B.C. coast, St. Lawrence estuary most at risk for major marine oil spill: report

Adapted from the Times Colonist at his link: http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/b-c-coast-st-lawrence-estuary-most-at-risk-for-major-marine-oil-spill-report-1.806714

The Canadian Press January 29, 2014 01:24 PM   OTTAWA — A government-commissioned risk analysis says the coast of southern British Columbia and the Gulf of St. Lawrence are the Canadian areas most vulnerable marine oil spills and among the most likely for a major spill to occur. The findings will add to the debate over several pipeline proposals — including two in B.C. that the report says will substantially increase marine risks. The 256-page study, delivered this month to Transport Canada, looks at the risks associated with marine oil spills south of the 60th parallel under current shipping volumes.


The southern tip of Vancouver Island — including Race Rocks — is among sites considered vulnerable to oil spills. Photograph by: Dan Kukat

It identifies the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the Cabot Strait off Newfoundland, the eastern coast of Cape Breton Island and the Gulf of St. Lawrence as the most probable areas for a major oil spill. But the study also assesses the potential impact of four proposed pipeline projects, including the Northern Gateway Pipeline to Kitimat and Kinder Morgan’s plan to almost triple its Trans Mountain line into Vancouver. The report says the Kinder Morgan proposal would essentially double oil traffic in an already vulnerable marine environment — with a corresponding increase in spill frequency — while the Northern Gateway marine route would turn what are currently very low, near-shore risks into very high risks. The study found that reversing Enbridge’s Line 9 to carry Western Canadian crude to refineries in Montreal and Quebec City would actually lower marine spill risks, as it would reduce oil imports through the sensitive Gulf of St. Lawrence. And the study found that the proposed Energy East Pipeline to St. John, N.B., would likely be a wash, reducing shipping imports but increasing oil exports to leave the overall marine risk about where it is now. © Copyright Times Colonist

Also see:


Video: Elephant seal pup born on Vancouver island is an online star : Global TV

(Global TV  toured the waters of Race Rocks and did an Interview with the Ecological Reserve Warden Garry Fletcher on January15: Click on the image to see the VIdeo .

Global TV

An elephant seal pup is getting used to the watchful eye of the Internet.

Its every move is being broadcast by a webcam to people watching around the world.

It was born in the early morning hours of January 14 at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve in the Strait of Juan de Fuca just off the southern tip of Vancouver island.

The reserve says this is the fifth pup born to a female called Bertha since January 2009.

Race Rocks is the only place in Canada where elephant seals breed and while other baby seals have been born on the reserve’s other islands, they’ve been washed out to sea by the waves.

Elephant seals were hunted to near-extinction in the 19th century, but are now protected under the Fisheries Act.

Arrival of elephant seal pup watched around the world: Times Colonist

Arrival of elephant seal pup watched around the world
Sandra McCulloch
/ Times Colonist
January 14, 2014 09:15 P


An elephant seal and her pup at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Photograph by: Alexander Fletcher

An elephant seal pup is nursing at its mother’s side at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, oblivious to the fact a camera is sending its image around the world.

The pup was born Monday evening — the first birth of an elephant seal this year on the main island, said Garry Fletcher, educational director for the reserve’s website.

Another elephant seal was born last week on one of the smaller islands but rough weather washed it into the sea where it perished.

“All the ones that are born on the outer islands get washed off,” Fletcher said Tuesday. “This one is from a mother that’s had young ones there four or five times before.”

Race Rocks is the only spot in Canada where elephant seals breed, Fletcher said. Normally, elephant seals choose breeding colonies in Oregon or northern California.

There are usually a few elephant seals hanging out at Race Rocks throughout the year, Fletcher said. Last June, a record high of 15 elephant seals were counted on the reef.

Elephant seals are far out-numbered at Race Rocks by their cousins, California sea lions and northern sea lions. Males can grow to four metres in length and weigh 2.3 tonnes, more than a average car, and are often twice as big as male California sea lions.

Harbour seals, which are smaller and much more commonly seen along the coast, also use Race Rocks to breed.

The numbers of elephant sea lions are rebounding after being hunted to near extinction by the end of the 19th century. Elephant seals are now protected under the Fisheries Act.

To see live images of the baby elephant seal, go to the Race Rocks website.

