The Grand Sailboat Regatta


  • Visibility: 8 miles in the early morning, 15 later on
  • Wind: 15-20 knots East, then North, then West
  • Sky: foggy and overcast, then sunny, then overcast
  • Scattered raindrops throughout the day
  • Water: mostly calm, with swells in the afternoon



  • Maya and Tazi conducted 4 intertidal transects today.
  • Studying an intertidal transect involves measuring out a certain distance from a peg, and then documenting the different species found every 0.5 metre.
  • In some transects the 0.5 metres are measured by water elevation; in others simply by distance.
  • By comparing the species found in every zone of the transect with transect data from previous decades, you can see the change in intertidal ecosystems due to climate change.
  • We saw a California Sea Lion with the brand U374 and another with a tracker.
  • While most of the gull eggs all look the same, one particular egg is quite different.


  • Maya and I ran the fire pump in the morning.
  • This added a few inches to the cistern.
  • We removed the old Canadian flag and hoisted a fresh one.
  • Tazi and I removed some algae.
  • Ali whacked away at the thistles.
  • We cleaned the solar panels.


  • Over 150 sailboats from Victoria passed by Race Rocks in the late morning on their way towards the Western horizon.
  • Some of them started to return as late as 22:30.
  • The colours of their sales included: red, blue, white, fluorescent yellow, green, purple, black, orange, and many combinations of all of the above.
  • Some standouts included the Miles Davis sail and the Union Jack.
  • I couldn’t stop taking photos and ended up with dozens. Below is a selection of the best.
  • One coastguard zodiac and a search and rescue boat appeared to be accompanying the sailboats.
  • Several eco-tours came by, including one Eagle Wings tour that drove through the South Channel.
  • Passing through the South Channel is prohibited as the width is too narrow.

Transect Peg Locations on Great Race Rocks

Expand this map of Great Race Rocks in order to see the numbered pegs in red around the shoreline. Some of these pegs were intended as intertidal locators, and some as subtidal tethering pegs. The ones with question marks still need to be located to be sure.

Some of the  pegs were established pre-1980 and some were established after 2000.

Peg 1: off west side of jetty end- subtidal
Peg 2: off point of bay west of jetty–subtidal
peg 3: further along north side– subtidal
peg 4: off base of cliff– subtidal (proved impractical because of high current)
peg 5: inter and subtidal
peg 5a:later installation- inter and subtidal
peg 5b: later installation-inter and subtidal
peg 6: for tidepool locator and intertidal and subtidal
peg 7: for subtidal minimal use
peg 8: for subtidal not used
peg 9: for subtidal not used
peg 9 : for subtidal not used
peg 10: for subtidal not used
peg 11: subtidal not used as too close to old outfall.
peg 12 inter and subtidal
peg 13: used for annual intertidal algae stratification lab exercise.
peg 14: subtidal- outer extreme North East corner.
peg 14b: inter and subtidal concrete mound with stainless steel hole for peg – inter and subtidal
peg 15: large boat mooring post — used for intertidal lab exercises
peg 15a: inter and subtidal concrete mound with stainless steel hole for peg – inter and subtidal

To be added later: links to webpages with data from these pegs:

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.

Marine Mammals Hauled out on Race Rocks Jan 2014-Feb 2016


This graph represents the 6 marine mammal species which haul out on Great Race Rocks in the Race Rocks Ecological reserve.  providing the population numbers and the time of year  CLICK to enlarge. The data was obtained from the Posts on census done by the Ecoguardians at Race Rocks.mammalcraph

The graph below represents the Elephant seal population at Race Rocks Ecological reserve with data taken from the Ecoguardian logs for January 2014 to January 2016. Click to enlarge.


Humpback and Orca Sightings from Race Rocks in the Strait of Juan de Fuca

In preparing for the oral presentation that the Friends of Ecological Reserves  will give on January 28 in Burnaby, as an intervenor for the National Energy board Hearings, I have recently updated or graphs on Humpback and Orca sightings by the Ecoguardians at Race Rocks: The posts done by our Ecoguardians tagged for orcas or  humpback whales assisted in this tabulation.

image003 orcadays

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.






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.


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:


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.


Bald Eagle versus Canada Goose

Today’s weather was a mixed bag. Early on there was thick fog, which thinned by dawn and cleared in the early morning. Then for a short time it was glorious and fairly calm with winds westerly up to 15 knots. The westerly wind doubled in the early afternoon and by 4:00 PM it was gusting well over 35 knots in the tower. On radio watch for the afternoon’s activities, I kept a weather eye on Pearson College sailing vessel Amatuana as she was blown across to Victoria in no time flat. Nicely done.

Only one whale watching boat was noted in the Ecological Reserve today and when I finally spotted them, they were pounding out through wind and tide towards Race Passage. Their sound alerted me to their presence.

The Northern Elephant Seals are starting to moult and data collection on basic biological parameters began today including non-invasive, length measurements using the marine railway as a big meter stick.


If only this female were lying next to a big ruler, we would have a complete data set on her for April 17, 2015.

If only this female were lying next to a big ruler, we would have a complete data set on her for April 17, 2015.

There were 14 visitors first thing this morning. Courtney, driving Second Nature, brought out one of Laura’s first year, marine science classes. It was an early start for these  students but they had breakfast en route and were very efficient on shore. They did a quantitative, community ecology activity on the low tide. They were trying to determine if and how the diversity, abundance and distribution of intertidal macro-biota changed with vertical height. They used water levels to measure vertical height, (an ancient Egyptian leveling technique based on the fact that water will always find its’ own level), transect lines to position sampling and quadrats to focus sampling efforts. These photos of the students, were all taken by Laura Verhegge.

First year marine science students from around the world learn science experientially at Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific.

First year marine science students from around the world learn science experientially at Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific.

Catriona and Claudia demonstrate skill and teamwork using the waterlevel to measure vertical height ti the next sample.

Catriona and Claudia demonstrate skill and teamwork using the water-level to measure vertical height to the next sample.


tella, Connor and Tamara discover the intricacies of inter-tidal life.

Stella, Connor and Tamara discover the intricacies of inter-tidal life.

Courtney is a big fan of elephant seals and so she was keen to help with the first elephant seal measurements this morning and assisted in working out a way for one person to measure the elephant seals without disturbing them. As of this afternoon the marine railway is the new ruler and first measurements made of a young male were very close to those made earlier with a laser, measuring device. The laser technique required two people, two long boards, a right angle check and eye safety protocols. The laser technique had potential to bother the animal (if it was awake). The new technique is passive, non-invasive and non-threatening.


Male elephant seal entering the "measuring device".

Male elephant seal entering the “measuring device”.

I saw a juvenile Bald Eagle attack a goose sitting on her nest today. I had suspected this was going on but good to verify. The eagle might have been successful with back-up, but the gander flew in and together with the goose, drove the eagle off. You can guess who I was cheering for. I know it is not science but there is no hockey out here and I am Canadian, eh.