it is unlikely
that any animals are seriously injured by any of the disturbances. Considering this and the status
information discussed in section 6.2.4, at present, no significant adverse effects stemming from
single or cumulative disturbance types on the regional population of this species are expected to
originate in or immediately adjacent to the study area.

6.3.5 Northern Sea Lion
Blasting on Bentinck Island increased activity of hauled-out northern sea lions throughout the
study area. Animals in Sub-Areas 2-5, 6-7, 8-12, and 13 (i.e., closer to Bentinck Island) were
particularly sensitive. Animals in those sub-areas were also exposed to the greatest amounts of
boat traffic. Despite this, we did not observe any obvious shifts in animal distribution to areas
that were not as prone to disturbance by blasting and boats (e.g., Sub-Areas 14; 15-24).
Pedestrians on Great Race Rock also caused increases in activity, but usually fewer than ten animals were involved. Aside from seasonal effects, the abundance of northern sea lions in the
study area did not appear to be predictably influenced by any given factor. On several occasions,
northern sea lion activity increased substantially and many animals moved to the water, yet we
could not clearly identify any disturbance stimuli. In one such case, the only apparent cause was
the sudden appearance of the sun as a cloud moved past. Such behaviours have been observed by
others (e.g., Porter 1997). We speculate that those events are likely triggered by the actions of
one animal that, for whatever reason, panics. The effects of that animal cascade through the
group, prompting similar behaviours in others. Such events are likely inevitable for species that
occur in groups where such groups confer a measure of safety in that danger does not have to be
detected by every animal in order for an appropriate response to occur.
Disturbances caused by blasting on Bentinck Island, pleasure boats, and pedestrians all displaced
northern sea lions to the water.
Of all species monitored, the northern sea lion was most sensitive
to blasting on Bentinck Island. During 43 demolition runs, 1 animal was observed to be
displaced to the water in response almost 91% of the time. In a few instances, haulouts were
completely cleared of northern sea lions.
Because of this high rate of response, no natural factors
were found to significantly affect animal responses. Tide height did not appear to influence the
abundance of northern sea lions because, like northern elephant seals and California sea lions,
they typically hauled out above the intertidal zone or moved to higher points on the haulout
during flood tides. Pleasure boats that approached haulouts too closely were observed to displace
northern sea lions. Northern sea lions hauled out on Great Race Rock were less tolerant of the
presence of humans nearby, as there was consistent displacement involving animals moving off
the dock in response to boats and pedestrians.
The decline of the Western Stock of northern sea lions in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands
in the late 1970s and 1990s is presently a matter of intense research13. Investigations into the
causes of the decline involve a number of hypotheses, including nutritional stress (Trites and
Donnelly 2003), human-caused disturbance (L Kucey14, in progress), and predation by killer
whales following a decline in whale prey as a result of excessive commercial whaling in the past
(Springer et al. 2003). While there is presently no consensus on the cause(s) of the decline,
Pascual and Adkinson (1994) concluded that only a long-term change in the environment or
novel catastrophe would be capable of causing the magnitude of the observed decline. Pascual
and Adkinson (1994) note the difficulty in eliminating human-caused disturbance as a causative
factor because human activity in the region has increased simultaneously with the decline in sea
lion numbers. However, if disturbance was the primary cause, one should expect the Eastern
Stock (of which animals at Race Rocks are part) to have exhibited a similar, if not more
pronounced decline because of perhaps an even greater increase in human activities within their
range. Springer et al. (2003) favour the predation hypothesis over others such as nutritional stress
and disturbance for several reasons. According to them:

  • “The absence of beach-stranded [northern sea lion] carcasses is one of the most
    intriguing and perplexing features of these declines. Sea otter mortality from
    nutritional limitation, disease, and pollution typically results in large numbers of
    stranded carcasses. Pinnipeds often sink when killed at sea, although many such
    individuals float to the surface and wash ashore later. Malnourished or diseased
    pinnipeds commonly haul out to die. The near absence of stranded carcasses and
    a lack of reports of distressed animals on beaches or of emaciated animals taken
    by subsistence hunters thus are most consistent with losses to predators.”

13 refer to: http://nmml.afsc.noaa.gov/AlaskaEcosystems/sslhome/StellerHome.html
14 refer to: http://www.marinemammal.org/MMRU/laura.html

While we did not examine body condition of northern sea lions closely, in our opinion, the
individuals at Race Rocks did not exhibit any signs of malnutrition (e.g., lethargic behaviour,
emaciated bodies with visible bone structure).

Northern sea lions in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve exhibited short-term acute behaviours in
response to disturbances resulting from natural factors, blasting, boats, and pedestrians. The fact
that such responses occur in response to human activities indicates that disturbance (in the
context of the Fisheries Act; or “takes” in the context of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act)
occurs. Although we observed a few subadult males with cuts and patches of missing skin, such
injuries likely resulted from fights with each other. It is unlikely that any animals are seriously
injured by any of the disturbances. Despite the species’ sensitivity to blasting, displaced
individuals typically began returning to the haulout within minutes or hours of the disturbance,
indicating that they were not displaced from the study area or very far from it (this study;
Demarchi et al. 1998). The fact that Race Rocks is not a rookery for this species means that the
risks of pup abandonment or trampling due to blast-caused disturbances (e.g., stampedes) are
very low. Considering the foregoing and the status information discussed in section 6.2.5, no
significant adverse effects stemming from single or cumulative disturbance types on the regional
population of this species are expected to originate in or immediately adjacent to the study area.

7 CONCLUSIONS
The fact that Race Rocks provides highly suitable habitat for marine birds and pinnipeds is
indisputable. However, the Northern Sea Lion (COSEWIC, Special Concern; Conservation Data
Centre, Red Listed) is the only species that could be reasonably expected to pose any local
conservation concerns at Race Rocks at present. The black oystercatcher (COSEWIC, Not
Listed; Conservation Data Centre, Yellow Listed) might become a concern in the future at Race
Rocks due to the relatively low number of breeding pairs in the province.

Marine birds and pinnipeds at Race Rocks are exposed to a number of different disturbance
stimuli that alter normal behaviour patterns. The fact that human activities disturb wildlife does
not in itself provide a basis to ban such activities. Indeed, if that were the case, no people or
boats would be permitted in the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve without authorization. If
disturbances have no consequences for the population, or even if the population consequences are sustainable, restricting human activities for the sake of preventing disturbance is likely to have negative social and other consequences that are out of proportion to the impacts that are being avoided or mitigated.
According to the findings of this study,
no significant adverse effects stemming from single or
cumulative disturbance types on the regional populations of any species of marine bird or
pinniped at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve are expected to presently originate in, or
immediately adjacent to, the study area.
This is consistent with Holst and Greene (2003), who
concluded that, despite eliciting behavioural responses, noisy military training exercises in
California only had minor, short-term, and localized, effects on pinnipeds, with no consequences
for the pinniped populations.

.15. During the study, we observed three dead harbour seals, one dead northern sea lion, and two California sea lions with potentially life-threatening internal injuries. Both California sea lions were emaciated and exhibited lethargic, abnormal behaviours. A number (<20) of other sea lions were observed with various anthropogenic materials (e.g., nets, rope and other closed-loop materials, fishing gear) around their heads, necks or torsos, or in the case of fishing gear, hanging from their mouths. While some of those animals would likely die from their entanglement, none appeared to be near-death when we observed them. One subadult male northern elephant seal was severely cut up, but was observed several months later, mostly healed. One male California sea lion had a severe injury to one front flipper. Several northern sea lion males were observed with what appeared to be non-life- threatening dermal wounds (i.e., torn or missing skin) on their chests.

Return to Part 1

Return to Part 2

Proceed to References

Proceed to Appendices

 

Effects of natural and human-caused Disturbances on Marine Birds and Pinnipeds at Race Rocks

Disturbances On Marine Birds and Mammals at Race Rocks

Prepared forDepartment of National Defence
Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt
Victoria, BC &
Public Works & Government Services Canada
Pacific Region Victoria, BC
Prepared by Mike W. Demarchi (M.Sc. R.P.Bio.) and Michael D. Bentley
LGL Limited
environmental research associates
9768 Second Street Sidney, BC V8L 3Y8
Cover photo: northern sea lions hauled out in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, November 2003EXECUTIVE SUMMARY On behalf of the Department of National Defence and Public Works & Government Services Canada, LGL Limited conducted a 14-month assessment of natural and human-caused factors with potential to affect key species of marine birds and pinnipeds at Race Rocks, British Columbia. This study had the following objectives:

  • Summarize legislation with direct or indirect relevance for marine birds and mammals at Race Rocks.
  • Document whether the study area is being utilized for: a breeding area, a summering or wintering area, migration corridors, or staging areas by marine birds and pinnipeds.
  • Assess the affects of abiotic factors on the abundance of marine birds and pinnipeds in the study area.
  • Document and assess the effects of demolitions from the Whirl Bay Underwater Demolition Range, Bentinck Island Demolition Range, and Christopher Point Ordnance Disposal Range on marine birds and pinnipeds in the study area.
  • Document the effects of ecotour boats, other boats, aircraft, and pedestrian traffic in and near the study area on marine birds and pinnipeds.
  • Determine if abiotic factors such as air temperature, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, wave height, tide height ameliorate or amplify animal responses to anthropogenic disturbances.
  • Examine local populations of marine mammals and birds to assess the immediate and cumulative effects of local anthropogenic activities such as demolition training, ecotouring, pleasure boating, aircraft overflights, and human activities associated with operations on Great Race Rock.

During 6 October 2002 through 27 November 2003, 52 monitoring sessions were conducted. Many different weather conditions, sea conditions, and human-caused disturbance events were observed. Tidal conditions changed considerably on hourly, daily and seasonal timescales. Animal distributions in the study area were very aggregated and showed clear patterns of seasonal variation.

The Federal and Provincial status of key wildlife species, together with a brief species account of each were presented. Species that are common at Race Rocks use the area to fulfil life history needs including, non-breeding seasonal ranges, breeding habitat, migration/staging, and moulting. Important uses of the area by common species are summarized in the table below. Race Rocks provides highly suitable habitat, but with the possible exceptions of northern sea lions and black oystercatchers, the area is not likely providing any species with critical habitat (see page 55) at present.

Northern elephant seals were the least abundant pinniped throughout the study. Maximum daily counts ranged from 0 in the late autumn to 22 in the spring. Harbour seals were the most abundant pinniped throughout the study. Maximum daily counts ranged from 0 in the winter to 667 in the summer. California sea lions were the third most abundant pinniped during study. Maximum daily counts ranged from 0 in the winter and summer to 244 in late summer.

Northern sea lions were the second most abundant pinniped during the study. Maximum daily counts ranged from 0 in the summer to 555 in late autumn. Although the northern sea lion is Red Listed in British Columbia, all individuals that occur at Race Rocks are believed to be from the Eastern Stock. Whereas the Western Stock is listed as Endangered under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Eastern Stock is not.

Within seasons, weather and sea conditions affected the abundance of some bird and pinniped species, and the probability that a disturbance event would disturb some species to the point of displacement. Pinnipeds, and particularly northern sea lions, responded to blasting by increasing activity and leaving a haulout. Blast-caused disturbances are believed to be triggered by responses to sounds that “scare” rather than injure animals. Observations of the effects of blasting on birds and pinnipeds were made during days when at least one of the three ranges was active. Because so few observations were made during blasting in Whirl Bay (4 days) and on Christopher Point (1 day), the value of any inference made from those data is limited. None of the data we collected suggested that blasting in Whirl Bay had any adverse effects on bird or pinniped behaviour in the study area. Blasting monitored on Christopher Point occurred at a time (20 February 2003) when few birds and pinnipeds were in the study area. Blasting on Bentinck Island was the most frequent form of blast-related, potential disturbances observed. Pre-disturbance pinniped activity levels did not differ significantly among the types of monitoring days. There were no significant differences in mean activity levels of pinnipeds during samples throughout the day when no disturbance stimulus was attributed to the observation when the Bentinck Island Range was active compared to days when the range was inactive. Of all pinniped species that occur at Race Rocks, northern elephant seals were the most tolerant of any forms of disturbance we observed. Blasts on Bentinck Island were the only disturbance to consistently cause a noticeable increase in harbour seal activity for those animals that were not displaced. Blasts on Bentinck Island caused the most noticeable increases in California sea lion activity. Blasts on Bentinck Island and unknown disturbance stimuli had noticeable effects on California sea lion displacement from land to water. Blasts on Bentinck Island caused the greatest increase in northern sea lion activity and ecotour boats also caused an increase in activity levels; particularly on days when the Bentinck Island Range was active. Blasts on Bentinck Island and unknown disturbance stimuli had the most noticeable effects on northern sea lion displacement from land to water. Blasts on Bentinck Island caused at least 1 northern sea lion to move to the water 90.7% of the time the species was present on a haulout. Boats and pedestrians also displaced these animals. Despite the northern sea lion’s sensitivity to blasting, displaced individuals typically began returning to the haulout within minutes or hours of the disturbance, indicating that they were not displaced from the study area or very far from it. Pedestrians displaced seals, sea lions and gulls from Great Race Rock. Pedestrian-caused disturbances typically involved: intentional clearing northern elephant seals off the boat launch; incidental displacement of harbour seals, incidental displacement of California sea lions, and to a lesser extent, northern sea lions; and incidental displacement of gulls. Overflights by raptors such as bald eagles were the most consistent (93.7% of events recorded) disturbance that caused some animals (in this case, primarily gulls) to take flight or enter the water. Very low numbers of aircraft passed over or near the monitored area, causing little or no apparent disturbance to wildlife. The Coast Guard helicopter might be an exception.Kayakers were rare in the monitored area. Boats operated by LBPC were observed regularly throughout the monitored period, and together with the LGL boat, were the only boats to regularly dock at Race Rocks. LBPC and LGL boats displaced modest numbers of birds and pinnipeds from the dock area during most arrivals and departure. Pleasure boats were observed throughout the monitored period, mainly in summer. Harbour seals, sea lions, and cormorants, were all displaced by pleasure boaters. Some poaching of fish and shellfish occurs by recreational fishermen and recreational scuba divers, respectively. Ecotour boats constituted the greatest amount of boat traffic in the monitored area, with peak visitation rates during the height of the summer tourist season. Daily numbers of ecotour boats ranged from 0 to 43, with as many as nine present in the study area at the same time. Some ecotour boats were observed to displace harbour seals, sea lions, cormorants, and gulls, but most caused no observable effects. The fact that Race Rocks provides highly suitable habitat for marine birds and pinnipeds is indisputable. However, determining the extent to which Race Rocks provides important or critical habitat for any given species is not so straightforward. Northern Sea Lion (COSEWIC, Special Concern; Conservation Data Centre, Red Listed) is the only species that could be reasonably expected to pose any local conservation concerns at Race Rocks at present. The black oystercatcher (COSEWIC, Not Listed; Conservation Data Centre, Yellow Listed) might become a concern in the future at Race Rocks due to the relatively low number of breeding pairs in the province. Marine birds and pinnipeds at Race Rocks are exposed to a number of different disturbance stimuli that alter normal behaviour patterns. The fact that human activities disturb wildlife does not in itself provide a basis to ban such activities. Indeed, if that were the case, no people or boats would be permitted in the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve without authorization. If disturbances have no consequences for the population, or even if the population consequences are sustainable, restricting human activities for the sake of preventing disturbance is likely to have negative social and other consequences that are out of proportion to the impacts that are being avoided or mitigated.By increasing animal activity and displacing animals from the land to the air and water, humans exert adverse effects on marine birds and pinnipeds at Race Rocks. However, no significant adverse effects stemming from single or cumulative disturbance types on the regional populations of any species of marine bird or pinniped at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve are expected to presently originate in, or immediately adjacent to, the study area.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Many people assisted with this study. We especially thank Duane Freeman (Department of National Defence, CFB Esquimalt, Formation Environment) and Andrew Smith (Public Works and Government Services Canada) for their leadership and assistance in conducting this important research. Duane Freeman and Tracy Cornforth (Formation Environment) provided constructive reviews of draft of this report. Rae-Ann Shaw (Public Works and Government Services Canada) provided important administrative assistance. Duane Freeman and his department staff reviewed a draft of this report. PO Rob Cantwell, PO Chris MacDonald, and PO Oliver provided important logistic support concerning training activities on Bentinck Island and Whirl Bay. ESO Al Carter provided information concerning Christopher Point. Rik Simmons, Don McLaren, and Debbie McKinnon (Province of BC) assisted with research permitting. Captain Terry Weber and Vivian Skinner (Canadian Coast Guard) provided access to the light tower. Phil Emery (Canadian Coast Guard) coordinated a staged helicopter landing. Angus Matthews, Garry Fletcher, and Mike and Carol Slater (Pearson College) provided logistical support on Great Race Rock. Peter Olesiuk (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) provided some information on pinnipeds. Gary Searing of LGL provided important assistance with the study proposal and reviewed a draft of this report. Steve Johnson reviewed portions of a draft of this report. Dorothy Baker of LGL Limited proofed draft of this report. Mike Demarchi, Steve Johnson and Sonya Meier supervised field activities. Michael Bentley, Karen Truman, Lucia Ferreira, Jim Ferguson, Virgil Hawkes, Dave Robichaud, Jason Smith, Andrew Davis, and Philina English assisted with data collection. All photographs were taken by the senior author, except where noted. Suggested Citation: DEMARCHI, MW AND MD BENTLEY. 2004. Effects of natural and human-caused disturbances on marine birds and pinnipeds at Race Rocks, British Columbia. LGL Report EA1569. Prepared for Department of National Defence, Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt and Public Works and Government Services Canada. 103 p.EXECUTIVE SUMMARY……………………………………………………………………………………………….i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS……………………………………………………………………………………………..v CONTENTS………………………………………………………………………………………………………………vi
LIST OF TABLES……………………………………………………………………………………………………….viii
LIST OF FIGURES…………………………………………………………………………………………………….ix
LIST OF PHOTOS……………………………………………………………………………………………………..xi
LIST OF APPENDICES……………………………………………………………………………………………….xii
1 INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………………………………………………1
1.1 STUDY OBJECTIVES……………………………………………………………………………………………1
2 RELEVANT LEGISLATION..………………………………………………………………………………………2
3 STUDY AREA AND VICINITY…………………………………………………………………………………….2
3.1 RACE ROCKS ECOLOGICAL RESERVE………………………………………………………………….2
3.2 MARINE TRAINING AND EXERCISE AREA WQ………………………………………………………….4
3.3 MARINE LIFE………………………………………………………………………………………………………7
3.3.1 Injury and Disturbance…………………………………………………………………………………………8
3.3.2 Species Accounts………………………………………………………………………………………………9
3.3.2.1 Brandt’s Cormorant (Not Listed; Red Listed)……………………………………………………………9
3.3.2.2 Double-crested Cormorant (Not at Risk; Blue Listed)…………………………………………………9
3.3.2.3 Pelagic Cormorant (pelagicus subspecies Not Listed; Red Listed – resplendens
…………subspecies Not Listed; Yellow Listed)……………………………………………………………………10
3.3.2.4 Bald Eagle (Not at Risk; Yellow listed)……………………………………………………………………10
3.3.2.5 Peregrine Falcon (anatum subspecies Threatened; Red Listed – pealei subspecies
………..Special Concern; Blue Listed)………………………………………………………………………………10
3.3.2.6 Black Oystercatcher (Not Listed; Yellow Listed)……………………………………………………….10
3.3.2.7 Black Turnstone (Not Listed; Yellow Listed)…………………………………………………………….10
3.3.2.8 Surfbird (Not Listed; Yellow Listed)……………………………………………………………………….11
3.3.2.9 Rock Sandpiper (Not Listed; Yellow Listed)……………………………………………………………..11
3.3.2.10 Heerman’s Gull (Not Listed; Yellow Listed)…………………………………………………………….11
3.3.2.11 California Gull (Not Listed; Blue Listed)…………………………………………………………………11
3.3.2.12 Herring Gull (Not Listed; Yellow Listed)………………………………………………………………..11
3.3.2.13 Thayer’s Gull (Not Listed; Yellow Listed)………………………………………………………………11
3.3.2.14 Western Gull (Not Listed; Yellow Listed)……………………………………………………………….11
3.3.2.15 Glaucous-winged Gull (Not Listed; Yellow Listed)……………………………………………………12
3.3.2.16 Pigeon Guillemot (Not Listed ;Yellow Listed)………………………………………………………….12
3.3.2.17 Northern Elephant Seal (Not at Risk; Yellow Listed)…………………………………………………13
3.3.2.18 Harbour Seal (Not at Risk; Yellow Listed)………………………………………………………………14
3.3.2.19 California Sea Lion (Not at Risk; Yellow Listed)………………………………………………………15
3.3.2.20 Northern Sea Lion (Special Concern; Red Listed)……………………………………………………16
3.3.2.21 Killer Whale (Northeast Pacific Southern Resident population: Endangered, Red Listed
……….Northeast Pacific Transient population: Threatened, Red Listed)……………………………………17
4 METHODS………………………………………………………………………………………………………………184.1 ANALYTICAL LIMITATIONS………………………………………………………………………………………19. 4.2 DATA ANALYSES………………………………………………………………………………………………….205 RESULTS………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..205.1 CENSUS DATA………………………………………………………………………………………………………23 5.1.1 Cormorants………………………………………………………………………………………………………….25 5.1.2 Bald Eagle…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..26 5.1.3 Gulls………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….265.1.4 Northern Elephant Seal………………………………………………………………………………………….275.1.5 Harbour Seal………………………………………………………………………………………………………285.1.6 California Sea Lion……………………………………………………………………………………………….285.1.7 Northern Sea Lion………………………………………………………………………………………………..29 5.2 NATURAL AND HUMAN-CAUSED DISTURBANCES……………………………………………………….305.2.1 Effects of Disturbance on Animal Abundance from Morning to Afternoon……………………………30 5.2.1.1 Cormorants……………………………………………………………………………………………………….30 5.2.1.2 Gulls……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….305.2.1.3 Northern Elephant Seal……………………………………………………………………………………….325.2.1.4 Harbour Seal…………………………………………………………………………………………………….325.2.1.5 California Sea Lion……………………………………………………………………………………………..33 5.2.1.6 Northern Sea Lion……………………………………………………………………………………………….355.2.2 Effects of Discrete Disturbance Events on Animal Abundance and Behaviour..…………………….375.2.2.1 Effects on Harbour Seals……………………………………………………………………………………..405.2.2.2 Effects on California Sea Lions………………………………………………………………………………41 5.2.2.3 Effects on Northern Sea Lions………………………………………………………………………………..435.2.2.4 Disturbance by Killer Whales…………………………………………………………………………………455.2.2.5 Disturbance by Raptors………………………………………………………………………………………..455.2.2.6 Disturbance by Pedestrians and Domestic Animals…………………………………………………….465.2.2.7 Disturbance by Aircraft…………………………………………………………………………………………485.2.2.8 Disturbance by Boats…………………………………………………………………………………………..495.2.2.9 Disturbance by Blasting………………………………………………………………………………………..53 6 DISCUSSION..……………………………………………………………………………………………………………546.1 RELEVANT LEGISLATION…………………………………………………………………………………………546.2 USE OF RACE ROCKS BY MARINE BIRDS AND PINNIPEDS…………………………………………..556.2.1 Birds………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….566.2.2 Northern Elephant Seal…………………………………………………………………………………………..566.2.3 Harbour Seal………………………………………………………………………………………………………..566.2.4 California Sea Lion…………………………………………………………………………………………………576.2.5 Northern Sea Lion………………………………………………………………………………………………….586.3 EFFECTS OF NATURAL AND HUMAN-CAUSED DISTURBANCE……………………………………….586.3.1 Birds…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..616.3.2 Northern Elephant Seal……………………………………………………………………………………………636.3.3 Harbour Seal…………………………………………………………………………………………………………63 6.3.4 California Sea Lion…………………………………………………………………………………………………..65 6.3.5 Northern Sea Lion……………………………………………………………………………………………………65 7 LITERATURE CITED……………………………………………………………………………………………………..69. 8 APPENDICES..………………………………………………………………………………………………………….74 viiiLIST OF TABLES…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..Page
..
Table 1. Dates and active range status in WQ during 52 monitoring sessions at Race Rocks……………21Table 2. Distribution (percent) of all observations of common species and groups in the Race Rocks study area during morning and afternoon censuses from October 2002 through November 2003……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..24Table 3. Summary of the presence and important seasonal uses (shaded cells) of Race Rocks made by species that commonly occur there……………………………………………………………………………………………………….24 Table 4. Results of logistic regression analyses to detect the effect of, tide, swell height, and Bentinck Island demolitions on the relative change in numbers of animals in the Race Rocks census area in the afternoon versus morning periods from October 2002 through November 2003……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..31Table 5. Results of logistic regression analyses to detect the effect of number of projects in a run, tide height, swell height, air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, sea state, cloud cover, precipitation class, and visibility class on animal displacement during demolition runs on Bentinck Island from October 2002 through November 200…31 Table 6. Results of one-way ANOVA tests* of pre-discrete disturbance activity levels by type of monitoring day regarding military training range activities…………………………………………………………………………………………….37Table 7. Results of t-Tests for differences between mean daily activity levels of pinniped based on samples when no discrete disturbance stimulus was attributed to the sample during days when Bentinck Island was active compared to days when no blasting occurred there (refer to Table 1 for dates included)……………………………………….37Table 8. Percent of potential disturbance events that caused birds to fly or birds/pinnipeds to enter
the water………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..38
Table 9. Minimum, maximum, mean and standard deviation of the daily frequency of selected disturbance events as observed during 52 monitoring sessions at Race Rocks, BC spanning the period October 2002 through
November 2003 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..38
ixLIST OF FIGURES

