It can be argued that perhaps there is no other body of water in British Columbia more important than the Strait of Georgia.
At roughly 220 kilometres in length, the Strait is home to thousands of marine species, a huge economic resource for the province and used extensively by the thousands of people who live along its shores.
For nearly a decade, Nanaimo-based researchers Dick Beamish and Gordon McFarlane have dedicated countless hours to researching the area. Their combined efforts have manifested into a comprehensive book called The Sea Among Us: The Amazing Strait of Georgia.
“It’s about all aspects of the Strait of Georgia,” Beamish said. “We wanted all British Columbians to know more about the Strait, including the birds, fishes, marine mammals, shell fish, beaches, plants, plankton, oceanography … and that kind of thing.”
On Saturday (Nov. 22) Beamish and McFarlane will be at the Harbourfront Library as part of a launch party for The Sea Among Us: The Amazing Strait of Georgia, which includes a presentation, book signing and a question period. All author royalties for the book, which will sell in stores for $39.95, will be donated to the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
The Sea Among Us touches on a wide range of topics ranging from fish, birds, marine mammals, geology, oceanography, the history of the area’s settlement.
“I think for the first time, many people will begin to understand what oceanography is about in general,” Beamish said. “Particularly for the Strait of Georgia.”
Beamish is a highly respected researcher who holds a doctorate in zoology from the University of Toronto. The Nanaimo-based researcher has received countless honours throughout his career, including the Order of Canada, Order of British Columbia and was a member of the International Panel on Climate Change that earned a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
Beamish spent years studying the Strait of Georgia’s paraphyletic organisms and discovered that there are more than 200 different species.
“We knew from some books as to what fishes might be in the Strait of Georgia but it took me a number of years to put together a list of fishes,” Beamish said. “I finally ended up with I think 225 species that are in the Strait of Georgia.”
Nanaimo-based researcher Dick Beamish is an Order of Canada recipient.
In addition to Beamish and McFarlane’s work, the book includes contributions from 10 other experts.
“The chapter’s authors really are the experts and like all experts they are extremely busy,” he said. “All of them volunteered their time. Everyone took time out from their schedules and these are people who publish extensively in the scientific literature. It took me years to do the fishes and it took a lot of time for the experts to write it.”
The idea to create the book began roughly eight years ago with the intention raise awareness about the importance of the Strait of Georgia and the challenges it is facing.
“It’s sort of like our own health. The more that people about how we function the better we are able to take care of ourselves,” Beamish said. “The more that British Columbians know about the Strait of Georgia the better we’re going to be able to care of it in the future.”
According to Beamish, all of the contributing authors are concerned about the health of the Strait of Georgia and hope that their work will inspire people to become involved with the 220-kilometre body of water that is home to roughly 225 different kinds of fish.
“I think all the authors would say that the reason that they all volunteered and produced excellent chapters is that we are concerned about the overall health of the Strait of Georgia and we believe that British Columbians really have to become part of the stewardship of the Strait,” Beamish said. “I think that will come across to all readers, the more that they learn the better chances are that the Strait is going to remain healthy.”
Beamish and McFarlane will be speaking at the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library on Saturday (Nov. 22) at 1 p.m. For more information, please visit www.virl.bc.ca.