Monday, November 22, 2010

Hey Folks,
Due to threatening letters from George Lucas (creator of Star Wars) we have changed our winter crew name from The Storm Troopers to the Ucluelet Aquarium Harbour keepers lol.
As for business, the days have gotten shorter and the weather a little chillier, making our job a little more challenging but fun nonetheless.
To date we have removed a distance of 7km of garbage from Hyphocus Island to Garbage dumphill; roughly a quarter of the harbour. We have found lots of garbage Everywhere! both in commercial and residential areas equally. As of Nov 19th we have collected 15 commercial fishing totes of a variety of garbage. Of this refuse, we are primarily pulling large chunks of Styrofoam, rope and single use plastic drink bottles. Interesting things we have found are an old glass insulator used formerly on hydro poles, a large brass propeller, a homemade fishing float toy and numerous shoes (who are these people walking around with one shoe!)

Here Seamus is found slacking off waiting for the hockey game to start.

Of the more interesting natural finds, we found a Giant Pacific Octopus beak. This beak may have come from an Octopus more than 20ft long.

In the coming weeks we will be continuing up the Eastern side of the harbour working our way north. Stayed tuned for further updates and progress on our mission to make Ucluelet harbour a cleaner and a more beautiful place to work and play. For more information log onto the Ucluelet
Facebook page.

For your viewing pleasure here are some of our trashy photos!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Our first week as the Storm Troopers!

Hey folks,
Despite the harsh weather, we have been hitting the harbour pretty hard, finding a wide variety of discarded materials and mapping certain areas that are overrun with invasive plant species. A shout out to Josie Osborne of the Raincoast Education Society for putting on a very informative Invasive species work shop; much appreciated!

Biologist Josey Osborne of The Rain Coast Education Society

Last week we started in the Highphocus Inlet and slowly moved our way north using canoes thanks to Judy Gray and Bill Morrison. The canoes have allowed us to access virtually any area on the coast line due to their ability to maneuver in shallow waters. However due to the surprising amount of garbage we decided to make piles along the coastline just above the high tide line to later be collected with a power boat and small skiff. Thanks to Barkley Sound Black Seals Dive Company for the use of their power boat.
As you can imagine the garbage began to pile up quickly once we got it to home base. We then recruited the use of a dozen fish totes to seperate and organize the garbage for recycling or to be reused. Some of the items include car parts, doors, lightbulbs, bottles and cans, a wide variety of plastics and a surprising amount of styrofoam and rope, lighters and pens.
Stay tuned as we will be continuing to work our way up the harbour...

Dirty work but somebody has to do it

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Winter 2010 Harbour Clean up Crew

Hello out there Aquarium lovers!! We are currently changing with the season and moving into another phase now that the Ucluelet Aquarium has shut down for the season. First off, thank you to all those who came down for the Oct 16th release day; your help was greatly appreciated.
Now that winter is approaching the Aquarium Society will be continuing its work in the community. The winter team known as the "Ucluelet Harbour Storm Troopers" which consists of Kane Edwards, Seamus Little, Jesse Espezel and Tewas Johnston will be doing a number of projects in and around the Ucluelet harbour such as, removing invasive plant species, removing harmful debris and garbage from the intertidal zone as well as diving and removing discarded garbage from the sub tidal zone. In addition, we will be assisting the Ucluelet First Nations in their on going shell fish studies of the Ucluelet inner harbour!
This project is made possible thanks to the Job Creation Program making the Ucluelet harbour a cleaner and healthier environment.

Team Bio:

Jesse Espezel, Born in Fort McMurray. 1982.

I have been involved with Vancouver Island all my life and finally moved to Ucluelet in 2003 to further my skills as a Carpenter and to enjoy the endless opportunities to get out there and enjoy nature. I have spent a significant amount of time combing the beach and trails with my two dogs, often bringing away a full bag of trash that washes up on shore. Now I have met a great group of like minded people, both from the Ucluelet Aquarium Society and our "Storm Troopers" harbor clean up crew. Together we can really make a difference.

