It’s not easy being a baby rockfish. Young rockfish need very specific conditions and a lot of luck to make it through their first year. For some species, there were only a few years in the last century when young rockfish survived in any great number.

To help identify trends in rockfish populations, the Howe Sound Research Program at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre offered an introductory REEF course, which taught divers and non-divers alike the key characteristics that help to identify local B.C. marine life. Divers learned about the diversity of invertebrate species and local fish, with a focus on the most common species of rockfish found in B.C.

Rockfish conservation program at Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium works to understand the impact of rockfish conservation areas. Photo Credit: Margaret Butschler

Armed with a better sense of how to distinguish each species of rockfish, divers participated in the Vancouver Aquarium’s 10th annual Rockfish Abundance Survey, which runs annually from August to October. This survey works to establish the population status of rockfish species along the B.C. coast and particularly the impact of Rockfish Conservation Areas.

Divers are also welcome to submit video of their rockfish dives to allow us to assist with any identification they are unsure of. Using video can sometimes be difficult as it’s easy to miss the rockfish that take shelter in between rocks and small crevices. Without examining each crevice, we don’t always get the most accurate measure of the rockfish population.

Rockfish abundance survey

Tom demonstrates how to get good footage of rockfish.

One diver, Tom from Vancouver Island, who has submitted data for the rockfish survey for the past two years provides an excellent example of the best way to capture all the rockfish seen during his dive. Using a durable Contour video camera and Aquavideo light to highlight each individual, he is able to capture rockfish deep within crevices and under boulders. Even on a dive like the one in the video below, with over 200 individual rockfish covering four different species, we are easily able to count and identify each one.

Interested in learning more about diving around the West Coast? Sign up for the next Diver’s Weekend taking place January 17 and 18 at the Vancouver Aquarium.

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