A recent study conducted by students and staff from Prince Rupert’s Northwest Community College (NWCC) gave students the unique opportunity to see a number of ocean species up close.
The study’s purpose was to see if the invasive European green crab had made its way to Prince Rupert’s harbour, which could deplete local populations of the indigenous Dungeness crab.
The European green crab has been travelling northward along the Pacific Coast since the late 1990s, reaching Gale Passage near Bella Bella in 2011.
But the study concluded that none of the invasive crabs have been detected in the Prince Rupert harbour, giving faculty at NWCC two reasons to celebrate.
“We’re very pleased with the results of the study and this great opportunity for students to learn about a diversity of marine species,” Peter Freeman, instructor of Applied Coastal Ecology at Prince Rupert’s NWCC campus said. “By applying the knowledge and skills they learned in the classroom, our students are making an important contribution to maintaining the pristine nature of Prince Rupert.”
Student volunteers and staff surveyed select habitats in Prince Rupert’s harbour in search of European green crabs last summer by setting up strings of modified shrimp traps. The aim was to determine if the crabs have come as far as Prince Rupert, with community volunteer members helping the group monitor the trap line throughout the summer.
While the traps did not catch any European green crabs, students were able to observe many other species, big and small.
NWCC Career and College Preparation student Janette Fumanti said she was fascinated with what she learned during the study.
“We had this incredible opportunity to get up close and personal with a lot of local species. The bull sea lion was amazing,” said Fumanti.
Cheryl Paavola, a science lab technician and CCP instructor at NWCC, was equally as thrilled students got the opportunity to see a variety of sea creatures.
“It was really interesting to introduce people to organisms they never heard of. Whales are always impressive, but our students and volunteers were just as intrigued by the little creatures, how they live and how they fit into the environment,” said Paavola.
The study was put on through a partnership with the Port of Prince Rupert, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre.