First Week as Ecoguardian


  • Visibility: Very foggy early morning but cleared right up by 8:30am
  • Wind: 11-16 NE throughout the day
  • Sky: sunny with cloudy periods
  • Water: mostly calm, a bit choppy


  • Had about 7 boats cruise by in the last week
  • had a small tour come ashore last saturday morning of pearson college students


  • had a young harbour seal that was on the island for a few days but is gone now
  • there are a pair of eagles hanging around for the last week
  • large male elephant seal was here for 6 days and left last night
  • caught a quick glimpse of what looked like a small sea otter running by the jetty yesterday morning


  • had a very large blast go off from Rocky Point that shook the house and startled birds.


  • enjoyed my first week here at Race Rocks!

Earth Day, I presume?


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 25-30 knots North East
  • In the afternoon, 20-25 knots West
  • In the evening, 10-15 knots West
  • Sky: mostly overcast and a few drops of rain.
  • Water: 1′ chop
  • A nice view of the snow on Hurricane Ridge in the morning.


  • Four elephant seals on Great Race today.
  • The weaner slept all day beside the main house.


  • On this Earth Day, I would like to take the time to thank (however corny it made sound) the framework of the Ecological Reserve, which helps to maintain the wild beauty of these spectacular islands!


  • One fishing boat, and a couple of eco-tours came by today.

Quiet Saturday on the Rock


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-15 knots North
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: calm


  • Saw a California Sea Lion branded with 8465.



  • Reset the electric fence.
  • Removed ash from the wood stove for the season’s first light.



  • Observed one rental boat that appeared to be fishing within the reserve.
  • Contacted Pedder Bay Marina to let them know.


Marine Sciences Field Exam


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-10 knots West, in the evening up to 20.
  • Sky: clear
  • Water: calm


  • The 15 elephant seals were slower down to the water today, perhaps due to the influx of students.
  • One California Sea Lion spent most of the exam at the end of the jetty, unfazed by all the activity going on. Quite unusual for a sea lion!
  • All manner of barnacle, shell creatures, and algae plant things were examined today by the Pearson College students.


  • Approximately 30 folk from Pearson College made their way out to Race Rocks today.
  • This included Laura Verhegge who was running the Marine Sciences field exam, Johanna who was observing Pearson’s instruction techniques, one 2nd year student, one alumni, Chris, and 25 or so students.
  • The first group arrived at 8:15, the final group left at about 12:15.


  • Weed whacking.
  • Algicide application. Photo shows before scrubbing.
  • Safety observation and hosting of students during exam.
  • Ran the desalinator.

Algae before


  • The Ocean River Kayak Discovery Shuttle and Haiaku each took two trips of students to and from Race Rocks.
  • On the return voyage the tide was very low, and the sea lions were in the way, so the shuttle boat “docked” against the rocks on the NE part of Great Race.
  • At least 4 eco-tours came by the reserve today.
  • Saw a nice red sailed sailboat to the north of the reserve.
  • One boat spent much of the day fishing on the edge of the reserve.

One50Canada Photo Shoot


  • Visibility: 15+ miles
  • Wind: 0-10 knots N
  • Sky: sunny
  • Water: calm

The Sunset


  • Seagulls woke me up at 6:00, something that never happened in February.
  • Had an easier time shooing away the Canada Geese today.
  • The river otter was out exploring and rolling around. It delighted the visitors.

A pair of seagulls


  • I helped Chris and Kyle install the new wifi “distributor” at the top of the tower.
  • Later I tidied up the extra cord, searched for outdoor rated Cat5 (unsuccessfully) and measured out the distance required for the future permanent cord. Twenty-five feet if you’re interested!
  • Cleaned the solar panels.


  • Two eco-tours came by at around 11:00.
  • Second Nature docked on the jetty at 11:00 and departed at 13:00.


  • Chris came by in Second Nature with Kyle (a new dock hand) and a group of three from the One50Canada project.
  • Their names are Martin Gregus, Martin Gregus Jr. and Elena Gregusova.
  • The two Martin’s are trying to make the largest documented collection of photos and information about what Canada is like in the years around 2017, her 150th year of independence. The final project will include a massive coffee table book.
  • They were interested in all aspects of the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve.
  • They took photographs of and asked questions about the mammals, birds, lighthouse, other buildings, vintage Coast Guard equipment, First Nations rock formations, etc.
  • If you are interested in learning more about the One50Canada Society, check out their website at:

The One50Canada family

Friday-Saturday Combo Log Blog

Friday, a northeast wind blew 5 – 10 knots, most of the day. It turned to west in the evening and was stalled several times. It was first (for us), seeing the light tower wind gauge read 0.00 knots. By Saturday morning it was coming in from the north at 5 – 10 knots. Saturday afternoon, the direction swung through southwest to south and by evening it was back to west. The barometric pressure started falling in the wee hours of Friday morning, a drop that continued on the same trajectory Friday and Saturday, going from a little above 1016 hPA to 1010 hPA. Although the forecasts change considerably from time to time during the period of a couple of days, a gale warning continues to be in effect and it is expected to turn to west and blow 30 – 40 knots Sunday afternoon. The rain continues to threaten and is supposed to end Sunday evening, that is, if it really gets started.

Friday there were only two commercial visits observed in the Ecological Reserve. Saturday morning, 30 – 40 Southern Resident Killer Whales were sighted by whale watching operators, off Beechey Head to the west of Race Rocks. There was also a Humpback Whale diving between there and Race Rocks. Once the sightings were reported by VHF radio, the fleet was alerted and commercial whale watching vessels started heading to the locations. Commercial traffic became fairly heavy with 28 tour boat visits inside the Ecological Reserve, observed Saturday.

Observing vessels that operate in the reserve daily, and making reports to BC Parks and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are routine Eco-guardian tasks. This gives me some insight into how sustainable different commercial operators are, in their use of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Distributing a sustainability rubric based on the agreement with the whale watching industry, Fisheries Act, Marine Mammal Regulations and BC Parks regulations might be a good way for vessel operators to grade themselves and their colleagues. Of course the same vessels don’t always have the same operator, but one gets a sense of company culture, as reflected in the way the vessels are run.

Most of the operators work carefully, respectfully and sustainably; they slow right down on entering the reserve and go even slower when there are seals and sea lions in the water. If there are whales in the Protected Area they do not enter into the Ecological Reserve and if a whale enters while they are inside they carefully and slowly leave using extreme caution to avoid interacting with the animals. They stay in the centre of Middle Channel going with the current and never try to wedge themselves between Great Race and South Islands (their insurance companies probably like this too). They are respectful, keeping their distance to the animals and acting as role models for other companies and vessels on the water. In the long run, this is good for business and good for the animals. It means that this kind of commercial activity might sustainably continue to use the Ecological Reserve.

If you are reading this and don’t know what an Ecological Reserve is – it is a protected area that offers the highest protection available within the BC Parks system. There is a lot of good information on the BC Parks Ecological Reserves website, on this website and in general on the Friends of Ecological Reserves website.

The sea lions were very well behaved Saturday after wreaking a bit of havoc yesterday. The two elephant seals had a good 36 hour sleep before going for a swim. As night fell, they were waiting for a chance to get back up the ramp amidst a crowd of California Sea Lions.

Alex and I accomplished a lot today, finishing some of the bigger, monthly chores and fighting entropy at every turn. There were no visitors.

Making Sense of the Census.

The sun shone through a bit more today even as clouds and much needed rain continued. West winds blew at about 10 knots most of the day as the clouds were pushed steadily inland. The barometer is now back up to where it was last Friday before the big nose-dive into Saturday’s storm. The forecast looks a little brighter for Friday and Saturday before a return to wet and cool.

Whale watching activity in the Ecological Reserve was very subdued today as the black and whites moved north and east yesterday. Only four visits by commercial whale watching boats were observed in the Ecological Reserve. One sports fishing vessel and a couple of rental boats also came through obviously oblivious to the speed reduction zone within the reserve boundaries .

Thursday is census day and here are the results of this week’s animal census.

Steller Sea Lion 497

California Sea Lion 522

Harbour Seal 81

Northern Elephant Seal 2

Sea Otter 1

River Otter 1 seen (probably more)

Southern Resident Killer Whale 7 (during count week)

Biggs (Transient) Killer Whale 5 (during count week)

Humpback Whale 1 just outside of reserve but may have transited border

Canada Goose 4 full time (2 adults 2 goslings) (24 visited once during count week)

Harlequin Duck 1

Double-crested Cormorant 11

Pelagic Cormorant 12

Brandt’s Cormorant 1

Black Oystercatcher 29

Black Turnstone 95

Ruddy Turnstone 1

Western Sandpiper 3

Kildeer 1

Dunlin 1

Glaucous-winged Gull 276 (193 – adults; 83 juveniles)

California Gull 61

Western Gull 1

Heerman’s Gull 26

Peregrine Falcon 1

Common Raven 2

Savannah Sparrow 3

It is of note that there have been no Pigeon Guillemots seen since I arrived. Last year there were chicks, still  being fed by their parents, on the nests in the rubble area just west of the jetty at this time of year and later. I am hoping that the river otters have not been visiting these ground-breeding birds and will look for evidence of what has been going on there.