Page Figure 1. Map of southern Vancouver Island and eastern Juan de Fuca Strait………………………….3 Figure 2. Map of Sub-Areas within the study area……………………………………………………………………..4Figure 3. Map of southern Vancouver Island and vicinity, showing Rocky Point, Race Rocks Ecological Reserve (within 20-fathom contour), and Military Training Area WQ (within circle)…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….6 Figure 4. Predicted tide heights at William Head during the study period………………………………………..22Figure 5. Daily differences in predicted tide heights at William Head during the study period……………….22Figure 6. Total numbers of cormorants on land in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve on each of 2 daily censuses (1=morning; 2=afternoon ) as observed from atop the light tower……………………………………………………25Figure 7. Total numbers of bald eagles on land in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve on each of 2 daily censuses (1=morning; 2=afternoon ) as observed from atop the light tower……………………………………………………26Figure 8. Total numbers of gulls on land in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve on each of 2 daily censuses (1=morning; 2=afternoon ) as observed from atop the light tower……………………………………………………………………27Figure 9. Total numbers of northern elephant seals hauled out in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve on each of 2 daily censuses (1=morning; 2=afternoon ) as observed from atop the light tower. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..27 Figure 10. Total numbers of harbour seals hauled out in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve on each of 2 daily censuses (1=morning; 2=afternoon ) as observed from atop the light tower…………………………………………………….28Figure 11. Total numbers of California sea lions hauled out in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve on each of 2 daily censuses (1=morning; 2=afternoon ) as observed from atop the light tower ………………………………………29 Figure 12. Total numbers of northern sea lions hauled out in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve on each of 2 daily censuses (1=morning; 2=afternoon ) as observed from atop the light tower……………………………………………………..29Figure 13. Boxplot summaries of daily changes in the abundance of gulls when Bentinck Island was inactive and when blasting occurred there, grouped by net change in swell condition in the afternoon versus morning peri ……32Figure 14. Boxplot summaries of daily changes in the abundance of harbour seals when Bentinck Island was inactive and when blasting occurred there, grouped by net change in tide height in the afternoon versus morning peri…..33 Figure 15. Boxplot summaries of daily changes in the abundance of California sea lions when Bentinck Island was inactive and when blasting occurred there, grouped by net change in swell condition in the afternoon versus morning period…35Figure 16. Boxplot summaries of daily changes in the abundance of Northern sea lions when Bentinck Island was inactive and when blasting occurred there, grouped by net change in swell condition in the afternoon versus morning period…36 Figure 17. Stacked line (cumulative total) chart of potential disturbance events (i.e., raptor, boat, pedestrian, and air traffic) during 52 monitoring sessions in the Race Rocks study area of from 6 October 2002 through 27 November 2003…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..39 Figure 18. Number of blasts that occurred during each of the 52 monitoring sessions in the Race Rocks study area of from 6 October 2002 through 27 November 2003………………………………………………………………………….39 Figure 19. Activity levels of harbour seals at Race Rocks expressed as the mean values observed for each disturbance class on days when no blasting occurred (“No Range”), days when blasting occurred on Bentinck Island (“Bentinck”), and days when blasting occurred in Whirl Bay (“Whirl Bay”) only…………………………………………………………..40Figure 20. Comparative changes in numbers of harbour seals in monitored sub-areas for selected potential disturbance types…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………41Figure 21. Activity levels of California sea lions at Race Rocks expressed as the mean values observed for each disturbance class on days when no blasting occurred (“No Range”), days when blasting occurred on Bentinck Island (“Bentinck”), and days when blasting occurred in Whirl Bay (“Whirl Bay”) only……………………………………..42 Figure 22. Comparative changes in numbers of California sea lions in selected monitored areas for selected potential disturbance types………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….43Figure 23. Activity levels of northern sea lions at Race Rocks expressed as the mean values observed for each disturbance class on days when no blasting occurred (“No Range”), days when blasting occurred on Bentinck Island (“Bentinck”), and days when blasting occurred in Whirl Bay (“Whirl Bay”) only………………………………………44 Figure 24. Comparative changes in numbers of northern sea lions in selected monitored areas for selected potential disturbance types………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….45 Figure 25. Relative distribution of Lester B. Pearson College boats observed in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve during monitoring sessions from October 2002 through November 2003……………………………………………………….50Figure 26. Relative distribution of pleasure boats observed in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve during monitoring sessions from October 2002 through November 2003………………………………………………………………………………….51Figure 27. Relative distribution of ecotour boats observed in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve during monitoring sessions from October 2002 through November 2003………………………………………………………………………………….53 Figure 28. Conceptual model of the hierarchical effects of exposing a wildlife species to a non- directly lethal visual or aural disturbance stimulus……………………………………………………………………………………………………….61 LIST OF PHOTOS

