Kelp Project

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The second annual Kelp Mapping Project took place this year, 2017, on August 19, 20 and 23.  

This project is part of a larger study of underwater kelp forests that has been ongoing for six years around the Salish Sea

The project is run jointly by Sea Change Marine Conservation Society, and Sarah Schroeder from the University of Victoria.

Bull Kelp is a large seaweed that comprise broad underwater forests in coastal waters.  They are very important to the ecosystems of the coast as they provide habitat to an incredible variety of organisms, from plankton to crustaceans, snails to small salmon, sea otters to waterfowl.  Unfortunately, kelp forests are negatively affected by changes in temperature and salinity of sea water, increases in silt, toxins, and creatures that feed on the kelp. (Declines in sea otter populations and the collapse of sun star populations have lead to a great increase in the numbers of sea urchins, who love to munch on kelp).

It appears that the kelp forests in the Salish Sea are declining. This is of great concern, but there is little data about the previous sizes of kelp beds around Pender Islands other than anecdotal observations of long-time residents.  In order to reliably measure the changes in kelp beds, baseline data has to be obtained.  So last year volunteers began monitoring sites on Pender, using a combination of satellite photos, land photos, and on-the-water- mapping using hand held GPS devices.  

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This year, Leanna Boyer from  Sea Change Marine Conservation Society, and Bob Simons and Elizabeth Miles from the Pender Island Conservancy, mapped kelp beds (in kayak and canoe) in the Hope Bay area and around Brooks Point to Gowlland Point.  These sites were mapped last year, and we were happy to find that the kelp beds in both sites were fairly healthy, and had not seemed to have declined as they have in other places in the Salish Sea. 

We will know more when the data is compared with last year’s.  We saw lots of wildlife, including many purple sea stars (which appear to be making a comeback), kelp crabs, seals, jellyfish, and many schools of tiny silver fish taking refuge in the kelp.  

Although Mortimer Spit and the canal area were mapped last year, due to lack of available volunteers, we decided to try and map that area every other year, and focus on Thieves Bay instead.  The kelp around Thieves Bay appeared to have been much more abundant in the past and seemed to be in decline.  

We were pleased to observe, at the lowest tide, a small but thick bed off the breakwater and a healthy line of kelp that hugged the shore to the south.  

Please note:  If you are interested in participating in the mapping next year, watch for notices that will appear here and in the Pender Post.  Mapping is always held during the lowest low tides of August, because that is when the kelp is the largest and easiest to see.  If you have any photos from years past showing kelp beds around Pender, we would be most happy to see them.

We saw lots of wildlife, including many sea stars (which appear to be making a comeback), kelp crabs, seals, jellyfish, and many schools of tiny silver fish taking refuge in the kelp.  Although Mortimer Spit and the canal area were mapped last year, due to lack of available volunteers, we decided to try and map that area every other year, and focus on Thieves Bay instead.  The kelp around Thieves Bay appeared to have been much more abundant in the past and seemed to be in decline.  We were pleased to observe, at the lowest tide, a small but thick bed off the breakwater and a healthy line of kelp that hugged the shore to the south.   


Overall, the project was a success and a lot of fun.

Elizabeth Miles
Photos by Elizabeth Miles and Rhondda Porter

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