PLACES OF BC: Behind The Scenes – Meet the GBR’s Biodiversity Mascots
June 6, 2016
By Michaela Montaner – Pacific Wild
Photos by Ian McAllister
Since inception, Pacific Wild has been pushing to protect the biodiversity the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR) represents. Lucky for us, we have some amazing mascots. Here are some of poster children of the GBR, with a look at the ecosystems and economies they represent and quick notes on how we can secure their future well-being (and, by extension, our own).
Why they’re special: Herring are arguably the life force of the Great Bear. Together with salmon and eulachon, these small fish form the foundation of the coast, fueling marine and terrestrial ecosystems alike.
First Nations, like the Heiltsuk, have been managing fisheries such as the herring spawn on kelp fishery since time immemorial. In an era where governments are striving for reconciliation, government-to-government relationships, and sustainable development, First Nations should be equal partners in fisheries management up and down the coast.
One way to protect the biodiversity they represent: Joint management – that is, a management system that has First Nations working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada as equal partners managing the fishery for commercial, cultural, and conservation interests in their traditional territories. Learn more about it here.
Why they’re special: Think of them as white black bears. The white or cream coloured coat is a recessive trait that occurs in 10-25% of black bears in the Great Bear Rainforest.
One way to protect the biodiversity they represent: End the trophy hunting of black bears in the Great Bear Rainforest. Hunting spirit bears is illegal, but black bears are fair game to trophy hunters, even though some of the bears carry the gene required for the white morph and could therefore produce spirit bear offspring (like the black bear mother shown above).
Why they’re special: Millennia of specialization on marine resources in the Great Bear Rainforest has rendered these wolves genetically distinct from the common grey wolf. Sea wolves have shorter and coarser hair, grey fur tinged with red and brown, and a brown undercoat. They are generally smaller and have smaller skulls. Unlike the common grey wolf, they are marine-dependent and have been documented eating herring eggs, barnacles, clams, salmon, sea lions, whales, and more. Sea wolves are an enigmatic, rare, and marine-dependant type of wolf found only in the Great Bear Rainforest.
One way to protect the biodiversity they represent: Years of scientific study and observation are fuelling our calls on the B.C. government to recognize and protect this population of wolves as an evolutionary significant unit. These globally unique wolves face a long and growing list of threats: oil spills, super tankers, declining salmon runs, lack of secure habitat, along with a lack of protection from trapping and hunting. The B.C. government needs to legislate protection so marine and land use planning is pushed to take these wolves into account as soon as possible.
Why they’re special: Whales are among the oldest, most charismatic mammals alive in our oceans today. In addition to whales playing an important role stabilizing the aquatic food chain and reproduction of other species, their poop is a godsend in terms of carbon sequestration. (If only our feces did so much for the planet!) Beyond the ecological impact, whales are major drivers of ecotourism, and have played a crucial piece of some coastal communities’ ability to rebound when industries, like fishing and logging collapsed or moved out of town. As if the list isn’t long enough, it’s also worth noting that the study of whales has taught us amazing things about the ocean environment, echolocation, and more.
We caught this humpback lunge feeding on the Great Bear LIVE cameras over the 2016 herring season. Starting in the spring, humpback sightings are a common occurrence throughout the Great Bear Sea. Unfortunately so too are collisions, entanglements, and unexplained mortality events.
One way to protect them: Regardless of the cetacean, experts speculate ‰ÛÒ and we agree ‰ÛÒ that their resurgence is exposing shortcomings to the management and operation of fisheries and other industries along the coast. Effective marine planning is our best defence against this, but it’s not coming fast enough. Click here to keep reading.
*re-posted with permission from Pacific Wild