By Roy Mulder,
President of Canadian Marine and Environment Protection Society
The Vancouver Aquarium held it’s 19th annual Divers’ Weekend on January 27th and 28th, 2018. This event draws divers to meet the organizations and businesses interested in dive conservation, instruction, photography gear, and equipment. It is a great opportunity to meet a wide range of dive industry related people. It has always been a well conducted and attended event for almost 2 decades now. It provides an opportunity for new divers to learn more about their dive opportunities and to meet the people that are often leaders in the dive industry.
Peter Mieras of Rendevous Dive Adventures, and Subvision Productions has done a lot of dive related conservation over the years from his business location in Barkley Sound. He has been attending the Aquarium Diver’s Weekend for the last 14 years and it is a tradition for him. Peter feels it is important to have as many eyes on the water as possible. 8 years ago he ran into a ghost net on a local reef that he frequented with his dive charter business. This put him on the path to creating a net removal program in his local area in Barkley Sound. He has been working with DFO cutting gill nets out of local reefs ever since. They are constantly a threat to marine life on reefs and they become constant killing machines to fish and sea birds.. He has been instrumental in forming relationships with DFO and local gill net fishermen to report net losses. It is a self-funded program that now sees all lost nets self -reported. He also works with Emerald Protection Society and they are hoping to see the program expanded to include more areas.
Chris Straub is a local technical diver who has been instrumental in providing more information and documentation of the deep water glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound. His concerns revolve around anchor damage by fishing gear to the delicate sponge reefs. He has engineered lighting systems to better document these deep water reefs and has documented them at depths of over 80 Meters/ 260 Feet. He is concerned that too many people aren’t seeing the impact of over fishing and contact of fishing gear with the delicate reefs. “We see the devastation being caused and we are working on protecting those areas”.
Jan Breckman from Sea Dragon Charters has been supporting dive related marine conservation initiatives for years. They have provided support for many of the local sponge dives in Howe Sound. They also provide a percentage of t-shirt sales to the Vancouver Aquarium for their conservation programs. They make sure that the divers that are diving the reefs have the training and abilities to safely dive the glass sponges without damaging them. They also take snorkelers out to Pam Rocks to snorkel with the seals. They provide information on the seals and other organisms that can be seen in the intertidal area. Jan’s concerns are about bottom contact fishing in critical areas.
Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans representative Karen Jackson has been involved with a clean-up program developed by Henry Wang. They have been conducting programs every couple of months using divers to clean up areas that have a build up of garbage on the bottom. They are local group of north Vancouver divers. They have hauled out thousands of pounds of garbage ranging from batteries to a park bench and the usual bottles and cans. It is clear that there is still a concern about all the junk that ends up in our lakes and ocean. This group has been very busy in taking action on making things better.
Dennis Diamond was representing Global Underwater Explorers and international group interested in garnering a greater scientific knowledge of the ocean. Project Baseline works with scientists to determine water quality along with providing very detailed imagery of bottom contours and marine life. They are establishing current baselines of specific areas. They then can undertake long term documentation to be able to do good evaluations of how things are changing over time.
It was a pleasure to run into divers Andy Lamb and Bernie Hanby, long time supporters of marine conservation in British Columbia. Andy and Bernie were the founders of Marine Life Sanctuaries Society of BCwho was also at the show. These two explorers and documenters of ocean life have spent years of their lives on conservation initiatives with a focus on creating fully protected areas for sea life. Their book Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest is one of the best marine life identification books on the BC coast. Diver’s Weekend wouldn’t be complete without seeing them. They are icons of the BC dive community.
A memorial for diver/photographer for recently deceased Barb Roy was set up for divers to sign a book for her family. Barb was well known to the dive community and Diver’s Weekend was an event that she always attended.
Fabiola Reiz from Ocean Quest Dive Centre explained a new PADI specialty course for diving on the glass sponge reefs. They are training divers to dive in strong currents while maintaining optimum buoyancy to make sure the reefs aren’t disturbed. They have always been strong supporters of marine conservation programs through increasing awareness and supporting the dive community. Ocean Quest owners Greg McCracken and Deirdre Forbes have provided quality instruction and have been great advocates of local marine conservation initiatives. They make sure that the divers who visit the reefs leave nothing but bubbles and take nothing but pictures.
The Vancouver Aquarium can be proud to draw such wonderful people and businesses to this well organized event. They have provided a great venue for regular people to attend and learn more about diving and what there is to see in the ocean.