Maintenance work was routine and the only other visitors to the reserve were the Pearson College students having their orientation by vessel. Courtney kindly delivered paper, which was appreciated as there was none.

Pearson College students doing orientation week activity at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve.

Pearson College students doing orientation week activity at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve.

super friendly philosophy teacher





March 17

Sunny, light rain in the late afternoon
Wind: 3-9 knots NE in the morning, 1-6 knots SE in the afternoon, calm at 18:00, 9-15 W in the evening
Air Temperature: Low 7.6°C, High 10.7°C
Ocean Temperature: 8.9°C

The morning was filled with chores: collecting garbage, tidying, cleaning the solar panels and mistaking a swimming seal for a sea otter (three times). The sea otter, which visited the ecological reserve during the winter hasn’t been seen within the past few weeks.

I was off the reserve for a few hours in the afternoon to drop off garbage and pick up gas, groceries, deionized water for the batteries and cleaning supplies. It happened to coincide with Elizabeth May giving a talk at the college.

The sea lions were very active and vocal leading up to the sunset at 19:21.

There were no boats seen in the reserve today.

Darwin Core Archive Species identified in the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve in British Columbia

Garry Fletcher,  Lester B Pearson College, 650 Pearson College Drive, V9C 4H7, Victoria, Canada;
Mary Kennedy, OBIS Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, B2Y 4A2, Dartmouth
Corresponding author(s): Garry Fletcher (garryf(use the at sign), Mary Kennedy (mary.kennedy(use the at sign)
Received {date}; Revised {date}; Accepted {date}; Published {date}

Citation: Combination of authors, year of data paper publication (in parenthesis), Title, Journal Name, Volume, Issue number (in parenthesis), and doi of the data paper.
XwaYeN (Race Rocks) is a showcase for Pacific marine life; including large marine mammals, seabirds, fish, invertebrates and plants. XwaYeN has a rich marine heritage and is culturally significant for several First Nations in the area. The waters surrounding XwaYeN (Race Rocks) are also an important nursery and recruitment area for Northern abalone, currently listed as a threatened marine species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Protecting this area will enhance the protection of this threatened species.

In 1980, the province of British Columbia, under the authority of the provincial Ecological Reserves Act, established the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, which provides for the protection of the terrestrial natural and cultural heritage values (nine islets) and of the ocean seabed (to the 20 fathoms contour line). Ocean dumping, dredging and the extraction of non-renewable resources are not permitted within the boundaries of the Ecological Reserve.

Ecological Reserves are areas in British Columbia selected to preserve representative and special natural ecosystems, plant and animal species, features, and phenomena. Ecological Reserves provide the highest level of protection for the maintenance of physical and biological diversity while allowing for research and educational activities. Click here for more information on Ecological Reserves.  Race Rocks Ecological Reserve was established to protect terrestrial, intertidal and sub-tidal communities that are extremely rich as a result of strong tidal currents. Continue reading

Thoughts on Marine Protected area and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans consultation process for Race Rocks Ecological Reserve -FER

By Mike Fenger and Garry Fletcher ( Board members of Friends of Ecological Reserves)

Canada has a less than 1% of its marine ecosystems in Marine Protected Areas status and BC has been slower than the Maritime Provinces lagging at less than < 0.5%. Currently there are two off shore seamounts that make up the BC Marine Areas system and these have been established through Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) lead consultation processes.  Australia on the other hand is in the enviable position with 16% of their marine ecosystems in protected status.  Table 1 shows the different Federal and Provincial Departments/Ministries with a mandate to manage some elements of the marine ecosystems. This Table shows the complexity of overlapping jurisdictions.  The different purpose and jurisdictional tools

Formating for this table will be reestablished
Table 1.  Federal and Provincial Marine Protected Area Programs    (Courtesy of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society)
_Parks Canada_Department of Fisheries and Oceans_Environment Canada_Ministry of the Environment – BC_Ministry of Agriculture and Lands – BC__Designation