© Copyright Times Colonist

Other Media in which  the story is covered:



Sealions return

Hello all, I realise that it has been a little while since I last wrote in the daily log. Things have been busy. Ocean Educations, a three week summer diving program at Pearson College just finished this week and I’ve been busy with that, as well as keeping a German film crew of four from German public TV busy -you may have noticed Tom, Christian, Florian and Michael on the Island this week). They were busy shooting two documentaries at Race Rocks. They left this morning and I’m pleased to say that they acquired some stunning footage, above and below the water, during their stay. Things have quieted down a bit now though, so I hope to be a bit more regular in my entries for these last few weeks of my stationing at Race. Many of you will be pleased to hear that camera 5 has been repaired. Apparently there was a problem in the electrical board inside. I have it on the Island and am planning on re-installing on its mount tomorrow. If all goes to plan, it should be up and running by tomorrow afternoon. Over the last week or so, the sea lions have made quite a return. I ‘d estimate that there are probably around 100 individuals in the Reserve right now, with an equal split between northern sea lions and California sea lions. Their numbers will continue to grow as the summer draws slowly to a close. Slash is still hauled up on Great Race these days, as always. I’ve not seen Misery for a while now, although it ”s possible he’s out on Middle Rock as I saw a couple of elephant seals out there a few days ago. I suspect that Misery got a bit sick of Slash and decided to seek out some peace and quiet. There was also a mature female here for a few days late last week and early this week, but she has since left. The gull chicks are now getting quite large. Many have started to fledge and are beginning to ”test their wings ”. I ‘ve not seen any in the air yet, although I ”ve seen many flapping their limbs energetically as they try to see how their wings work! This week I also found quite a large number of dead and/or injured chicks. I think they are often attacked by other adults from outside their territory. There is actually a chick right outside my basement door that has been there for four days now; my best guess is that it wandered or ran off far from the nest then couldn ‘t find its way back. On the third day -yesterday), I woke up to find it with a broken wing. It ”s quite sad to see it huddling in the damp grass with a broken wing, while a couple of metres away, a mother feeds her three healthy chicks. Quite a stark division. I expect this chick will soon die from starvation or predation. I saw the otter several times this week. I haven ”t seen as many eagles around this week as I have in previous weeks. I ”ll keep you updated to this poor little gull over the next few days. That ”s all for now. Adam’, ’21:20:54 ,

Webcasting Crew at Race Rocks for the Johan Ashvud RR’02 Project



Michael Kiprop Kenya (PC-2003)



Joe Downham UK (PC-2003)


Ben Dougall Australia (PC-2003)


Ryan Murphy Newfoundland & Labrador (PC-2001)

“We had a great time webcasting live from Race Rocks on Camera 4 during the first two weeks of June for the Johan Ashuvud Race Rocks02 Project”
Three current first year students from Pearson College and Ryan Murphy, who graduated last year stayed at the Marine Science Centre. Ryan is returning to Race Rocks this month to do research for Mt.Allison Univ. on the macroalgal community.

See one video on Pterygophora which was one part of his project here: They conducted daily live and prerecorded webcasts with Garry Fletcher from the intertidal and from underwater using camera 4.


Garry Fletcher Biology/Diving faculty

For one of the webcasts we were joined by Sean LeRoy, Graduate Researcher, Georgia Basin Futures Project Sustainable Development Research Institute, University of British Columbia and Dr.James Tansey also of UBC. They came to participate in the webcast with Garry and Ryan on Marine Protected Areas in new Zealand and Canada with Tim Langlois, Leigh Marine Laboratory University of Auckland, and Anne Saloman, University of Washington, Zoology Department.

On three days we hosted small groups of students from local elementary schools who served as proxies in webcasts done for their classmates.

Support for the Race Rocks 02 Project came from the Johan Ashuvud Race Rocks Memorial Fund
Below are some of the Videos produced by the crew during the week.

benframes kids octopuss
Ben’s movie put together during the week. June 2002 field trip: for a live webcast with the crew, of the grade six students from West-Mont school . One morning we found the body of an octopus washed up in the intertidal zone. An impromptu dissection led to this video.


The audio portion of the Ideas program which is devoted to Race Rocks will playwith QuickTime -click on the forward arrow. You may use this controller to stop or replay sections.

paulonOn Saturday May 26, 2001, we hosted at Race Rocks Paul Kennedy, the host of the CBC program “Ideas” (9:00 PM nightly Mon-Fri. ) .

Paul was on the West Coast that week preparing a special series on Canada’s oceans and marine issues. See Paul’s OCEAN JOURNAL entry for May 26 for an account of his trip to Race Rocks.