Page Photo 1. Aerial photo of Great Race Rock as viewed from the northwest………………………………..5Photo 2. Adult glaucous-winged gull nesting on a grassy area of Great Race Rock………………………….12 Photo 3. Subadult male northern elephant seal………………………………………………………………………..13Photo 4. Mother-pup pairs of harbour seals are commonly observed at Race Rocks during………………..14Photo 5. Harbour seals haul out in abundance on intertidal portions of the study area………………………14 Photo 6. California sea lions hauled-out on Great Race Rock………………………………………………………15 Photo 7. Northern sea lions hauled out on Sub-Area 2-5 of Race Rocks…………………………………………16Photo 8. Killer whales, such as this lone male, were infrequently observed in the study area. 7 August 2003….17 Photo 9. Example of tidal effect on the area of exposed land available for birds and pinnipeds……………. 23Photo 10. Portion of a feeding flock of primarily gulls and cormorants, located approximately 2 km southeast of Race Rocks……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………25 Photo 11. Example of how tide height affected haulout availability for harbour seals, including during the peak of their pupping season………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..34Photo 12. An example of typical pinniped responses to blasting…………………………………………………..36 Photo 13. Raptors such as this adult bald eagle frequently disturbed cormorants and gulls in the study area…46Photo 14. Students and staff from Lester B. Pearson College were frequent visitors to Great Race Rock…47Photo 15. Approximately 200 harbour seals moved quickly from the shore of eastern Great Race Rock into the water immediately after being apparently startled by a high-pressure power washer being operated by a resident of the island………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………47 Photo 16. Two tourists wander through an active glaucous-winged gull nesting area (Sub-Area H) on Great Race Rock; causing disturbance and risking egg destruction by trampling………………………………………………………..48Photo 17. Most aircraft overflights did not cause animals to leave the rocks for the water or air. ……………49Photo 18. Pleasure boat near a pod of killer whales moving north through Race Passage…………………….52Photo 19. Ecotour boat traffic was common throughout the year, but particularly during summer. ………….52LIST OF APPENDICES

Page Appendix 1. Legislation with direct or potential relevance to marine life at Race Rocks.. ……………74 Appendix 2. Data collected during monitoring sessions at Race Rocks…………………………………………..85 Appendix 3. Methods used for the analysis of data collected during animal censuses and activity sampling in the Race Rocks study area………………………………………………………………………………………………………………87Appendix 4. Total numbers of pinnipeds, gulls, cormorants, and shorebirds in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve as counted from atop the light tower during each of the two daily censuses for the monitoring period 6 October 2002 through 27 November 2003……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..91 Appendix 5. Total numbers of birds in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve as counted from atop the light tower during each of the two daily censuses for the monitoring period 6 October 2002 through 27 November 2003……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….94Appendix 6. Total number of potential disturbance events recorded in the monitored area during each monitoring day at Race Rocks, BC. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..99Appendix 7. Sample sizes used to calculate mean activity rates (proportion of animals with heads up) of three pinniped species at Race Rocks, BC as a function of whether or not a demolition range (i.e., Bentinck Island, or Whirl Bay) was active and according to individual disturbance stimuli (primary) or lack thereof (none)…………………………101Appendix 8. All dates and approximatea number of projects detonated on Bentinck Island from 11 July 2002 (the most recent blasting prior to the onset of this study) through 30 November 2003………………………………………102 Appendix 9. Number of ordnances detonated at Christopher Point Ordnance Disposal Range during the study period of October 2002 through November 2003 by date, ordnance type, and individual weight………………………….103 1 INTRODUCTION Race Rocks is a provincial ecological reserve and has been proposed as a federal marine protected area. The area supports a diverse range of marine algae, marine invertebrates, fish, marine birds, and pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). Marine birds use Race Rocks for breeding and non-breeding purposes. Pinnipeds are of particular relevance to this study because they are large, conspicuous animals that have been the focus of concerns about the effects of local human disturbance. Harbour seals breed and haul out at Race Rocks, and northern elephant seals, California sea lions, and northern sea lions haul out there. Cetaceans transit the area intermittently.A major portion of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve is contained within the Department of National Defence’s (DND) Military Training Area WQ; however no training activities actually occur within the Reserve. The effects of the demolition training and ordnance disposal activities in WQ were first studied by LGL Limited during 1997 and 1998 (Demarchi et al. 1998). Results of that study indicated that some pinnipeds at Race Rocks responded to ordinance explosions by increasing their activity levels and moving from haulouts to the water. It was also noted that other human uses in the study area (e.g., whale watching boats, pleasure boats, human activity on Great Race Rock, etc.) elicited similar reactions from birds and pinnipeds.The initial study (Demarchi et al. 1998) was confined to a limited portion of the year and only on days when military exercises involving explosions occurred. Observations of the behavioural effects of non-military disturbances on marine life were opportunistically collected, but that study was not designed to assess impacts from non-military activities. The present study was designed to monitor the effects of natural environmental processes; military explosions; and non- military, human-caused (anthropogenic) disturbances on marine birds and pinnipeds at Race Rocks during a 14-month period.The diversity of marine life at Race Rocks makes it a popular location for boaters, divers, recreational adventurers, students, and researchers. These activities have the potential to disturb marine life. In addition, the absence of substantial human settlements in the area facilitates the regular use of high explosives by DND. It is important to recognize that military exercises represent one type of many potential disturbances that occurs locally. Therefore, it is important to try to assess the response of marine birds and pinnipeds to explosions independent of other impacts and the potential impacts of explosions in addition to all other impacts (i.e., the cumulative impacts).1.1 Study Objectives This research focused on pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). However, selected species of marine birds were also monitored. This research was conducted under Park Use Permit #VI0210066. The objectives were to:

  • Summarize legislation with direct or indirect relevance for marine birds and mammals at Race Rocks.
  • Document whether the study area is being utilized for: a breeding area, a summering or wintering area, migration corridors, or staging areas by marine birds and pinnipeds.

2 LGL Limited

  • Assess the affects of natural factors on the abundance of marine birds and pinnipeds in the study area.
  • Document and assess the effects of demolitions from the Whirl Bay Underwater Demolition Range, Bentinck Island Demolition Range, and Christopher Point Ordnance Disposal Range on marine birds and pinnipeds in the study area.
  • Document the effects of ecotour boats, other boats, aircraft, and pedestrian traffic in and near the study area on marine birds and pinnipeds.
  • Determine if natural factors such as air temperature, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, wave height, tide height ameliorate or amplify animal responses to human- caused disturbances.
  • Examine local populations of marine mammals and birds to assess the immediate and cumulative effects of local human activities such as demolition training, ecotouring, pleasure boating, aircraft overflights, and human activities associated with operations on Great Race Rock.

2 RELEVANT LEGISLATIONMarine birds and mammals at and near Race Rocks are subject to a number of different legislative acts and their corresponding regulations. A summary of relevant legislation is presented in Appendix 1.3 STUDY AREA AND VICINITY 3.1 Race Rocks Ecological ReserveThe study area is the exposed portion of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, adjacent to Rocky Point on southern Vancouver Island (Figure 1; Figure 2). The Reserve is defined as the seabed and exposed land within the 20-fathom depth contour. Race Rocks is a complex composed of one island (Great Race Rock; 1.48 ha) and a number of smaller islets and reefs. Terrestrial vegetation occurs only on Great Race Rock, and consists of grasses and small forbs comprising both native and introduced species. Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (LBPC) operates several provincially owned buildings, including an ecoguardian (caretaker) residence, guest house, boat shed, tank room, crane shed, and diesel generator shed. Ancillary equipment operated by LBPC includes a concrete boat dock and launch, fixed crane, fuel pumping equipment, and diesel tanks. The Canadian Coast Guard leases a concrete helipad, light tower, and support infrastructure located on Great Race Rock (Photo 1). Great Race Rock was added to the Ecological Reserve in 2001. Race Rocks Ecological Reserve is in the eastern reaches of Juan de Fuca Strait in the Nanaimo Lowland Ecosection of the Eastern Vancouver Island Ecoregion of the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince (Demarchi et al. 1990). The climate of the study area is mild, being moderated by the Pacific Ocean. Tides are semidiurnal1 with strong diurnal inequality.2 Predicted values ranged from -0.11 to 3.06 m at William Head (located within 5 km north of Race Rocks) during the study period (Hopper 2002). Tidal flow through Race Passage can reach 7 knots. More comprehensive information on the biophysical features of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve can be found in Wright and Pringle (2001) and Province of BC (2002).
Figure 1. Map of southern Vancouver Island and eastern Juan de Fuca Strait.

  • 1 Having typically two high and two low values every 24 hours.
    2 Also referred to as declinational inequality, it is the difference in height of the two high waters or of the two low waters of each tidal day.

Figure 2. Map of Sub-Areas within the study area. Great Race Rock was divided into Sub-Areas A through H (excluding E, which was not designated). Outlying areas were initially assigned numbers for each discrete rock, but were subsequently grouped into areas that were usually contiguous or that appeared so from the light tower on Great Race Rock (also shown). 3.2 Marine Training and Exercise Area WQ Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt conducts military training in the use of explosives in Marine Training and Exercise Area WQ (“Whiskey Quebec”; Figure 3). WQ is located near Rocky Point on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia and owned by the Federal Government, Department of National Defence. WQ is a circular range that covers 1075 ha of terrestrial and marine environments, and incorporates a portion of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, although no military training occurs in the Reserve itself. Two ranges in WQ are used for training in ordnance-based demolitions: the Whirl Bay Underwater Demolition Range, and the Bentinck Island Demolition Range. Surplus and outdated ordnance is disposed in WQ by Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot (CFAD) Rocky Point at the Christopher Point Ordnance Disposal Range. Training activities in WQ are under the control of LGL Limited 5Base Operations, CFB, Esquimalt. All training exercises in WQ must be approved by Base Operations as outlined in the CFB Esquimalt Range Standing Orders. Ordnance disposal activities are overseen by CFAD Rocky Point.Page 6:Photo 1. Aerial photo of Great Race Rock as viewed from the northwest. Observations during this study were made from atop the light tower. Photo by Heath Moffat; used with permission from Lester B. Pearson College. The Whirl Bay Underwater Demolition Range is used primarily by Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific) (FDU(P)) for underwater demolitions and ordnance testing using charges of C4 plastique3 ranging from 0.5 to 10 kg. The part of Whirl Bay that is used for demolitions is a shallow (<15 m) cove approximately 300 m across and 190 m from the entrance to the demolition beach. The substrate of the cove consists of basaltic bedrock overlain by clay, mud, silt, and sand with several patches of kelp scattered over the bottom. Shoreline habitats consist of basaltic rock formations and pebbly and sandy beaches.

  • 3 C4 plastique is a white, plastic, high-explosive made of RDX (Royal Demolition Explosive; a.k.a. cyclonite or hexogen; chemical name, trinitrotriazine) and an inert plastic binder. C4 is more powerful than TNT (trinitrotoluene) and is suitable for cutting metal and timber and for blasting concrete because of its high detonation velocity and plasticity. PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate) is used as a detonation cord for C4 charges.


Figure 3. Map of southern Vancouver Island and vicinity, showing Rocky Point, Race Rocks Ecological Reserve (within 20-fathom contour), and Military Training Area WQ (within circle). General locations of demolitions and ordnance disposal are indicated.
In October 2002, a bubble curtain was deployed in Whirl Bay as a means of attenuating the shock pulse of underwater detonations, and thereby reducing the adverse effects on underwater marine life. Prior to the actual demolitions, several “Thunderflashes” are detonated to scare marine life away from the blast area. The demolition area is >2 km from the nearest haulout in Race Rocks and is separated from Race Rocks by Christopher Point.Bentinck Island (31 ha) is separated from Rocky Point by Eemdyk Passage—a shallow channel that supports an abundance of bull kelp. Harbour seals are common in Eemdyk Passage, but other pinnipeds have not been seen there (pers. obs.). The mid-section of Bentinck Island is a low-lying, treeless area of pebble beaches connecting three larger areas which support stands of mature Douglas fir. The Bentinck Island Demolition Range is used primarily by Canadian Forces Fleet School (Seamanship Division) for above-water beach-clearing and obstacle-creation exercises involving metal cutting and the displacement and demolition of rocks and logs. The range is licensed for a maximum individual charge size of 2.3 kg (CFB Esquimalt Range Standing Orders). Petty Officer (PO) B. Phillips (pers. comm. 1996) indicated that in the past, the range has been typically used for 56 days per year, but demolitions do not occur on all such days. “Project” is the term used to describe an individual demolition (e.g., timber cut, steel cut, beach clearing, etc.) involving a single explosive charge. “Run” is the term used to describe a set of projects that are simultaneously set up by different teams of trainees. As of 1998, projects in the same run are detonated at a minimum interval of 2 minutes. There was no minimum interval between projects prior to 1998. During a typical day on which the range is active, two to four runs of one to three projects each (i.e., 4-12 blasts per day) are conducted. A typical project consists of one to four slabs4 of C4. Demolition training is conducted on the central beaches of Bentinck Island, with a line-of-sight to Race Rocks. The nearest haulout used by seals and sea lions in the Race Rocks Reserve is approximately 1.2 km away.Surplus ordnance is disposed by way of high-order5 detonation at the Christopher Point Demolition (disposal) Area. Disposal activities are conducted on an as-required basis, and unlike the other ranges in WQ, activities on the Christopher Point Range are not tied to training schedules. Under federal authorization, the disposal area is licensed for a maximum single explosive charge size of 13.6 kg. Twelve such charges are permitted per day. However, as a means of mitigating public concerns about blast noise, a voluntary reduction6 in maximum charge size to 6.8 kg was adopted in 1987 (Explosives Safety Officer [ESO] A. Carter, pers. comm. 1997). Use of the range varies greatly among years, but anywhere from one to 12 high- order detonations on up to 25 days (7%) of the year is a reasonable approximation (ESO A. Carter, pers. comm. 1997). The disposal site is situated in a clearing characterized by Scotch broom and mowed grass. The range has a line-of-sight to Race Rocks. The nearest haulout used by seals and sea lions in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve is approximately 2.0 km away.3.3 Marine Life The marine habitats of southern Vancouver Island support a diverse array of invertebrates, fish, birds, and mammals. The terrestrial and marine habitats near Rocky Point are important breeding areas, summering areas, wintering areas, migration corridors, or staging areas for approximately 200 species of birds (Campbell et al. 1990a, b; 1997; 2001). The most conspicuous mammals are the pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). The harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) is the only pinniped species that breeds in the study area. The abundance of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) and northern sea lions7 (Eumetopias jubatus) is greatest outside the May-July breeding season. Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) have occurred at Race Rocks in recent years. Single northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) have been reported, but sightings of this species are very infrequent. Cetaceans such as killer whales (Orcinus orca) and gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) are occasionally observed in or near the study area, but do not occur there with the same predictability as pinnipeds.4 A slab of C4 weights 0.500 kg
5 That is, they are exploded rather than disposed of by non-explosive means.
6 Some larger charges, such as the Mark-7 anti-tank mines (each containing 8.6 kg of TNT) are occasionally detonated.
7 Also known as the Steller (or Steller’s) sea lion.
3.3.1 Injury and Disturbance
The detonation of solid, nitrogen-based high explosives like C4 and PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate) entails rapid oxidation-reduction reactions that transform solids into gasses such as N2, CO2, H2O, and O2. Other products include intense heat, bright light, a shock wave, and noise. Because the detonation of C4 is so rapid, a shock wave (also known as a pressure pulse) is propagated along the front of the expanding gasses. Such shock waves have the highest peak pressure levels of any man-made source (Richardson et al. 1995). The impulse level (i.e., strength) of a shock wave decays rapidly with increasing distance from the source. As air rapidly expands behind the pressure wave, sound energy (noise; the proverbial boom) is generated. Depending on the peak impulse level of a pressure wave, distance from the source, and species- specific susceptibility among other factors, shock waves can injure or kill animals (Demarchi et al. 1998). Regarding detonations at the three sites in WQ, such extreme effects are not believed to be relevant to marine birds and mammals at Race Rocks because of the small charge sizes (i.e., &Mac178;10 kg) and the distances (i.e., >1 km) involved (Demarchi et al. 1998). Sound energy, at sufficient levels, can temporarily or permanently injure an animal’s hearing organs. It is unlikely that animals at Race Rocks experience temporary or permanent effects to hearing. Blast-caused disturbances of marine birds and mammals at Race Rocks are believed to be triggered by responses to sounds that “scare” rather than injure animals; though it is possible that some animals sense and respond to pressure waves also (Demarchi et al. 1998). As indicated by Richardson et al. (1995), published data on all aspects of the effects of explosions on marine mammals are extremely limited.Ecotourism is a thriving venture both worldwide and on southern Vancouver Island. The tourism industry in Victoria is significant to the local economy. Local entrepreneurs have been quick to capitalize on a large population of tourists and residents willing to pay to see whales and other marine mammals such as sea lions. Obee (1998) presents a general discussion of the rapid growth of this business and the negative effects it can have on local marine life. Wildlife viewing by the pleasure-boating general public can also disturb wildlife. Tershy et al. (1997) describe how humans affected a reserve used by marine birds and pinnipeds. As observed by Demarchi et al. (1998), ecotourism and other human activities at Race Rocks are capable of disturbing birds and pinnipeds. In terms of the responses by individual animals, such disturbances are comparable to those caused by blasts. However, when taken in the perspective of an entire year, disturbances by boats and humans could out-weigh disturbances caused by explosions because the former disturbances are more frequent. Whereas DND activities occur infrequently during the course of a year, boats and other human-caused disturbances occur almost daily when weather conditions are suitable. Disturbances of birds and pinnipeds by boats and human activities on Race Rocks can be viewed as cumulative impacts on the species in question.As reported by Demarchi et al. (1998), blasting often coincided with the presence of ecotourists and pleasure boaters. As recreational boat traffic at Race Rocks increases, the likelihood of such events coinciding is expected to increase. Consequently, an increase in the number of complaints to DND regarding the effects of blasting activities on marine mammals can be expected, 9 LGL Limited(sentence missing in original copy??)regardless of the degree to which any observed disturbances were caused or compounded by the presence of the boat and its occupants8. 3.3.2 Species Accounts The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) tracks the status of flora and fauna in Canada. Listing categories applicable to the species presented in this section are defined as:

  • •Endangered—A species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.
  • Threatened—A species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.
  • Special Concern—A species of special concern because of characteristics that make it particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events.
  • Not at Risk—A species that has been evaluated and found to be not at risk.
  • Not Listed—A species for which there is no present need for evaluation.

