Tofino Research: Strawberry Island — December'02
by Rod Palm, Tofino
What a year we've had here on the waters of the West Coast. A
lot of whales, porpoises, sea lions, seals, otters and birds without
a lot of bad sea conditions. During a radio call to the "Leviathan
2", I told Pat that it must be like a swimming pool out there.
His response was, "Heavens no, a swimming pool is much rougher."
This was Tofino's biggest year ever for Humpback Whales. Since these
dramatic animals started showing up in 1995, our record year had been
50 days of visitation. This year, they have already been around for
76 days and we expect to keep getting reports right into December.
Sea Otters have become a very common treat for Tofino's adventure
tourism visitors. Several of these cuddly looking little 'fur
become quite accustomed to boats full of brightly colored, square faced,
one eyed aliens that go 'click, click.' Again, these critters
have been reported to us on far more days than they have for any other
This summer, we did a couple of whale entanglement workshops to play
with our fancy new custom-made cutting tools.
Considering that the most common entanglement in this area is crab
trap gear, the drill was to suspend a crap trap under the bow of one
boat that would cruise along pretending to be a tangled Gray Whale.
A second boat played the roll of the response boat by attempting to
maneuver itself into the right position for a responder to thrust an
extension pole fixed with a sharp tool down and under the first boat/whale.
With practice we were able to expeditiously snag and cut the offending
crap trap line.
I didn't think of it until later but we must have presented an
interesting spectacle for harbour front sightseers.
The first boat/whale is minding his own business cruising along at
about 4 knots when the second bigger boat charges up and collides with
the bow of the first boat/whale. At this same moment a brawny berserker
in the response boat violently stabs down at the first boat/whale with
what appears to be a harpoon.
In retrospect, it's amazing that we didn't get a visit
from the RCMP boat.
Tofino's locals, on the other hand, are by now quite jaded and would
likely have little more comment than, "Oh, it's just the
Strawberry Isle Research boat."
Our contact with the Island Wildlife Rehab Station on Saltspring
Island was renewed this year when Marcel Martin brought us an abandoned
pup that had been spending the day playing with the kids at Opitsaht.
Thing is, he wouldn't leave the beach and they were worried about
On arrival, the seal is found to be somewhat undernourished, lethargic,
shivering and dirty from rolling in his own feces so my girls Naeco
and Nixie wash him in the tub, dry him off, wrap him in blankets then
cuddle and talk to him until he goes to sleep. They name him Lucky
because he has them to look after him. The next morning he is no longer
cold but still lazy and his eyes are not watering (dehydration). We
won't be able to release him, he is going to need some help.
A call to Saltspring and arrangements are made for a chopper to pickup
Lucky at Port Alberni. Mike Woods came over to do the tubal hydration
and by coincidence is on his way to Victoria so he can take him to
Last we heard, Lucky is well on his way to recovery as seal number
60 for the station this summer.
| Thank You…
This year, Parks Canada offered us 8 Young
Canada Works students.
These high school age kids were given the job
of renovating and refurbishing the prop that we use in our Build
Under the direction of 'Pipot', they painted, sawed,
and hammered our
whale back into shape and a fine new promo poster was produced.
The finale of this work
was their giving several presentations on Tofino's Village Green
throughout the day on August 11.
Our thanks go out to these fine students and
we wish them all well.
The Strawberry Isle Research Society in Tofino conducts primary
research and monitoring of various marine ecosystems in Clayoquot
promotes public interest and awareness of the marine environment and
supports other researchers
in their related studies.
To become a member of the society and to support its efforts, please
contact Rod Palm at (250) 725-2211, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at