National Marine Conservation Areas
Marine Protected Areas
Marine Wildlife Areas
National Wildlife Areas
Migratory Bird Sanctuaries
Provincial Parks
Provincial Ecological
Wildlife Management
BC Marine Ecological Classification
Southern Strait of Georgia (proposed)
Gwaii Haanas (proposed)
Endeavour Hydrothermal
Bowie Seamount
Scott Islands (proposed)
Desolation Sound Marine
Checleset Ecological Reserve

National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Oceans Act
Canada Wildlife Act
Migratory Birds Convention Act
Park Act
Ecological Reserve Act
Wildlife Act

Planning tool for coastal planning, coastal management, and marine protected areas candidate identification.
Protect and conserve marine areas of significance as part of a representative network of protected areas.
Protect and conserve commercial and non-commercial fisheries resources, including endangered or threatened species, areas of high biodiversity or productivity, unique habitats, and marine mammals and their habitats.
Conservation of marine wildlife, with emphasis on marine birds, through the maintenance and restoration of supporting habitats.
Park Act:
Protect representative examples of natural diversity, and special natural, cultural heritage, and recreational features within BC.

Ecological Reserve Act:
Protect viable, representative examples of the natural diversity and exclude harvest of marine resources within the reserve.
Advance efforts to establish Marine Protected Areas.

Representation of marine natural regions (physical, biological & cultural)
On-site interpretation
Public education & enjoyment
Sustainable use
Marine resources
Species and habitats
Endangered species/habitats
Unique habitats
Areas of high productivity
Sustainable use
Wildlife/Migratory birds
Species and habitats
Endangered species/habitats
Productive, unique and sustainable habitats/ecosystems
Biodiversity conservation

Perhaps in response to a bigger unifying vision the BC Ministry of Environment has recently begun to develop an Ocean’s and Coastal Strategy which in addition to economic benefits also envisages maintaining and improving the health of marine ecosystems through ecosystem based management.  This new broader look at marine ecosystems is a welcome addition that can potentially improve the long term viability of the marine based ERs.  FER is advocating all marine-based ERs receive a buffer zone so the marine component of the ecosystem adjacent receives equivalent status whenever a marine protected area is declared.  Table 2 lists currently established ERs that protect biological features such sea bird colonies and sea mammal breeding areas.

Table 2. Existing ERs to out from for a network of Marine Protected Areas system.  Race Rocks (Bolded) is the only ER that is currently under a DFO lead process that may result in a marine protected area.
Annie Vallee (Triangle Island)
Balingall Islets
Baeria Rocks
Brackman Island
Byers/Conroy/Harvey/Sinnett Islands Checleset Bay
Cleland Island
Canoe Islets
Dewdney and Glide Islands
East Redonda
Francis Point
Lasqueti Island
Lepas Bay Moore/McKenney/Whitmore Islands
Mount Maxwell
Mount Tuan
Robson Bight (Michael Biggs)
Pine/storm and Tree Islands (Duke of Edinburgh)
Klashkish River
Megin River
Oak Bay Islands
Race Rocks
Rose Islets
Rose Spit
San Juan River Estuary
Satellite Channel
Ten Mile Point
Trial Island
Tashish River
Vladimir J. Krajina (Port Channel)
For locations of these ER access Existing ERs see the Ministry of Environment link for purpose statements

