The colourful underwater world thriving off BC’s coast just got a little more cute.
Parks Canada has announced that k̲uu, (sea otters) have been spotted in Gwaii Haanas after a 150-year absence. It’s an encouraging sign, and local researchers hope it signifies a return to balance in the marine ecosystem.
Sea urchin populations exploded once their main predator, the k̲uu, were decimated by the maritime fur trade. Urchins have since devoured local kelp forests, essential habitat for other species like abalone, herring, rockfish and salmon. Thanks to the Haida Nation, Parks Canada and other partners using a combination of scientific research and traditional knowledge, new kelp forests are now thriving. The return of the k̲uu is an exciting development, and project partners will continue to study their impacts on the ecosystem.
3 Unforgettable BC dives
Who needs to visit tropical reefs when Jacques Cousteau himself has said BC’s diving is “the best temperate-water diving in the world, and second only to the Red Sea.”
If the return of the k̲uu has you itching to swim like an otter in the ocean, BC’s coast has plenty of spectacular destinations. Here’s a look at three awesome experiences, once we’re travelling again.
The Galapagos of the North
Haida Gwaii is often called the Galapagos of the North thanks to its rich biodiversity and an astonishing mix of rare species, and it puts on a dazzling display both above and below sea-level. There are a few diving outfits on-island who can show you the sights, but you don’t need to be Open Water Certified to see under water. At low tide in Burnaby Narrows (over a day’s boat ride from the nearest town) you can float in a kayak and gaze down on dense ocean life less than a metre underwater. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the cute creature that just moved back to the neighbourhood, the k̲uu!
Swim in a Boeing 737
The Artificial Reef Society of British Colombia is in the business of sinking ships. Why? Large steel vessels make excellent artificial reefs, creating new habitat for marine life. The society removes any equipment that would be dangerous to divers or toxic to the ecosystem, then safely sinks old vessels in thoughtfully accessible locations. Of their nine BC reefs in coastal waters off Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Sunshine Coast, all but one are ships. And then there’s the Boeing 737 near Chemainus, which originally flew with the now-defunct Canadian Airlines. In this video you can see the life flourishing on the fuselage 11 years after the plane was installed.
Resist the urge to scratch your name into the hull of these artificial reefs. When you scrape away the ‘dirt’ you destroy a fine coating of growth that feeds all life on the ship.
Scuba in the City
Easy-to-access just around the corner from Horseshoe Bay is Whytecliff Park, a popular spot for divers of all skill levels. You’re sure to see colourful anemones, rockfish and massive sun stars, and if you’re lucky you might get a visit from a seal or octopus. The underwater views are phenomenal, and so is the convenience: shore access, bathrooms, a rinse station, parking, and a short commute to the big city in Vancouver.