In BC, flora and fauna are assessed for concerns about their conservation by the provincial Conservation Data Centre (CDC). Listing categories are as follows:

  • Red Listed—A species that is endangered or threatened with extirpation or extinction.
  • Blue Listed—A species that is sensitive or vulnerable to extirpation or extinction, but less so than Red-listed ones.
  • Yellow Listed—A species that is not at risk, but with a management emphasis in order to meet specific public demands.

The following accounts describe selected bird and mammal species that occur at Race Rocks. Current COSEWIC listings are followed by current CDC listings.3.3.2.1 Brandt’s Cormorant (Not Listed; Red Listed) Brandt’s cormorants are uncommon to abundant throughout south-coastal BC during the year. Several small breeding colonies exist in BC, and in 1987 three nests with young were found at Race Rocks (Campbell et al. 1990a). They are much more abundant near southern Vancouver Island from August to April (Gates 2001) when numerous birds arrive from breeding areas along the west coast of the United States. Brandt’s cormorants roost on Race Rocks and forage in the surrounding waters during autumn through spring.3.3.2.2 Double-crested Cormorant (Not at Risk; Blue Listed) Double-crested cormorants are common residents of southern Vancouver Island, breeding mainly on islands in the Strait of Georgia (Gates 2001, Campbell et al. 1990a). The breeding population has been decreasing in BC in the last two decades (Fraser et al. 1999; Chatwin et al. 2002). Double-crested cormorants commonly rest on the Race Rocks islets and feed in the waters of the Ecological Reserve and surrounding area. The species is not known to breed at Race Rocks.

  • 8 A meeting discussing the present review of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Regulations was hosted by DFO at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, B.C. on 29 January 2003. The majority of attendees were directly or indirectly affiliated with the marine ecotourism industry. When an audience member spoke of the need for the Marine Mammal Regulations to address the adverse effects of DND’s training exercises on marine life at Race Rocks, most of the audience applauded.

