Marine Biology

An Inspirational Evening With Ian McAllister

An Inspirational Evening With Ian McAllister

On March 10th, Ocean Outfitters hosted it's 3rd annual conservation speaker series where we bring inspiring people to the community to share their stories and images, to remind us what we have, but also what we have to lose.

Ian McAllister is a renowned conservationist and a photo journalist. He co-founded Pacific Wild along with his wife Karen. Pacific Wild is committed to defending wildlife and wildlife habitat on Canada’s Pacific Coast by developing and implementing conservation solutions in collaboration with First Nations communities, and scientists.

He has authored and co-authored ten books on the BC coast and is currently directing a large screen IMAX film on the Great Bear Rainforest. His images have appeared in publications around the world receiving numerous awards. He is a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society and the International League of Conservation Photographers. He and his wife, Karen, were named by Time magazine, "Leaders of the 21st Century" for their efforts to protect British Columbia's endangered rainforest.

Gray Whales – A Magnificent Journey

Gray Whales – A Magnificent Journey

The Tla-o-qui-aht word for whale is Ihtuup. “Ih” means “really big” and “tuup” means “animal” or “creature”. Very soon we will be welcoming back a “REALLY BIG CREATURE”, our migrating Gray Whales! After wintering in the warm water lagoons of Baja California, Mexico, 18 to 24,000 whales will pass our BC shores towards the summer feeding grounds of the Bering, Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas. This 15-20,000 km round-trip migration is one of the longest known mammalian migrations.

Here in Tofino, we are fortunate to enjoy them within 5-km of shore and in shallow waters. Not all whales complete the migration north and instead spend their summer feeding in our local waters. These are what we fondly refer to as our “summer residents”. Gray Whales mostly feed in shallow areas using their baleen to strain out small invertebrates from the soft muddy bottom. Gray Whales can also be seen during summer months feeding on herring eggs and larvae found in eel grass beds.

Humpback Vigilantes

Humpback Vigilantes

The Altruistic Motivation of Whales

Interspecies adoption has forever fascinated me. For example, why would a leopard adopt an orphaned baby monkey or a lioness a small antelope? It’s easy for us to accept that our family dog has “feelings” yet science looks at any form of anthropomorphic thinking as misdirected scientific enquiry. There have been more than 100 reported cases of Humpback whales interfering with Orca hunting non-Humpback species including sunfish, porpoise, seals, sea lions and other marine mammals. It appears we have some Humpback heroes on the horizon!

In evolutionary biology, when an organism’s behaviour benefits other organisms, at a cost to itself, it is said to behave altruistically. Why would Humpback whales risk personal injury and expend so much energy to protect entirely different species?  This has been the center of marine ecologist Robert Pitman’s research at NOAA Fisheries. Pitman has analyzed 115 interactions between Humpbacks and Orca. An extraordinary incident occurred near the Antarctic peninsula where Pitman observed a Humpback offer protection to a Weddell seal by rolling onto it’s back and holding the seal on it’s belly above the waters surface and out of reach of a pod of marauding killer whales...