OCEANS EXPLORATIONS: LEARNING FROM OUR OCEANS is a project which will result in eight hours of programming on IDEAS in December 2001. Paul will spend much of the next seven months on each of Canada’s three ocean coasts. He’ll be on board fishing dorys, Haida canoes, off-shore oil rigs, and snowmobiles crossing Arctic ice. By talking with Canadians who live and work on the sea, he’ll begin to learn about many of the things that the oceans can teach us.threeandrr

Paul was accompanied by Garry Fletcher and Angus Matthews of Lester B. Pearson College, and Mark Pakenham, of Ocean’s and Fisheries It was a great day to be on Race Rocks as we were in there in the middle of the Swift Sure Sailboat Race, so the vessels kept making close passes through the islands of Race Rocks MPA . Photos by Angus Matthews.

Paul returned in the Fall of 2001 to do a webcast with the students.


Macs at Work-By David Ferris– in MACWORLD

QuickTime Conservation

Macs at Work

By David Ferris

Three cameras film live, continuous shots in QuickTime of lolling sea lions, dive-bombing pigeon guillemots, and spectacular sunsets. Web visitors can even control Camera One to make it zoom in on sights.

Welcome to Race Rocks, Garry Fletcher says. Use the Web to visit the windswept islands off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. Watch and listen.

Then stay away.

It took Fletcher 20 years to persuade the Canadian government to protect Race Rocks, a group of small islands that jut from the north shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The islands, Canada’s southernmost point, teem with sea lions, seabirds, and anemones.

Fletcher, a biology instructor at Lester B. Pearson College in Victoria, British Columbia, established racerocks.com last year. His idea: if he brought Race Rocks to the masses via streaming media, maybe the masses wouldn’t come by, spooking seals and seagulls and banging boat anchors on the reefs.

Three cameras film live, continuous shots in QuickTime of lolling sea lions, dive-bombing pigeon guillemots, and spectacular sunsets. Web visitors can even control Camera One to make it zoom in on sights.

Feeds from each of the stationary cameras go to an iMac running Sorenson Broadcaster software. One Power Mac G4 streams archived video, and another is used to edit footage in iMovie and Sorenson. Meanwhile, Camera One’s remote features run on a Mac 7300.

Racerocks.com has a mobile Webcasting unit: a Sony digital video camera connected via FireWire to a PowerBook G3 equipped with an AirPort card. Footage can be shot anywhere in the islands and surrounding waters, transmitted to an AirPort Base Station on the biggest island, and boosted with an external antenna.

Fletcher and his students even wired the island for sound by sticking a stan- dard Mac desktop microphone out of a window. “We’ve put it in a plastic bag,” Fletcher says. “It’s amazing how it picks up the seal sounds and the gull sounds.”

Fletcher’s students use this mobile filming system during the summer months to create live Webcasts of tide pools and other ecosystems. And divers have used the same camera — connected by cable to a support boat — to capture images of sea lions cavort-ing in the deep.

A thousand visitors go to racerocks.com each week for the sights and sounds. But they’re lucky Fletcher’s setup doesn’t deliver one of the sensations of Race Rocks: the smell. “It can be fairly ripe at times, especially when the sea lions pile up next to the docks,” says Fletcher.

Elephant Seals Around Southern Vancouver Island : 1990

By Robin W. Baird

Elephant Seals occur fairly frequently on -the B.C. coast, but few people recognize them when they do see them. Adult males only rarely come ashore, and while in the water animals of all ages and both sexes spend up to 90% of their time beneath the surface. Their behaviour while at the surface makes them very difficult to notice as well: at first glance they appear similar to a large, partially waterlogged log floating vertically at the surface (commonly termed a deadhead). Unlike real deadheads, which may bob up and down with waves or a swell, Elephant Seals just sink slowly out of sight after several minutes, and may not surface again for half an hour or more. In fact, the maximum recorded dive length (actually, for the similar southern Elephant Seal) is exactly two hours (Hindell et al. 1989), and they usually only surface for two to three minutes before repeating their dive. They do this day and night, for days, weeks and even months on end, even sleeping underwater. As well, they are generally solitary except during the breeding season, and only breed off the California and Mexican coasts.( now-2006,  also at race Rocks)


Elephant Sea[, at Race Rocks. (Photo: Robin Baird)

Moulting occurs at different times throughout the year depending on the age and sex of the animal. Juvenile Elephants Seals (about 1.5 – 2 metres in length) moult in the spring. In B.C. this is the age class most frequently seen hauling out to moult.

