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Author Topic: Fish Tales  (Read 63852 times)
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winterwren
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« Post / Reply #120 on: December 06, 2016, 08:22:46 PM »

With all I wrote in my previous series of posts, I still had not answered the question people ask me most often about our kelp forests: what happened to them? How and why did they disappear in the first place?

So I went back to my sources with that question and wrote a short article that appeared in our monthly local paper, The First Edition.

Here is the article.

What happened to the kelp?

This was the most-asked question when Conservancy Hornby Island held an open house on October 22, presenting a series of maps of the marine values around the island.
One map showed the eelgrass beds, and the sites where the forests of bull kelp used to be. That ‘used to’ took a lot of people by surprise.

Is it really all gone? What happened?

I asked Amanda Zielinski from Hornby Island Diving, who volunteers for the local kelp restoration project.
The decline has been going on for decades, all over the Pacific Coast, but it is most obvious throughout the Salish Sea, where there is not as much water movement as on the open coast. 
Amanda moved here in 1998, and by then the vast majority of the kelp beds were already gone. Rob Zielinski had long ago mapped the areas where they used to be, and this is the data that was on view at the Community Hall.

As with many things in nature, there are several factors at work.

Kelp is very sensitive to sea temperatures. The temperatures have risen most of all near the surface, and that is where the kelp’s reproductive tissues are formed, on the leaf-like blades that we can see at low tide. Warmer water also speeds the growth of various other algae and sea creatures that can engulf the kelp before it is large enough to outgrow them.

Kelp is also sensitive to increases in UV radiation… And of course that is mostly felt at the surface too, where those delicate reproductive structures are.

Kelp is sensitive to many man-made pollutants. Think about the eight pulp mills around the Salish Sea that poured out untreated waste, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for most of a century. Mill closures and tightened regulations about the disposal of waste water have helped this situation, but not a moment too soon. Treated-lumber manufacture and storage on the Fraser River has also been implicated.

Kelp is sensitive to sedimentation. Upland development and logging have increased the amount of silt released into our waters. This would affect the kelp most at its microscopic stages but an increase in sediments suspended in the water also means a decrease of light, so this would slow down the growth of the kelp at all stages.

Kelp is also affected by grazers. Sea urchin numbers are increasing. Aside from Sea Otters, whose numbers crashed almost two hundred years ago and who may not have populated the Salish Sea anyway, other animals control sea urchins. The most notable is the Sunflower Star, a huge, many-armed sea star. Disease wiped out our area’s Sunflower Stars three years ago. In the few years before then, there had been a little bit of kelp regrowth at Gravelly Bay, near the ferry dock, and the last large kelp bed near Chrome Island was showing signs of recovery, but after the demise of the Sunflower Star these areas crashed again. This year Rob searched the area and found not a blade.

Since 2011, the Zielinskis and Amanda’s father, biologist Bill Heath, have been working on a kelp restoration project, one of many that have started on both sides of the border. These projects have increased our knowledge of how the kelp grows. Is it too late to restore our kelp forests? What else is here, in that ocean surrounding us, unnoticed and possibly threatened as we go about our daily lives?



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jeavverhey
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« Post / Reply #121 on: December 07, 2016, 02:33:13 AM »

Thank you for posting this very detailed and helpful information Wren.   I Have laboured under the impression  that the kelp demise was due to the  loss of  seals and the resulting rise iin numbers of sea urchins     
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Sandor3
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« Post / Reply #122 on: December 07, 2016, 08:02:52 AM »

Thank you for this information, winterwren. 
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Tigerlady105
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« Post / Reply #123 on: December 07, 2016, 11:12:08 AM »

Thank you, wren.  That area is beautiful and I've been to the Salish Sea.  My brother lives near there and has a very nice map/art work of it on the dining room wall.
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winterwren
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« Post / Reply #124 on: January 29, 2017, 08:42:50 PM »

Here's the next part of the kelp restoration project... The only part of the process I had missed last year.

Early in January, we started a new season: went out and installed our grow ropes again, with new seed string holding tiny baby kelp sporophytes.
We're doing this earlier this year, trying to give the kelp more time to grow before the water warms up.

First we coiled the ropes we had left on the outer dock to get cleaned by the rain and birds over the winter. Everything got loaded onto the dive boat; and we also towed out a smaller boat.

Here's all the equipment aboard, ready to go: ropes, floats, dive gear.
Ford Cove, January 4, 11 am



This is what the seed string looks like!
Click on the picture... The brown fuzz clinging to the thin string that is wound all around the plastic cylinder is a whole lot of minuscule kelp plants, at the start of the sporophyte stage. Each tiny strand could potentially become one of those long kelp stems. In reality only a  fraction will make it to full size.




What looks like ice at the end of the cylinder is indeed ice. It's been so cold, even the sea water surrounding the cylinders partly froze overnight.




I had been wondering how we would get the seeded string wound around those long grow ropes... Here's how: we pass each rope through the plastic cylinder that holds each string... And tie the end of the string to the rope... And gently pull the rope through! The string unwinds from the cylinder onto the rope... Clever!
Off the frame to our left, a small boat is slowly stretching the rope away from the dive boat.



Once the ropes were all stretched out away from the boat, down the divers went, to anchor them to the bottom.
Meanwhile a curious Red-necked Grebe checked out the scene, maybe curious to see if those large seal-like beings might scare up some fish to the surface.




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jeavverhey
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« Post / Reply #125 on: January 30, 2017, 04:34:42 AM »

Thank you for that Wren - great info -  I found the whole process so  very encouraging and interesting. thumbup
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Cawatcher
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« Post / Reply #126 on: January 31, 2017, 08:14:24 AM »

Thank you wren, What a wonderful ingenious way to restore the kelp beds this is so interesting!
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winterwren
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« Post / Reply #127 on: February 15, 2017, 09:14:34 PM »

Next day, January 5, we did more of the same.
We are only using one site near Comox this year, the one at Cape Lazo; the ones near the Courtenay River estuary didn't do well enough to warrant our continued efforts.

More kelp babies growing on string, the string wound around plastic tubes. These kelp babies are all grown from spores collected last summer.




Another look at a spool of string, just before we pass the grow line through the spool and let the string wind onto the rope.
Today we don't have the little boat, so one of the divers stretches the ropes away from the dive boat while the string winds onto it. Then the two divers will go anchor the ropes to the bottom.




See this earlier post for an explanation of the life cycle of kelp.

The divers pick up any stray bit of rope or plastic that they find at the site, whether it's ours or comes from another group. There's enough plastic floating out there, no need for us to add any.
This little section of rope holds its own small ecosystem, all of which got sent overboard before we disposed of the rope.
This was a new sea star to the deckhand... A Mottled Star, I'm told. It is large enough to eat the smaller Blue Mussels that are attached to the rope.
A few annelid worms hid among the mussels, and the ever-present caprellids or Skeleton Shrimp.




Again a Red-necked Grebe is checking out the area while the divers are underwater. Birds pay attention to big critters that may disturb the little fishes and cause them to reveal their whereabouts.




Headed back... Over the Comox Bar we always see a lot of birds.
Greater Scaups and Long-tailed Ducks here.








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