Tewas Johnston

Hello interested folks of the Ucluelet Aquarium Society. My name is Tewas J. I've been fortunate to live in Ucluelet for 5 yrs and counting. I first came to Ucluelet on a recommendation from my uncle who is a carver in Nanaimo. Knowing that I had surfed in High school, he told me that you could catch waves in and around the Tofino/Ucluelet area. After a short visit, I immediately fell in love with the area and its people. I am looking forward to working for the Aquarium Society this winter, as well as the community on a whole. If you see any of us "Storm Troopers" trudging about feel free to say hello and chat us up.....Tewas. J

Seamus Little

Hi there! My name is Seamus. Before ever going to the West Coast of Canada I just knew it was were I wanted to be. There was something that intrigued me about surfing and the ocean ever since I was a little kid. Growing up in Ontario was great. My parents took my sister and I on camping trips in the summers and always got us involved in sports. Well the time came about 3 years ago were it was time to experience the west coast. I packed my little Toyota Corolla, drove strait to Ucluelet and never looked back. My love for the ocean grows the more and more I learn about it. I feel really lucky to be a part of the Aquarium Society and look forward to working with our awesome team. "Go Ucluelet Harbour Storm Troopers"

Kane Edwards

Hello !
I am super excited for this winters harbour project,we have an awesome crew and we are going to make a huge positive impact in the Ucluelet harbour!This project is going to benefit the environment as well as the community.If you see us on the shoreline working hard feel free to come chat us up!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Art Gallery Exibit on Release Day!

Two Artisits - One Community - One Country
After the release visit the community hall. From October 16th - 24th internationally acclaimed canadian artists Ken Kirby and Joan Larson will be displaying works at the Ucluelet Community Centre. There will be chowder and drinks by donation on release day, all benefiting the aquarium. 4 Days till Release!!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Raise a Reader - Cat in the Hat day

On Wed. Sept. 29th Raise a Reader day will be visiting the aquarium. The Event starts at the UES library at 10am. At noon activities start around town featuring the Westerly, Re/Max Ucluelet, Wild Heather Books, the Crow's Nest (and us of course!). At 6pm the final event is the Cat in the Hat Movie at the Ucluelet Community Center.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Release Day 2010 - October 16th

This year's release date has been set for the 16th of October.

Beginning around 10am we'll begin returning all our creatures back to the wild. We're looking for a number of volunteers for the event, if you'd like to help out with the release, please drop by the aquarium or contact Laura 250-266-1640, we'll need a few people to help by making hot chocolate, or coffee and around 15 courageous volunteers to help scrub down tanks afterwards.

To all those simply interested in releasing sea stars and shiner perch, stop by anytime after 10. The release will run till the early afternoon, rain jackets are recommended and costumes are encouraged.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A New Arrival

Frequent visitors to the aquarium might notice something new when they walk in our front doors on their next visit. Last week, Matt Harbidge, from Green World Building Company, donated a new, custom built front desk. Matt constructed the desk himself using salvaged fir and cedar planks. The aquarium staff would like to extend a special thanks to Matt for his continued support to the Ucluelet Aquarium Society.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Where Do Babies Come From?

About a month ago we were admiring our school of Shiner Perch when we noticed that about seven of them were looking a little larger in the mid-region. Pigged –out on krill? Doubtful. The more likely possibility was that they were pregnant!

Shiner Perch have a complex mating system where the males perform a courtship dance for attractive females. If their moves are good enough the female might let the males mate with them. Sound familiar? Five to six months later anywhere from three to 40 babies are born.

After a few weeks our Shiners looked about ready to explode with their little babies. In preparation for the mass birthing, we relocated any potential baby eaters such as black rockfish, predators capable of turning the miracle of life into an all you can eat buffet!

On August 10th the aquarium crew arrived to the work in the morning to find that our Shiner Perch had collectively given birth to around 40 babies, and a couple more were still birthing little ones; tail first…ouch!

The babies, 1 ¼” miniature version of their parents, are born so well developed that they practically swim out of their mothers. The males are also born reproductively mature with females maturing only a few weeks later.

This isn’t the first time this season that some of our fish have given birth. Last month our Tiger Rockfish gave birth only hours before she was supposed to go the rockfish breeding facility at the Vancouver Aquarium. Spawning is almost a weekly event in the aquarium with various species releasing mass amounts of sperm and eggs into the surrounding water. Visit the aquarium for answers about where babies come from!

What's In Our Water?

The Ucluelet Aquarium operates on an unfiltered, open system that pumps in water directly from the harbour. Because the water is unfiltered, we have plankton from the harbour water flowing directly into our tanks. This means that we don’t have to feed any of our plankton eaters, but it also means that we are constantly cleaning our tanks of unwanted growth. Our waters are teeming with life, most of which is too small for us to see. Given time, this microscopic plankton might grow into organisms that are more familiar to west coast beachcombers. This concept sparked our idea for the “Empty Tank” whereby we leave a tank empty with only water from our pumps flowing into it, don’t clean it and then see what settles inside. Its’ been just over two months now since we started, and in that time we’ve seen everything from hydroids to fish come through the pipes to make a home in the now “not so empty” tank. Colonizers include: hydroids, bryozoans, barnacles, mussels, tunicates, nudibranchs, a variety of other unidentifiable life forms, and most recently, crab larvae.

The Empty Tank isn’t the only tank that contains creatures sucked in through the pipes. Last week we replaced the sand substrate in our Orange Sea Pen tank and found that about 750 Soft-Shelled clams and Nuttall’s cockles had settled within. These clams would have arrived into the tank via the pipes as larvae, and then grown to about an inch in a three month time span. There were so many clams embedded in the sand that they began to compete with the Orange Sea Pens for space.

In nature, planktonic larvae use a variety of factors to determine which areas are good to settle and grow depending on suitable substrate, food availability, predator abundance etc. Some are more picky then others, but with the variety of habitats in all of our tanks, larvae are bound to find the real-estate they like.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Splash for Trash at Whiskey Dock

Anyone missing their bike? It may be at the bottom of the harbour!

As part of the Ucluelet Harbour Appreciation Day on July 15, volunteers from the Ucluelet Aquarium and Ocean Planet Adventures dove for trash under the Whiskey Dock. From bottles to bicycles, there was more then enough trash to keep eight divers busy for nearly four hours. While our aquarists Jaylene, Laura and Nate dove for trash with the Ocean Planet staff, aquarists Dave, Spencer, Larissa, and Kane, along with Mark (Sport) from Barkley Sound Black Seals manned the dock pulling up trash lines and returning animals that had made a temporary home in the garbage. By the end of the day we had collected a gigantic pile of trash which was hauled off for recycling and disposal by the volunteers from the Ucluelet Rent-it Centre.

The Whiskey Dock definitely lived up to its name with enough bottles residing under the dock to rival the depot after Ukee days. There were so many bottles littering the harbour floor that our dive team had to stop collecting them in order to focus our efforts on the more nasty stuff such as boat batteries that corrode and leach toxic compounds into its surroundings (we were able to retrieve three large marine batteries in the time available to us).

We also pulled up ghost fishers. Of course I'm referring to old traps and nets that become lost or dumped but continue to capture marine life. The days of fishing are over for an old Black Cod trap and the remains of fishing nets that we collected. Among the many critters that took up housing in bottles, we collected a tiny new Giant Pacific Octopus from an empty Gin bottle. He now calls our nudibranch tank home, but will be released in a couple months.

As well, I'm not sure if the CO-OP was aware that they were missing some of their shopping carts. By the end of the day we had retrieved three of them. CO-OP representatives are welcome to claim them, although its unlikely they'll ever push groceries again. Encrusted in barnacles and rust, most people probably wouldn't want to put their food inside. And if the wheels were present, they were so seized that you would be forced to drag the cart across the store as you shopped. The six bikes we pulled up weren't in any better shape. With so much corrosion and marine life growing on them, its doubtful even Ukee Bikes could make them operable again.

Other things collected include:
countless bottles
a car exhaust
stereo system
rusty cable wire
old fishing nets and rope
dinner plates and mugs
and a variety of car parts
unknown/unidentifyable scrap metal and plastics

The Ucluelet Aquarium Society strives to promote healthy oceans, and a large barrier to ocean health is pollution. This includes all the trash that gets thrown into the ocean both intentionally and accidentally. Much of our garbage is non-decomposable and may take thousands of years to break down, if it breaks down at all (think plastics). Although much of this trash is out of sight and out of the minds of most, it accumulates to wreak havoc on our oceans. With the success of this year’s splash for trash, the Ucluelet Aquarium hopes to make this an annual event to continue to promote a healthy harbour.

