Winter seining offers prime seaside sampling

Evening event explores what's under the water on the Oak Bay shore

Gavin Hanke

The Royal BC Museum brings a collaborative learning approach with a seine net surprise Monday night at Willow’s Beach.

Museum researchers add an element of education with their winter beach seine in hopes of uncovering as many as 20 species of fish, crabs, shrimp, and other invertebrates so everyone can get an up-close look at what lives beneath the waves.

“We set the net in advance… it acts as a permeable wall and when more people show up on the beach we’ll very carefully pull the net,” said Gavin Hanke, curator of Vertebrate Zoology. “We catch what we catch.”

He guarantees the Dec. 12 event will be wet, cold and dark – with a splash of fun.

“I know it’s going to be cold and I know my waders have a leak in an embarrassing place and I’m going to get wet, but once you’re doing it people love it and you just get swept up in the moment,” Hanke said. “I do prefer the summer ones though, it’s nicer.”

While he prefers the June sampling, low tides this time of year offer another array of small sea critters.

More than 100 people showed for the last event, from university students to Friends of Uplands Park members, who co-host the event and offer small nets to share around.

“We get everything from pip fish, our relative of the sea horse … we get small salmon, small cod, tons of different sculpins and the occasional stray jellyfish,” he said. There’s even potential for small dogfish and other sharks.

If all goes well, Hanke plans to take some speciment samples for the museum to showcase for World Oceans Day.

“We can build the collection, but we can show the community what is in B.C. that they may not have known about,” Hanke said.

Wear boots, dress for the weather and bring a flashlight or wear a headlamp.  Admission is by donation. Meet at the north end of Willows Beach, near the large white Royal BC Museum van before 7:30 p.m.