Last summer I had the awesome experience of diving for work around Galiano Island. I was on a mission to try to find out how many rockfish there are in the area - we are bordered by three Rockfish Conservation Areas, so you might think there would be a lot!
Truth be told, the Salish Sea has undergone a lot of pressure from fishing and development in the last 50+ years, so I really wasn't sure what to expect before getting in the water.
There are at least 38 species of rockfish in BC waters. Anywhere from 10-25 of those should be found in the north Salish Sea/Strait of Georgia region. That being said, we knew that we wouldn't be diving at the average depth of many of the species, so we hoped to see juveniles and young adults representing a nice range of the possible rockfish out there.
We saw 5 species (Quillback, Copper, Puget Sound, Yelloweye and Yellowtail) during our dives, the Yelloweye only a single time (a juvenile with brilliant 'racing stripes'). The surveys demonstrated that only 2 species really dominate the area (Copper and Quillback), but we were happy to see fish at every site!
One of the really interesting findings was that there were more species and more fish in the non protected sites that we surveyed when compared to the 'protected' Rockfish Conservation Areas. This is due to a few things, but the main reason in my opinion is a lack of knowledge about the RCAs in the fishing community.
Now my mission is to help people learn about Rockfish Conservation Areas and how they are meant to help rockfish species slowly recover - did you know many rockfish species live to be around 100 years old???? They need time to bounce back!
If you are interested in learning more, please visit http://galianoconservancy.ca/marine-projects where you will find info on the project, links to other resources, and ways you can get involved with rockfish surveys in the Salish Sea!