In summer 2023, Dr. Daniel Okamoto and colleagues made their annual cruise into Gwaii Haanas, British Columbia, with a team of divers and researchers. In the past few years, sea otters have only just recolonized the archipelago in small numbers, with the expectation of dramatic ecosystem changes over the coming decades as a result. While urchin barrens (areas dominated by sea urchins with low densities of kelp) are abundant in this region in the absence of sea otters, so are many other otter prey (abalone, clams, etc.). As the ocean warms and otter populations expand, Dr. Okamoto and his team are working to document these changes and understand the productivity and ecology of these nearshore marine habitats. Gwaii Haanas (formally Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area, and Haida Heritage Site) is an example of co-management between the Council of Haida Nation and Parks Canada, both of whom are partners in their research.
All photo credit: Markus Thompson