What’s Up in the Inlet?

The What Swims Beneath program has been hard at work in Port Moody. You may have seen volunteers and researchers sporting chest waders and fluorescent green vests pulling, and dragging a huge net out in the water. They are working to document the local fish population.

Port Moody Arm, including Tidal Park and the adjacent upland park area plays a regional role in maintaining the ecological health of the Burrard Inlet. Historical records show that the Arm once hosted a variety of interesting fish species, waterfowl and has been a rearing habitat for young salmon. However, today, no one knows for certain what lives under the water of the Arm.

What Swims Beneath is a partnership between Burke Mountain Naturalists, Burrard Inlet Environmental Action Program, Burrard Inlet Marine Enhancement Society the City of Port Moody, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Wildlife Foundation, Port Metro Vancouver, Port Moody Ecological Society, and the Vancouver Aquarium. The program aims to discover what swims beneath the waters of the Port Moody Arm thanks to funding from Environment Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund. To date, field sampling has uncovered some well known and elusive species of fish and invertebrates exciting the project partners. Here’s some of what’s happening in the Inlet right now.

With the return of the warmer weather and sunshine comes another warm weather sighting in the Port Moody Inlet. Algae blooms occur when there is a rapid increase in the number of algae in an aquatic area. They often appear as clouds or mats of vibrant colour such as blue, green, gold or red. Typically the cells of these blooms multiply quickly and thousands of cells can be found per milliliter of water. Despite their foreign appearance, some of these blooms occur naturally. However, increases in nutrients found in common fertilizers promote the growth of algae which can lead to blooms. The Red Tide, as it is commonly known, can occur here in Port Moody Arm. Currently in the Port Moody Arm, we are experiencing an algal bloom consisting of what is believed to be Heterosigma bloom which appears as a gold (or brown) tide.

But algae isn’t the only Inlet inhabitant. Many small fish call our ocean home, including surf smelt, bay pipefish, staghorn sculpin, coho, chinook and pink salmon, shiner perch, cutthroat trout and starry flounder. The estuary, where fresh water meets salt water, is the perfect environment for many of our fishy friends.

There are several online galleries documenting the creatures and scenery found in Port Moody Arm. It’s fascinating to see the diverse life just beneath the water’s surface.

If you want to learn more about what swims beneath the surface water of the Port Moody Arm feel free to ask a member of the team if you happen to see them out in the field. They will be happy to share their findings with you. Or join them on July 24, 2010 from 10am to 3pm at Rocky Point Park as they unveil their findings. Come out with your family to meet these creatures first hand as many will be on display in an aquarium.

And remember to treat our water gently, by keeping paint, chemicals and cleaners out of storm sewers and waterways. The fish will thank you!

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