Have you heard of Saturna Island? It is one of the prettiest of the Gulf Islands that lie off the coast of British Columbia, and is the south-easternmost island in the Salish Sea within the Canadian border. Boasting only about 350 permanent residents, it is host to one of Vancouver’s former outstanding chefs, who now serves up gourmet meals at the Saturna Café and is home to the general store beside the café: a bright, well-stocked market selling ethnic and organic food that rivals those in major cities.
Marine life off of Saturna is second to none. Almost 50% of Saturna Island is a designated National Park and home to thousands of species of flora and fauna. East Point, on Saturna Island, is one of the very best locations in the Southern Gulf Islands of Canada to see orcas from land as the Southern Resident pods swim past East Point from May to November.
Many moons ago, I was introduced to this rather remote and beautiful place through family. My then father-in-law had some land with a small trailer in Boot Cove, on the northern tip of the island. He was a lighthouse keeper at one time and enjoyed the peace and quiet of Saturna and would go there every chance he had.
Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the small community of people who call this their island home. They’re a friendly, independent bunch with a great love of the land and sea.
We first met one of the founders of the Saturna Island Marine Research & Education Society, (SIMRES) seven years ago. Capt Larry Peck is a sailor, having spent most of his life connected to the sea. He arrived on Saturna Island on his classic wooden ketch, Meriah, with a deep love for the oceans and a desire to improve the economic conditions on Saturna, and chose to make it his family home. He and his fellow directors, all residents of Saturna, created SIMRES in 2012 when an economic development conference was held on the island. It quickly became an enthusiastic initiative, not only as an economic stimulus, but as an environmental advocacy group for Saturna Island and the marine ecosystem.
The organization is dedicated to encouraging marine research in the Salish Sea and to facilitating educational programs, workshops and hands-on activities in order to create awareness and promote public understanding of the marine ecosystem.
SIMRES will teach you about the harbour seals, the Orcas, the intertidal zone and the restoration of their fog alarm building. They have a top-of-the-line hydrophone network, that records Orca communication, and are founders of the "Moby Doll Symposium", an initiative that encourages terrestrial whale-watching. They talk about the ongoing support they give to the University of Victoria as it assesses the impact of vessels on marine mammals and much more.
All this, on a tiny island with a small dedicated community, in the middle of the Salish Sea.
SIMRES provides and facilitates educational programs, workshops and hands-on activities to create awareness and promote a better public understanding of marine life. Collaborating with researchers, educators, NGO's and educational institutions, the not for profit society encourages both students and the general public to become involved as professionals or citizen scientists and be stewards for the future of the ocean environment.