Editors note: We have linked some of the following species to the appropriate reference in the racerocks.com Taxonomy Files. That was not part of the original report. 3.3.2.3 Pelagic Cormorant (pelagicus subspecies Not Listed; Red Listed – resplendens subspecies Not Listed; Yellow Listed) Two subspecies of pelagic cormorant occur in BC and both may occur at Race Rocks. The pelagicus subspecies nests north of Vancouver Island and in Alaska and is Red-listed due to a decline in numbers. It may occur at Race Rocks occasionally during the non-breeding season. The resplendens subspecies breeds in south-coastal BC including Race Rocks (Vermeer et al. 1989a). The number of pelagic cormorants nesting on Race Rocks varies from year to year with 120 counted by Vermeer et al. (1989a) in 1987 and 0 in 2000 (Chatwin et al. 2002). Pelagic cormorants use the rocks and islets of Race Rocks throughout the year for resting and the surrounding waters for feeding.3.3.2.4 Bald Eagle (Not at Risk; Yellow listed)Bald eagles are fairly common on southern Vancouver Island from September to mid-May. During the summer months many of them move north to areas where salmon are spawning and are uncommon locally during that time. Bald eagles usually build their nests in large trees close to water. They breed near Race Rocks along the shore of Vancouver Island, but not within Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Bald eagles use Race Rocks Ecological Reserve mainly as a resting and feeding area where they forage on fish and gulls. 3.3.2.5 Peregrine Falcon (anatum subspecies Threatened; Red Listed – pealei subspecies Special Concern; Blue Listed)Three subspecies of peregrine falcons occur in BC. Although all three probably occur at Race Rocks occasionally, the most likely and frequent is probably the Peale’s peregrine falcon. Peregrine falcons breed in small numbers throughout south-coastal BC. Peregrine falcons from other areas of the west coast migrate through and/or winter in the study area. Peregrine falcons hunt their main prey (other birds) frequently in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. At times they rest or consume prey on the terrestrial portions of the Reserve, frequently perching on man-made structures on Great Race Rock or on higher portions of the rocky shorelines.3.3.2.6 Black Oystercatcher (Not Listed; Yellow Listed) Black oystercatchers are common residents and breeders at rocky coastal shoreline areas of southern Vancouver Island (Gates 2001). Three pairs were counted on the islets of Race Rocks in 1987 (Vermeer et al. 1989b). It is reported by LBPC that up to six pairs nest on the islets (Race Rocks 2003). During the non-breeding season up to 40 or more birds aggregate at Race Rocks. In winter during daylight (high tide) hours they spend much of their time on Race Rocks resting and preening.3.3.2.7 Black Turnstone (Not Listed; Yellow Listed) Black turnstones are common at marine shoreline habitats on southern Vancouver Island from August to mid-April (Gates 2001). They prefer rocky coastlines and are commonly seen on Race Rock islets feeding and resting. 3.3.2.8 Surfbird (Not Listed; Yellow Listed) Surfbirds are present in small numbers on the marine shoreline habitats of southern Vancouver Island from late July to April. They do not breed in the study area (Gates 2001). Small numbers feed and rest on Race Rocks during that time, with peak numbers in spring and fall during migration.3.3.2.9 Rock Sandpiper (Not Listed; Yellow Listed) Race Rocks is one of the best places to see rock sandpipers in the Victoria area. This species is quite rare in the region occurring almost exclusively on the rocky shores of offshore islands and islets. Rock sandpipers are regular in small numbers on Race Rocks from late October to late May. They do not breed in the study area. The islets of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve are used for resting during high tide and feeding during lower tides. 3.3.2.10 Heerman’s Gull (Not Listed; Yellow Listed) Heerman’s gulls are common in south coastal BC from mid-July to the end of October when most of their population moves north along the Pacific coast from their Mexican breeding grounds. They are very rare at other times of the year and do not breed in BC (Gates 2001, Campbell et al. 1990b). Hundreds of Heerman’s gulls use the islets of Race Rocks for resting and the surrounding waters for feeding during their time in this area.3.3.2.11 California Gull (Not Listed; Blue Listed) California gulls are common to abundant during their spring (March-April) and fall (July- October) migrations in the southern Vancouver Island area. They are quite rare at most other times of the year and do not breed in the study area (Gates 2001). They commonly feed in the water surrounding Race Rocks and rest on the islets during their stay in the area. 3.3.2.12 Herring Gull (Not Listed; Yellow Listed) Herring gulls are uncommon at southern Vancouver Island from September to April and rare during the rest of the year. This species is mainly an offshore gull in BC. Race Rocks is probably one of the better places to observe this species near shore and small numbers use the islets for resting and the surrounding waters for feeding mainly during the winter. 3.3.2.13 Thayer’s Gull (Not Listed; Yellow Listed) Thayer’s gulls are common winter visitors at southern Vancouver Island from about mid- September to March. They are not present or are very rare in the area from April to mid- September and do not breed in the area (Gates 2001). Very large numbers of Thayer’s gulls use Race Rocks during the fall and winter, resting on the islets and feeding in the surrounding waters. 3.3.2.14 Western Gull (Not Listed; Yellow Listed) Western gulls are uncommon to rare during most of the year near southern Vancouver Island (Gates 2001). This species nests along the Pacific coast of North America from Washington to California. At the northern edge of their range, hybridization with glaucous-winged gulls is frequent resulting in many hybrid birds that are impossible to classify to one species. Gulls that appear to be of pure western gull stock are uncommon to rare at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve throughout the year. They join the mixed-species gull flocks either resting on the islets or feeding in the surrounding water. Some of the gulls nesting at Race Rocks are probably hybrids. 3.3.2.15 Glaucous-winged Gull (Not Listed; Yellow Listed) Glaucous-winged gulls are the only species of gull nesting at Race Rocks (Photo 2) with up to 424 nests counted in 1989 (Vermeer et al. 1992). They are common all year throughout the region and their numbers have increased dramatically in the last two decades. Other than as a nesting colony, Race Rocks Ecological Reserve is used all year for resting on the islets and feeding in the surrounding water.3.3.2.16 Pigeon Guillemot (Not Listed; Yellow Listed) Pigeon Guillemots are the only species of alcid that nests at Race Rocks. They are in the area year-round, but only use the land in Race Rocks during spring and summer. This migratory species resides in rocky coastal areas, and prefers to forage in shallow, inshore waters. Pigeon guillemots nest in rock crevices on the periphery of Great Race Rock. The first nesting record was in 1953 and published numbers of breeding pairs there range from 14 to 400 (Campbell et al. 1990b).Photo 2. Adult glaucous-winged gull nesting on a grassy area of Great Race Rock. 25 May 2003. LGL Limited 133.3.2.17 Northern Elephant Seal (Not at Risk; Yellow Listed) The northern elephant seal (Photo 3) is a member of the family Phocidae—the true seals. Although near extinction at the beginning of the 20th century, legal protection of the species and its habitat has allowed it to recover. In 1991 there was an estimated population of 127,000 animals (Stewart and Huber 1993). This species is highly migratory, breeding primarily on islands in northern Mexico and central California and moving north after the breeding season. After breeding, most animals stay far offshore in deep water. Males move over the continental shelf as far north as the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands, while females tend to move westward into the open ocean (Stewart and Huber 1993).Northern elephant seals can haul out at any time of the year, but Stewart and Huber (1993) note three seasonal peaks in abundance at haulouts. The first is in winter during the combined pupping and breeding season. The second is in late April and early May when adult females and subadults come ashore to moult. The third is in October when non-pregnant females, pups, yearlings, and subadults come ashore to moult.Baird (1990) reported that northern elephant seals are sparsely, but widely distributed in British Columbian waters throughout the year and are usually seen singly. Race Rocks is one of the few spots in BC where elephant seals regularly haul out. The account by Cowan and Carl (1945) suggests that, at least up to the mid-20th century, northern elephant seals were not as common in BC as they are at present. Based on their size and general appearance, most animals using Race Rocks are adult females or subadults, although a few adult males also haul out there.Photo 3. Subadult male northern elephant seal. Members of this species commonly hauled-out on and near the boat launch at Great Race Rock. They tolerated humans at very close distances, to the point of becoming a nuisance at times as they interfered with boat launchings and landings. This individual is moulting its brown fur, exposing its grey, scarred skin beneath. 26 June 2003. 3.3.2.18 Harbour Seal (Not at Risk; Yellow Listed)The harbour seal (Photo 4; Photo 5) is a member of the family, Phocidae—the true seals. They are the most abundant and widespread pinniped in coastal waters of southern BC and the only one that breeds in the study area. They are non-migratory residents at Race Rocks and give birth (“pup”) on the islets. The pupping season of harbour seals varies regionally, with those in the study area giving birth during the months of June through September; peaking in late July (Bigg 1969). Harbour seal pups are highly precocial at birth and are reared in the water as well as on land (Riedman 1990). Pups are weaned at an age of 5-6 weeks. Harbour seals spend a considerable amount of time hauled-out on beaches, rocks, man-made structures, and islets, including the islets at Race Rocks. Numbers of harbour seals have increased dramatically in and near British Columbian waters after the species was afforded protection from hunting under Canadian and American laws (Olesiuk et al. 1990; Jeffries et al. 2003). Photo 4. Mother-pup pairs of harbour seals are commonly observed at Race Rocks during summer. The species is present at Race Rocks year-round. Sub-Area G; 17 July 2003. Photo 5. Harbour seals haul out in abundance on intertidal portions of the study area. Sub-area F; 17 July 2003. LGL Limited 153.3.2.19 California Sea Lion (Not at Risk; Yellow Listed)The California sea lion (Photo 6) is a member of the eared seal family, Otariidae. California sea lions move north into the study area from breeding colonies in Mexico and California after each summer breeding season, then return south in the late winter and spring. Peak abundance in BC is between September and May. Most of the animals in BC are adult and subadult males but females are known to occur. The number of California sea lions using British Columbian coastal waters has increased substantially during the last century, and in particular, since 1980 (Bigg 1988a). Bigg (1988a) reported that California sea lions were not present on Race Rocks prior to 1965. Records from 1971 (summarized in Bigg 1988a) indicate a maximum of approximately 30 animals at Race Rocks. Since then, numbers have increased to several hundred animals at times. P. Olesiuk (pers. comm. 2002) indicated that California sea lions are expanding their non- breeding range northward within BC, but that little is known of this expansion due to limited monitoring of pinnipeds.In recent years there has been a continued northward expansion of the species on both the east and west coasts of Vancouver Island (P. Olesiuk, pers. comm. 2002). A few radio tags deployed on California sea lions in the early 1990s revealed that while in BC waters, California sea lions are very mobile and do not remain in the same area (haulout) for extended periods (P. Olesiuk pers. comm. 2002). In BC, California sea lions appear to readily and rapidly shift their distributions in response to the movements of their main prey, salmon and herring (P. Olesiuk pers. comm. 2002). A northward shift in schools of adult herring during the mid-winter pre- spawning period has resulted in a concomitant shift in California sea lions. For example, they no longer occur in the same abundance at Harmac (near Nanaimo) as in the past, but greater numbers are now seen near Hornby Island to the north (P. Olesiuk pers. comm. 2002).Photo 6. California sea lions hauled-out on Great Race Rock. The vast majority of California sea lions at Race Rocks are adult and subadult males. October 2002; (Photo: M. Bentley). 3.3.2.20 Northern Sea Lion (Special Concern; Red Listed)The northern sea lion (Photo 7) is a member of family Otariidae (eared seals). The breeding range of this species is from California, along the Pacific coast to Alaska and northeast Asia. Two stocks are recognized: the Western Stock which ranges from Russia to the Gulf of Alaska; and an Eastern Stock which ranges from southeast Alaska to California. In BC between 1912 and 1968, thousands of northern sea lions were killed in a campaign to reduce the perceived conflict between this species and commercial fishermen. A review of historic data (Bigg 1988b) indicated that control programs and commercial harvests conducted in BC during 1912-1967 eradicated one breeding area and reduced numbers on the remaining rookeries to about 25-30% of peak levels observed in the early 20th century, prior to any large-scale culls. Numbers of northern sea lions on Race Rocks appear to have rebounded since the control program ended (Bigg 1988b). Presently there is considerable concern about conservation of the western stock because of a dramatic, unexplained decline since 1970 (Trites and Donnelly 2003). Conversely, the Eastern Stock (the one which occurs at Race Rocks) has exhibited a modest increase during this period (Bigg 1988a; Calkins et al. 1999). Despite this increase, in November 2003 COSEWIC upgraded this species’ listing from “Not at Risk” to “Special Concern” because there are only three breeding locations in BC, the species is sensitive to human disturbance while on land, the threat of acute oil spills, and unexplained declines in other populations to the north and west of BC .The closest rookeries to Race Rocks are on the Scott Islands off northern Vancouver Island (Bigg 1988b; Loughlin et al. 1984). Northern sea lions migrate into the study area where they spend a considerable amount of time hauled-out on traditional beaches, rocks, and islets. Bigg (1988b) identified Race Rocks as a haulout site used by northern sea lions during their nonbreeding season, with peak abundance occurring during September through May. All sexes and age-classes (except newborn pups) of northern sea lions occur on Race Rocks.Photo 7. Northern sea lions hauled out on Sub-Area 2-5 of Race Rocks. That area was commonly used by both sexes and all age classes. Photo date: 20 November 2003. 3.3.2.21 Killer Whale (Northeast Pacific Southern Resident population: Endangered, Red Listed – Northeast Pacific Transient population: Threatened, Red Listed) Killer whales (Photo 8) are large members of the family Delphinidae that occur in arctic, temperate, and tropical waters of the world’s oceans. Two different populations occur in and near the study area: residents (which typically forage on fish—namely salmon) and transients (which typically forage on pinnipeds). The terms resident and transient do not accurately denote the movement patterns of each population (references in Baird 2001b) and members of either population can occur in the study area at any time of the year. They are infrequent visitors to Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, seldom spending more than a few minutes in it when they do occur there (this study). Baird and Dill (1994, cited in Calambokidis and Baird 1994) reported that killer whales take “large numbers’ of harbour seals at Race Rocks, but such behaviour was never observed during the present study or that by Demarchi et al. (1998). Since 1960, the Southern Resident population of about 96 in 1967, declined to a low of 67 in 1971, then rose to about 100 individuals in 1995 (Baird 2001b). By 2001 the population had declined to 789, qualifying it as an endangered and “depleted stock” under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (Krahn et al. 2002). Much less is known of the local transient population. Photo 8. Killer whales, such as this lone male, were infrequently observed in the study area. 7 August 2003.
9 The 2003 population estimate by the Washington-based Center for Whale Research
(http://www.whaleresearch.com/thecenter/southern.html) was 83.
4 METHODS The methodology employed in this study was based on that used during a similar study conducted in 1997 and 1998 (Demarchi et al. 1998). Race Rocks was accessed by an inflatable boat launched from Rocky Point. Monitoring days were selected to represent a sample of weekday and weekend conditions. Two or three observers recorded data in four different Microsoft Access 2002 databases using a hand-held Comapq iPAQ computer running Visual CE v6.1. Binoculars (8-10x) and tripod-mounted spotting scopes (20-60x) were used to assist with animal identification. In addition to the information presented below, additional information on data collection is presented in Appendix 2. The first database concerned weather. Weather conditions were measured using on-site meteorological equipment (windspeed in knots and direction in degrees off true north) operated by the Coast Guard or by visual estimates (all others). As animal responses to disturbance may vary with time of day, cloud cover, wind speed, wind direction, wave height, swell condition, and tide height, weather parameters were measured in the morning and at the end of the day, and whenever notable changes in conditions occurred throughout the day. Tidal data were obtained for William Head (123° 32.0′ W, 48° 20.0′ N) using the computer program WXtide32 v2.7 (Hopper 2002). William Head is within 5 km to the north of Race Rocks.The second database contained counts of bird and pinniped species in the study area. Those data provided information on how numbers of animals in the study area changed during daily and seasonal timescales. Birds and pinnipeds were censused twice (morning and afternoon). Only animals that were supported by terrestrial features (i.e., islands, islets, rocks, man-made structures, etc.) within one of the sub-areas (see Figure 2) were counted because of the difficulties in seeing animals in the water or counting birds in the air. Further, only animals visible from the tower were counted. Some animals were hidden from view, but in our opinion, based on our familiarity with the study area viewed from different boat-based vantages, the vast majority (>90%) of individuals were visible from the tower. Densely crowded pinnipeds also obscured the view of some animals. Considering these visibility biases, counts were likely lower than the actual number of animals within the Reserve.The third database involved sweep counts of the numbers and behaviours of animals in selected sub-areas. These data facilitated an assessment of the effects of disturbance on bird and on pinniped behaviour and numbers by facilitating comparisons between pre- and post-disturbance conditions. These counts were made approximately every 30-60 minutes during the observation period, together with additional counts made immediately prior to, and within a few minutes following, blasting or the closest approach by people, boats, or aircraft. Two visible measures of disturbance are: 1) the change in body position (i.e., activity level; head-down or head-up of pinnipeds10), and 2) the change in numbers of pinnipeds on the haulouts and birds on hard surfaces. During samples of activity levels, we noted whether a disturbance stimulus was present or had occurred (e.g., if an ecotour boat was situated such that the passengers were focusing on the animals in the selected sub-area; or if a blast had just occurred). Multiple stimuli were recorded if they occurred simultaneously. Observations on the visible effects (or lack thereof) of a given stimulus were also noted as comments for each record.10 It is acknowledged that sea lions sometimes rest in a head-up position, but in our experience at Race Rocks, the proportion of such animals is in the vast minority. The fourth database tracked potential disturbance events. Because the nature of disturbances from sources other than blasting by DND were unpredictable both spatially and temporally, it was important to track such disturbances in the vicinity of marine animals. To that end, a 250 m by 250 m grid was superimposed on a map of the study area. Grid cells entered by each disturbance stimuli were recorded, as well as the time at which the disturbance entered and left the study area. Cells were recorded a maximum of one time per individual disturbance factor even if the factor temporarily left then re-entered the same cell.Field sampling began 6 October 2002 and ended 27 November 2003. Where possible, days were scheduled to coincide with explosive training or demolition activities by DND. The dates and exact timing of explosions were coordinated with DND personnel. Up-to-the-minute reports on blast activities were monitored via VHF radio or cellular phone. “Non-training” days were scheduled to document responses to other sources of disturbance such as whale watching tours, pleasure craft, recreational dive boats, aircraft, and other types of human disturbance.4.1 Analytical LimitationsData analyses are complicated by several factors with implications for the application of statistical inference to the study’s results:

  • The study was conducted at a single (unreplicated) site. Consequently, data from one or more control sites (i.e., a site similar in every way to Race Rocks, but without any disturbances) are not available for comparison. Further, military activities, ecotourism, and other human activities have been occurring near or at Race Rocks for many years and no baseline (pre-disturbance) data from Race Rocks are available for comparison.
  • . Because the occurrence of disturbance events was not under the investigators’ control, observations of disturbance were opportunistic. Considering this and the point above, the study does not represent a true scientific experiment.
  • . Extrapolating our results to days when we did not monitor the area is not straightforward. With the exception of LBPC and DND activities, our monitoring sessions are believed to approximate a random sample of days with the potential disturbances to which animals in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve are subjected. However, because our monitoring schedule was communicated in advance to LBPC staff, it is not known whether or not they altered any of their activities at Race Rocks in response to our presence. Further, in the interests of increasing our sample sizes of blast-related disturbances, days when Bentinck Island was active were sampled disproportionately more often than if our sampling had been random.
  • . Because residual effects of disturbance can persist for hours or more, sample records are not independent because repeated samples from the same animals are taken during the course of a day. For example, if a disturbance occurs at time = t and animals move to the water, a sample of animal numbers and activity taken at time = t + 1 is likely to differ from a subsequent sample taken under the scenario where no disturbance had occurred previously. Sample values averaged during the course of a day are more appropriate foruse in statistical testing than individual values obtained from repeated observations of the same animals on the same day.
  • Dependent response variables (i.e., activity and number of individuals visible in the study area) are not exclusively affected by human-caused disturbance events. Animal activity and departure from a haulout occur naturally and are potentially affected by many independent variables such as: time of year, time of day, weather, sea state, tide height, local prey availability, time since feeding, interspecific interactions, intraspecific interactions, behavioural differences among individuals, animal body condition, animal migration, and interactions between these variables. As a result, determining when changes in animal activity or numbers are in response to human-caused disturbances monitored by this study is not straight-forward because of confounding effects. An even greater challenge is to determine what degree of human-caused change in activity level or numbers of animals constitutes a significant, adverse biological effect (see Demarchi 2002).
  • Total counts allow inferences about changes in total numbers of animals in the study area, but the absence of a sample of radio-tagged animals restricts conclusions regarding the extent to which any given disturbance results in temporary or permanent abandonment of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve by a portion of the population.
  • For the most part, differences between the numbers of each pinniped species observed during each pair of daily censuses reflect animals moving on or off the haulouts. However, these values cannot be interpreted strictly as animals moving on or off a haulout because some animals simply moved in and out of view while remaining on the haulout. This is particularly true of northern elephant seals.
  • It was not possible to visually monitor all sub-areas simultaneously during area-wide disturbances such as blasts. Therefore, the proportion of disturbances that actually caused animals to leave the land in the study area could be biased downward. It was usually possible to track individual boats and people to determine whether a decrease in subsequent counts was in response to disturbance or just a natural occurrence.

4.2 Data AnalysesDetailed descriptions of analyses based on census and activity sample data are presented in Appendix 3.5 RESULTSDuring the period 6 October 2002 through 27 November 2003, 52 monitoring sessions were conducted (Table 1). With the exception of two full days and one partial day when fog precluded accurate counts, monitoring was conducted as planned. On two other occasions, the trip to Race Rocks was cancelled due to extreme weather conditions. A wide range of weather conditions occurred during monitoring sessions, from sunny and clear to gale- and storm-force winds and rain storms. Observations were made under a wide range of tide heights and swell conditions.Although much of the land in the Race Rocks complex is exposed at even the highest tides, the amount of exposed land available for resting birds and pinnipeds varied considerably as a function of tide height. Note that no attempt was made to quantify the total area available for resting at any given time. A strong seasonal pattern was observed for tide heights and daily timing, both as observed in the field and as calculated (Hopper 2002). The highest tides were observed during monitoring sessions in November through March (Figure 4). Storms were also more common at that time of year, causing swells and wind-waves that further decreased the availability of resting areas or shortened the duration intertidal areas were exposed during the day (Photo 9). The November-March period was also characterized by a tendency for tides in the late afternoon (near the time when the second daily census was conducted) to be lower than those in the morning (when the first daily census was conducted; Figure 5). The remainder of the year followed the opposite pattern. Tidal variation measured on an hourly scale was sufficient to strongly affect the availability of land for resting birds and pinnipeds—especially harbour seals. Other pinnipeds were not so visibly affected.Table 1. Dates and active range status in WQ during 52 monitoring sessions at Race Rocks. For a summary of dates when the Bentinck Island range was active refer to Appendix 8. a. Days when no blasting occurred as used for comparative purposes to days when blasting occurred on at least Bentinck Island
b. Thick fog precluded complete censuses in both morning and afternoon
c. Thick fog precluded a census in the afternoon

Species Present year round Breeding Migration
Staging.
Wintering
Summering
Moulting
Northern Elephant Seal .. .. .. .. .. ..
Harbour Seal .. .. .. .. .. ..
California Sea Lion .. .. .. .. .. ..
Northern Sea Lion .. .. .. .. .. ..
Brandt’s Cormorant .. .. .. .. .. ..
Double-crested Cormorant .. .. .. .. .. ..
Pelagic Cormorant .. .. .. .. .. ..
Harlequin Duck .. .. .. .. .. ..
Bald Eagle .. .. .. .. .. ..
Peregrine Falcon .. .. .. .. .. ..
Black Oystercatcher .. .. .. .. .. ..
Black Turnstone .. .. .. .. .. ..
Surfbird .. .. .. .. .. ..
Rock Sandpiper .. .. .. .. .. ..
Heermann’s Gull .. .. .. .. .. ..
California Gull .. .. .. .. .. ..
Herring Gull .. .. .. .. .. ..
Thayer’s Gull .. .. .. .. .. ..
Glaucous-winged Gull .. .. .. .. .. ..
Pigeon Guillemot .. .. .. .. .. ..
Monitoring Date Active Range Monitoring Date Active Range
06-Oct-02a none 02-May-03 Bentinck
07-Oct-02 Bentinck 12-May-03a -none
10-Oct-02 Bentinck 25-May-03a none
17-Oct-02a none 05-Jun-03a none
24-Oct-02 b Bentinck 13-Jun-03a none
30-Oct-02a none 19-Jun-03 Bentinck
08-Nov-02 Bentinck 26-Jun-03 c none
15-Nov-02 none 05-Jul-03a none
22-Nov-02a none 17-Jul-03 none
02-Dec-02 Whirl Bay 27-Jul-03 none
05-Dec-02 Bentinck&Whirl Bay 07-Aug-03 none
16-Dec-02a none 15-Aug-03 none
31-Dec-02a none 23-Aug-03 none
17-Jan-03a none 02-Sep-03 none
20-Jan-03 Whirl Bay 12-Sep-03 none
23-Jan-03 Whirl Bay 18-Sep-03 none
30-Jan-03 Bentinck 25-Sep-03a none
10-Feb-03a none 02-Oct-03b none
20-Feb-03 Bentinck&
Christopher Point
09-Oct-03 Bentinck
06-Mar-03a none 20-Oct-03a none
14-Mar-03 none 27-Oct-03 Bentinck
20-Mar-03 none 06-Nov-03a none
27-Mar-03 none 13-Nov-03a none
10-Apr-03 none 20-Nov-03 Bentinck
16-Apr-03a none none 21-Nov-03 Bentinck
01-May-03Bentinck Bentinck 27-Nov-03a none
Proceed to PART 2
The following are reports done in later years :
MONITORING DEMOLITION TRAINING IMPACTS IN MILITARY TRAINING AREA WQ ON SEA LIONS IN THE RACE ROCKS ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, BRITISH COLUMBIA
PROGRESS REPORT
#1 REVISED
LGL, Dec 8, 2010
EFFECTIVENESS OF A FIVE-MINUTE DEMOLITION INTERVAL TO MITIGATE BLASTING NOISE IMPACTS IN MILITARY TRAINING AREA WQ ON SEA LIONS IN THE RACE ROCKS ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, BRITISH COLUMBIA,
LGL, Mar 2010
TEMPORAL SPACING OF DEMOLITIONS TO MITIGATE DEMOLITION TRAINING IMPACTS IN MILITARY TRAINING AREA WQ ON SEA LIONS IN THE RACE ROCKS ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, BRITISH COLUMBIA
LGL, Mar 23 2009