The Race Rocks Consultation process.  FER is one of “stakeholders” participating in the four advisory group meetings scheduled for completion by spring of 2010.  Garry Fletcher has a long involvement as the warden for this ER. I am a relative new comer to the 10 year consultation process and my input has mainly been to clarify what the Federal approach is to a system of protected areas.  Other stakeholders associations represent, sports fishing interests, scuba divers, whale watching tour operators, marina operators, for example. The details of the meetings and advisory group are available at the Race Rocks Advisory Board site maintained by Pearson College. Absent from this advisory group meetings are First Nations though there is a first nations consultant present at the meetings.  DFO is holding separate consultation with First Nations.
Race Rocks ER has a long association with Pearson College which has maintained infra structure on the island allowing this ER to function as an outdoor laboratory.  As a result of this 30 year association Race Rocks has a level of monitoring and study which is unparalleled in other ERs.  The accessibility of the research and monitoring is phenomenal and a visit to the award winning Race Rocks web site is all that is needed to illustrate the how information for Race Rocks ER is available.
As the Race Rocks ER warden Garry shared the following insights.  It has been 10 years since the final ratification of Race Rocks as a Marine Protected Area ground to a halt.  There is now a renewed urgency on the part of DFO to complete the designation process by next year.  The Oceans Act of 1997 lays out very clearly the intent to protect complete marine ecosystems with the organisms and their habitat, however the new round of advisory meetings is concerned with only the designation of the water column of the existing Rockfish Protection area ( down to 40 metres).  This does nothing to solve jurisdictional problems in managing the ecological reserve, and it does not bring together the role of Canadian Wildlife Service in the protection of Seabirds , the department of transport in the protection of the airspace above marine mammal haulouts and leaves those haulouts as well a responsibility of BC Parks for the 9 islets of the Race Rocks Archipelago.. First Nations still do have access, (as they always have from the Douglas Treaties,)  to the living resources of the area, that arrangement trumped only by proven conservation needs.
Lester Pearson College through a long term lease from BC Parks has funded the management of the reserve for the past 10 years, something that is not sustainable in the long term without assistance from government.  So far there is no firm indication that there will be any support for the support of on-site management.  So what changes?  We are beginning to wonder if the costs to establish this MPA have really been worth it.
Although  federally established MPAs on the East Coast, (example Musquash in New Brunswick) involved a transfer of the provincial seabed to the federal government, the west coast provides a different scenario. The provincial government has made it clear that they will not allow any ceding of  ownership of any seabed. (This policy is also what currently what is holding up the finalization of the Gulf Islands Marine Park as well.)
Some of the information in the article was distributed to the Advisory Group members and attached to minutes of the first meeting.  It was not clear that all advisory group members are familiar with ERs and the importance of protection of representative and unique ecosystems of British Columbia. It is also unclear whether the importance to a system of natural benchmarks, research areas, educational resources and repositories of genetic materials and geologic features recognized by participants as critical to sustainability of marine systems.

The Ecological Reserve system – in concert with other elements of British Columbia’s protected areas system and resource management regime – supports protection, study and understanding of ecosystems – their resiliency, ecological processes and natural elements.

FER expectations raised at the October Advisory Group meeting for Race Rocks were.
•    The Boundaries of a MPA need to be based on best available information and make ecological sense in the long term.
•    There will be a system of protected marine areas.
•    The location of the MPAs in addition to Race Rocks will strongly guided by conservation biology and best available science.
•    MPA will be supported in legislation with objectives for MPAs similar to provincial legislation and include:
1.    areas suitable for scientific research and educational purposes associated with studies in productivity and other aspects of the natural environment;
2.    areas that are representative examples of natural ecosystems in British Columbia;
3.    areas that serve as examples of ecosystems that have been modified by human beings and offer an opportunity to study the recovery of the natural ecosystem from modification;
4.    areas where rare or endangered native plants and animals in their natural habitat may be preserved;
5.    Areas that contain unique and rare examples of botanical, zoological or geological phenomena.
•    Entry to reserves will be through permitting.
•    There will be a commitment for effective enforcement.
•    MPA will act a research benchmarks and monitoring sites for Federal and Provincial agencies to promote sustainable use of natural resources.
•    Existing ERs and Terrestrial Protected Areas with a marine component will be reviewed as a starting point for a comprehensive network MPAs.

Additional observations
There is a no “target for a west coast or national system of MPA.  Since there is less than 0.5% in BC it is unclear what the Federal government believes is necessary to safe guard the nationally managed marine resources and what is the time frame needed to build the a credible network of MPAs?  Those managing the Race Rocks process were not able to refer to higher longer term direction.  This leads to the conclusion that there appears to be no commitment or leadership towards more than one off MPAs at this point in time.

Clarification or development of the Federal and Provincial agencies of a common vision and a coordinated coast wide process leading to a scientifically based MPA is unclear.

The willingness of stakeholders and management agencies to embrace MPAs as a safety net for resource management and sustainability is unclear and it is not widely accepted as fundamental missing piece of resource management.

The integration of FNs is another layer of complexity and close linkages of FN cultures to the marine system indisputable. Since all marine ecosystems have been traditionally accessible to exploitation this adds an additional challenge.   The willingness to forgo a previous access will depend on the clarification of benefits to the greater good over the longer term both to FN and other interests.  Since we are not privy to the MOU between DFO and FN we do not know what is being discussed.  There is not a great deal of confidence that the benefits of treating Race Rocks as no-take zone will be conveyed in this forum as it is unclear whether this even supported by DFO as part of a management tool for responsible sustainable marine ecosystem management as this has never been part of the DFO management paradigm and has no precedent in the historic DFO approach and consequently there is no research showing the benefits. Some references on the benefits have been amalgamated on the Race Rocks website.