The aquarium staff would like to give a special thanks to: Katie Beach (Nuu-Chah-Nulth biologist), who organized the Ucluelet Harbour Appreciation Day; Mark Porteous (Barkley Sound Black Seals Diving) who organized and brought everyone together for the dive; Steve Bird (Ucluelet Harbour Authority) for giving us dive access; Tony Konefall (Ucluelet Rent-it Centre) and Chris Bird (Sonbird Refuse and Recycling) for hauling, recycling and disposal of the garbage; West Coast Aquatic for the beach cleanup; and of course Andy and all the fantastic guys at Ocean Planet Adventures who dove for trash and loaned equipment to the Ucluelet Aquarium staff.

Friday, April 23, 2010


What a way to start the day with a smell so fishy one might say. What was it coming from? The grandiose Opah fish, a.k.a. the Moon fish. Although a bit smelly, the beauty of this grand 100lb Lampris guttatus made it a treat to stand close to and admire from its iridescent coating and bright vermilion fins to its golden yellow eyes. It was definitely a sight to see. At the aquarium, we had the pleasure to view the Opah for a day and learn a bit of what is known of this rare fish. Thanks to Chris from Archipeligo Marine Research for taking it out of the freezer for us. This specimen was a by-catch from a hake fishing vessel and was being kept for further research.

We have managed to get all of the native plants collected for the landscaping of the new aquarium. In this last collection we succesfully transplanted some spruce , myrtle and pine. The pots that we used were donated and recycled from the District of Ucluelet and the landscaping from the new community hall. Thank -you to all for your support.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Growing the Garden

Thanks to the support from the BC Ministry of Housing and Social Services, our JCP crew continues to make great progress growing our “Intertidal Garden”.

[Wall seen on left as tide recedes. UA Photo]

After a successful concrete pour, our upper tidepool is almost complete, holding the receding tide waters and already showing signs of life! There have been sign of human life too as our new tidepool has already attracted visitors on its first day.

[Wall seen at top with sea stars! UA Photo]

Work will continue as the crew removes sediment and makes plans, weather and tides permitting, to construct another pool lower in the intertidal zone.

[Pools seen at bottom left with aquarium in backgroud! UA Photo]

Check back here for news as the spring unfolds!

From the deep

Far at the back of the Ucluelet Aquarium is a habitat that mirrors a place deep on the ocean floor. The first inhabitant you may notice has a fiery red coloration and eyes so big that the fish seems a clueless wonder. Due to its large dark eyes, the longspine thornyhead has been given the unfortunate nickname of the “idiot fish”. Ouch!

This groundfish, who lives 1-2 kilometres under the surface of the ocean off the coast of Vancouver Island, exists in a habitat of low oxygen, sunlight & food. As if that isn’t enough to adapt to! These ‘idiots’ also live in an area with an extraordinary level of water pressure. Not a lot is known about this wonderful creature yet it is still being fished for consumption in global markets.

What a great opportunity to come down and stare deep into those huge alluring eyes that will tell you stories about the world before we came along. You don’t really believe these fish are idiots, do you?

Who makes friends with an idiot? Tanner crabs and threadfin sculpins aren’t afraid to admit it.

Thanks to the crew of the Ocean Rebel, we have these guys to show off too. There may even be sablefish (a.k.a. ‘black cod’) swimming around. These are species that our normal collecting techniques (beach seining and diving) never allow us to see, so we are very excited.

We hope you will share our excitement and come down to the Aquarium for a look.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

And We're Off... To a Great Start!

We've been busy, busy, busy and extremely excited about the new season which started March 6th. We are now open daily from 11am-5pm. Our opening day coincided with the opening day celebrations of the Pacific Rim Whale Festival. We have been getting the aquarium ready for another year of fun: Painting, plumbing, cleaning and labeling are all part of our preparations. What we needed next were critters! Some of our collection techniques include well orchestrated beach seines and the tried, tested and true method of bicycle-wheel-net fishing off of the dock. Materials used are high tech garbage pails, good ole scoop nets, and last but definitely not least our friendly local divers Sporty, Marcel and free diver, have all done tremendous jobs and we Thank You!

This last month, we took a short break from collecting and headed out into the communities. We were invited to attend marine career fairs in Ahousaht and at the Ucluelet Secondary School. It was great to see the excitement on everyone’s face as they got to check out our tank of sea creatures and ask questions about what it's like to work at the Ucluelet Aquarium.

