Become a False Creek Light Trapper!

Illustration by Mercedes Minck – Hakai Institute

On April 15, 2022, False Creek Friends launched a new community science experience in False Creek. We’ve adopted what’s known as a Light Trap through BC’s influential marine science organization, Hakai Institute.

This “adoption” was made possible through Hakai’s “Sentinels of Change” initiative, which is aimed at studying significant, potentially harmful alterations in the marine environment – and of course a central question is: are we humans at fault?

We’re all getting used to the idea that when it comes to climate change, we’re all becoming the proverbial “canary in the coal mine.”  What will catastrophic global heating mean for us?

Will we be able to understand the subtle changes in our own neighborhoods? And how will we know which changes are really significant?

This same concept  has a new version –  ecologists now refer to “sentinel species” –  specific animals that might function like warning lights on our planet’s ‘dashboard’. But – if these “sentinels” are to have any accuracy – we need to know a LOT about them.

One of the most important “sentinels” is the Dungeness Crab, a cherished seafood delicacy. How is the species doing up and down the Salish Sea? Is it reproducing well, its larvae happy and thriving? To find out, Hakai has built a number of Light Traps – a device that lures passing sea critters with very bright underwater lights into the trap, where they can be observed, counted. Ultimately, the data collected will help us all protect the biodiversity of our marine environment

The Dungeness crab has been incredibly important to Indigenous Peoples up and down the entire Salish Sea, and is still one of the most lucrative fisheries on the Pacific west coast, from Alaska to California. Given this importance, US native  tribes have put tremendous efforts into a formal, scientific study of  this crab, to ensure its sustainability far into the future, and British Columbia’s Indigenous Peoples are doing likewise. The urgency to understand the entire life cycle of the Dungeness has been taken up by British Columbia’s  Hakai Institute, which is working in collaboration with the Pacific Northwest Crab Research Group and the UN’s Ocean Decade initiative – “The Science We Need for the Ocean We Want”.

Project leader Dr. Matt Whalen leads an introduction to light trapping in False Creek

Our mission is to find volunteers who can help us monitor the trap we have ‘adopted’. Every two days the trap needs to be removed from the waters of False Creek, and see whether the trap has attracted Dungeness Crab larvae.

The larvae are counted and measured, and the information collected is inputted into a digital database. This will go on all summer.

Each session will take approximately one hour. Families most welcome! This is a real, engaging STEM adventure for all ages – yyou never know what kind of outrageous creature you might find when the trap is opened up!

Zoey Briggs
Zoey Briggs retrieves light trap April 19, 2022

If you are interested, please fill in the form below – one of us will get back to you and discuss whether this amazing stewardship activity is right for you.

And for a superb article on this project, click this link!