Squid surveillance, in several ways

Squid surveillance, in several ways

I find squid pretty inherently interesting. They’re believed to be smart, and I’d call them beautiful, but they’re also so alien to our terrestrial, vertebrate selves. Even more interesting, or perhaps alarming, is what’s happening with the Humboldt squid in B.C. waters. First, why are they here? They’re native to northern Mexico, but in the past ten years have spread northward, first to California, and now all the way to southeast Alaska. That is a big change in such a short time. Secondly, they’re washing up dead on beaches in large numbers. Given this, I was pretty curious when I learned about a new study tagging two dozen Humboldt squid and trying to trace their movements around the North Pacific, as part of the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking project. The goal is to figure out what the jumbo squid are doing up here. That’s important to know for fisheries because these squid prey on commercially valuable species like hake. It also matters because their rapid change of range could tell us something about our changing oceans. You can watch my CBC TV story (vid link) from last week to see the squid, and hear from the scientist leading the research. There’s an online text version here. Eyes on the ground If you look at the TV story, or even the photo above, you’ll see that CBC didn’t capture the images of the squid. The video came from a Tofino-based group called the Raincoast Education Society. I found some of it on YouTube, then called up Josie Osborne and asked if we could use it. She said yes, and ended...
A decent year for some threatened whales

A decent year for some threatened whales

One whale story begets another, I suppose. Researching another story this week on humpbacks, I called up Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard at the Vancouver Aquarium. He’s a scientist with a gift for speaking clearly, and he studies marine mammals on our coast. He’s also the co-chair of the Killer Whale Recovery Team organized by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. I asked him about the killer whales he studies — the Northern Resident population, which can be seen in the Johnstone Strait area and further north during the summer. Last year, he had spoken out about that population starving, and described whales swimming for hours before finding fish to eat. (Their preferred food: chinook salmon). This year, what a difference. The central coast runs for chinook were abundant, he told me. So the whales seemed to have enough to eat, and it could be seen in how they act. “That basically means the whales don’t have to be making a living every minute of the day they have time to socialize,” said Barrett-Lennard in an interview on the Aquarium’s research boat, Skana. “When whales are ‘happy,’ we see a lot of social behaviour, they’re a lot like us in that respect,” he said. “We see larger groups, lots of playing, lots of pushing and shoving and jumping and rolling over on their backs.” Take a look at my CBC TV story (vid link) to see killer whales, and learn what other threats they...