For the past two weeks, we’ve been setting up friendly and suitable new homes for the temporary inhabitants at the aquarium to enjoy as they serve as the ambassadors of their species, teaching the public about lifestyles that protect the environment and ways to help conserve our oceans, locally and internationally. A big challenge for the JCP crew is learning husbandry techniques, which is a very important part of aquarium species placement. If done incorrectly, one creature in the tank could eat the other (oh my!). Just because they are in an aquarium doesn’t mean that nature still wont take its course!

Individual or family season’s passes are available so you can keep coming back for more education and fun anytime.

Thanks to all for your support and love. We can't wait to see you on the promenade this year.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ucluelet Aquarium Reopening Saturday, March 6 - FREE to everyone

Join us on Saturday March 6 for the grand opening of the Ucluelet Aquarium's 2010 season! This year's opening is timed to coincide with the Pacific Rim Whale Festival and will be open EVERY DAY through September. Grab your field guide and a Ucluelet Aquarium season's pass and come hang out with us for a while.

Come visit some old friends from the briny deep and some friendly faces from around Ucluelet and join us for a day of celebration. Doors open at 10 AM and admission will be free all day.

Keep an eye on this blog for photos from the big event. Hope to see you there!

Working our way through winter...

A month has come and gone and the J.C.P. aquarium staff have been busy buzzin...ahem or shall I say, buffing. After hours upon hours of T.L.C. our tanks have finally and beautifully been polished. We have succeeded in our task of tank refurbishing! They have been wrapped up and a secure and safe storage facility has been located.

(photos A Zuck)

After this work was done Ash and Danielle were able to build on their knowledge with an exciting field trip to the world renowned Vancouver Aquarium. While there they had the pleasure of a three day Job Shadow with the knowledgeable aquarists of the B.C Waters exhibits. They learned about tank upkeep and cleaning, designing backdrops, feeding techinques and the daily duties of a cold salt water aquarist. They also learned the building blocks of interpretive skills with Melanie Knight! The experience there was extremely valuble and will be put to good use in the Ucluelet Aquarium with our re-opening just around the corner. A huge west coast Thank-You again to those at the Vancouver Aquarium for hosting us. Your hospitality made us feel right at home we hope to see you out here in Ukee this summer!

(photos A Zuck)

While the girls were away Kat, Kane and Dave back in Ukee were hard at work starting our collection of native trees, shrubs, and plants. These will be used for landscaping our new facility. We are on our way to a green aquarium!! A special thank-you goes out to Green Room Landscaping for their generous donation of soil.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Aquarium is...Gardening? Intertidal Gardening, that is!

It’s a cold, dark and stormy Saturday night and we are dressed to the nines in our rain gear waiting for the tide to drop.

The foreshore of the aquarium is lit up by floodlights and a mighty beacon of white light from the helpful fishing vessel, Frosti, who were also giving us the Canucks updates on their booming loudspeaker. As we were waiting for the water to recede we were preparing our plywood forms, cement mixer, filling sandbags, and getting all the tools necessary.

The time schedule we were on was not ours but the mighty oceans. Our team consisted of Phillip Bruecker (founder), Dave Hurwitz (curator), Mark Cunnington (engineer), Chris Zamora (R.P. Biologist), his wife Brenda & their 2 children, Hedley Crowther, Deane Crowther, Kane Edwards, Danielle Hiscock, Ashlie Zuck & Kat McGlynn.

Finally the time had arrived… With tools in hand we approached the rocky outcrop that was soon to be Ucluelet`s first man-made tide pools. We quickly set to work; some of us clearing the rock and silt out of the tide pool area, others cutting and placing the concrete forms.

To prevent any seepage of concrete we lined the forms with a geo-textile and braced them with dozens of sandbags, while up above on the road the concrete was being prepared. In the concrete we were adding polyfibers in lieu of rebar for internal support. Instead of a regular cold water cement mix we added hot water to speed up the setting of the concrete walls.

Once all the forms and our textiles were in place we started hauling the freshly prepared cement down to the beach. We knew we only had a small window of time before the tides started to rise and our work would be halted whether we were finished or not. Everything ran smoothly and before we knew it all six walls were poured and the Canucks won!

The finished products!