Parks Day at East Point Saturna Island is a great family day out. It is an intercommunity effort to arrange it and an estimated 250 people came by to enjoy themselves on a gloriously sunny afternoon.
The sun shone, there was ice cream, music, educational talks and displays, and touch tanks to allow you to get to know intertidal creatures - and as though by pre-arrangement, the whales came by.
So-called touch tanks with sea-water circulating through them are set up on the Shell Beach at East Point. Divers collect animals such as nudibranchs, seastars, and sea anemones and place them in the tanks for a short while. Everybody can see them and in some cases handle them – gently. Seeing the divers emerge from the sea was a cause for excitement this year – children and adults gathered at the water’s edge to talk to the divers and ask what they had seen.
One cannot collect animals from the sea without permits from Parks Canada and from the Department of Fisheries (DFO). Marine Life Sanctuary Society (MLSS) began their preparations months in advance by obtaining these permits. In parallel Saturna Island Marine Research and Education Society (SIMRES) contacted a number of local divers, researchers and societies to invite them to participate in the Parks Day event at East Point.
On the day, in addition to the touch tanks, the Shell Beach and the SIMRES research station contained an impressive array of information tables and displays.
There were representatives from the Cetus Straitwatch program who are based on Saturna Island this summer. Their goal is to educate boaters on the right way to behave near marine mammals. The University of Victoria Spectral Lab had a display in the SIMRES research station – they map eelgrass using drones. Pairing the drone mapping with historic aerial photography, they are looking at how eelgrass meadows around Saturna Island have changed since 1932. Also present was the Watershed Watch Salmon Society who stands up for conservation of BC salmon. For the southern resident orcas, as salmon is their only food source, this is a matter of survival. Mayne Island Conservancy came to tell us about their extensive marine conservation programs which include an annual beach cleanup and eelgrass and kelp distribution mapping projects. Galiano Island Conservancy told us about the Rockfish Conservation Project which attempts to halt the rapid decline of rockfish populations due to overfishing.
At the end of the day many of the participants gathered for an informal meal and buoyed up by the success of the day began to plan next year’s event!
Reporting by Dylan Hillis, photos by Charles Reif, Dylan Hillis, & Mairead Boland
SEATALKS | Saturna Environmental Awareness Talks presented by Saturna Island Marine Research & Education Society | SIMRES