Moulting in Elephant Seals not only involves losing the hair, but the entire outer layer of skin, often in great sheets, and frequently the animals suffer from skin infections, resulting in bleeding. These infections are usually of low level and do not typically seriously harm the animal. When Pinnipeds (seals, sea lions and walruses) come out of the water their eyes continuously water to keep them moist, an adaptation that protects their eyes but also contributes to their sick appearance.

Most people assume that Elephant Seals are much larger than the juveniles which typically haul out in this area, but at this stage they appear fairly similar to Harbour Seals. In fact, confusing juvenile Elephant Seals with Harbour Seals occurs frequently. Despite the fact

Elephant Seal, adult male. (Photo: P.J. Stacey)

Elephant Seal, adult male. (Photo: P.J. Stacey)

that Elephant Seals can be approached closely by people on foot, have watering eyes, and due to their epidermal moult have skin that is literally falling off and sometimes infected, these are normal conditions and the animals are in reality quite healthy. There have been several occasions around Victoria in the last year where such Elephant Seals have been mistakenly identified as sick Harbour Seals and this has resulted in the inadvertent euthanization of the animals.

The differences between juvenile Elephant Seals and Harbour Seals are fairly obvious once you know what they are. Unlike Harbour Seals, Elephant Seals have no spots on the skin, rather they are a uniform greyish brown or yellowish colouration, although while moulting, their skin appears very patchy. The rather “swolled’ snout, and the horizontal crease just below the nostrils are characteristic of Elephant Seals, and a harbinger of the bulbous nose that comes with adulthood for the males. The hind flippers of Harbour Seals are relatively straight along the trailing edge, while Elephant Seals have a inverted U-shaped curve to the trailing edge of their hind flippers. Many of the animals are also tagged on the hind flippers, while very little work has been done in tagging Harbour Seals.

More accurate identification of Elephant Seals will both prevent the types of accidents mentioned above from occurring, and will assist research in terms of trying to monitor the numbers of Elephant Seals in the province. If population numbers in B.C. mimic the increase seen in their breeding range off California, Elephant Seals may become a more common sight off our coast. Such an increase should not worry those concerned with potential conflicts with fisheries, as the diet of the Elephant Seal consists mainly of species largely ignored commercially, such as Ratfish, Dogfish and other sharks, various species of skate, some squid, Cusk Eels, and occasionally deep water, slow swimming fish.

Records of Elephant Seals around southern Vancouver Island have been increasing in the last year, although it is not known if this is due to an actual increase in their presence, or just that more people are aware of the differences between Harbour Seals and Elephant Seals, and are reporting their presence.

We have been attempting to respond to most reports of hauled out Elephant Seals, or of 1arge sick Harbour Seals that you can walk right up to”. We try to check for tags, record age and if possible sex (not an easy task since you’d have to roll the distress.

Some animals are branded as well as tagged, although they lose the brand when they moult. Many are double tagged, with a different number on each tag, so both left and right hind flippers should be checked if an animal is found.

A summary of records of Elephant Seals in B.C., including information on their origin (for tagged individuals), is presently being compiled by Victoria resident Marcel Gijssen and others. Dr. Burney Le Boeuf is responsible for tagging many of the animals born near Ano Nuevo, a site in central California between Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

Anyone observing elephant seals in B.C. can assist with this project by reporting sightings to me at the following address:Department of Biological Sciences,Simon Fraser University, address now not applicable
Hindell, M.A., Slipp, D.J., and Burton, H.R. 1989. Diving
Be-haviour and Foraging Ranges of Southern Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonina) From Macquire Island. Page 29 in Abstracts of the Eighth Biennial Conference on the Biol ogy of Marine Mammals, December 1989, Pacific Grove.

6The Victoria Naturalist Vol. 47.2 (1990)

Danger Bay

entry in log refers to weather report for Vaughn Raymond . CBC Production of Danger Bay

Filming was done on the 8th and 9th of August 1987 and on 27th-30th of August.

Ed note: This episode was about a kid who mistakenly uses a spear gun underwater on a Wolf Eel.  A $1000.00 rubber look alike wolf eel with a “built in blood pouch”was used for the sequence filmed off the end of the docks.

Keeper: Charles Redhead