While observing lingcod might not usually be associated with an adrenaline rush, when males of the species are protecting an egg mass, they won’t hesitate to stand up to divers that get too close. That’s why Vancouver Aquarium is seeking adventurous, science-minded divers who are fearless in the face of a cranky predator fish, to help us count the future of our coast’s lingcod population.
The Annual Lingcod Egg Mass Survey continues a 21-year study of the massive fish that lays its eggs here every winter. A lingcod can live up to 14 years for males, and up to two decades for females. Because they don’t have a swim bladder, they sink to the bottom when they stop swimming; this is when they lay in wait and ambush whatever food might be swimming by, even other lingcod. They’ve been seen dauntlessly swallowing prey up to two-thirds of their body size, and if there are eggs to protect, fierce males will go on to attack against predators. But has that helped this species survive?
We’re trying to find out. While lingcod can be found as far as Kodiak Island in Alaska, and down to Ensenada in Baja, the majority of lingcod that make it to market are still caught here in cold, Canadian waters. We need divers that love our cold water to bring back observations and information about our lingcod as they mate this winter.
In 2014, we are now counting some of the fish that hatched and grew up since the survey began in 1993. Each year, we’ve asked interested divers to submit their observations of lingcod during the early months of the year when the females have left eggs in the care of fearless, guarding males. An egg mass — up to a meter wide, and containing up to half a million eggs — will be watched for up to 11 weeks by the male, who protects it against greenlings and other egg eaters.
If you’re a diver and you see a lingcod stick up for its egg mass, it’s a male, and he will actively challenge anything that comes too close. We need divers to report where they saw the lingcod, and whether it was guarding zero, one, or more egg masses, indicating that they mated with multiple females in one season. You’ll be counting the future of the lingcod population; in two to five years, new males and females will grow in the shallows, and hopefully be making more lingcod for the next two decades.
Download your official Lingcod Egg Mass Survey forms today here.
Whether or not you participate in the survey, send your lingcod photos, videos, poems, and songs to celebrate the survival and recovery of this top local predator.