Macro Diving on Vancouver Island
When planning the next dive adventure, people tend to think of the “ big ticket” items on their bucket lists, like GPOs, Sea lions, kelp forests etc. Admittedly we have alot to discover in our waters, but if you stay long enough you will find that not only are the bucket list pelagic’s here, but Vancouver Island is a macro-lovers dream too.
Those searching for diverse macro diving often think of tropical places like Indonesia. Our cold waters are arguably just as rich, except our “small” critters are generally on the larger side of the species spectrum due to our cold, nutrient rich waters that allow the animals to grow to larger sizes.
Here are a few of the small guys to keep your eyes peeled for on your next dive in the PNW:
The Stubby Squid is a species of bobtail squid native to the Pacific Rim. It is known for its large, complex (googly) eyes and reddish brown to purple coloration, which turns wholly opalescent greenish grey when disturbed. Its small size and striking appearance have led scientists to compare it to a stuffed toy. While they are called squids, in fact, they are closer to cuttlefish. Another cool fact is that bobtail squid have bioluminescent bacteria within their bodies. These glowing bacteria are then used as camouflage by the squid to mimic the moonlight at night and to eliminate their own shadows, thereby protecting against predators.
Spiny Lumpsuckers are undeniably adorable. Only about the size of a gum ball, lumpsuckers are poor swimmers and spend most of their time on or near the bottom. The fish are found on rocky or muddy substrates, where their colouration allows for effective camouflage. The "sucker" part refers to the fish's modified pelvic fins, which have evolved into adhesive discs which the fish use to adhere to the substrate. Although rare to find, these endearing little fish should be high on your list of must-sees.
Nudibranchs. The largest and most diverse assortment of nudibranch species can be observed in our local waters. With such a variety, it is practically a guarantee you will encounter these colourful sea slugs on your dive. One of our favourites is the clown nudibranch, which inhabits rocky areas in the shallow sub-tidal zone.
Anemones come in all shapes, sizes and colours and can be found just about anywhere you look. The swimming anemone is one of the more photogenic of or our local invertebrates. This beautiful, bright orange (with white stripes) anemone looks like a passive flower attached to the rocks along the bottom. This beautiful anemone comes with remarkable offensive capabilities. Its tentacles are teeming with stinging cells, called nematocysts. These cells contain a hollow thread with a harpoon- like barb at the end. When the cell is stimulated by physical touch, it fires the barb and attached thread, simultaneously injecting venom. The amount of venom in each nematocyst is very small, but usually hundreds fire at once, which is enough to paralyze the anemone’s food. This prey, which may include shrimp, crabs, jellyfish or small fish, is then moved to the mouth where it is consumed whole.
Although it is very difficult to short list all the interesting little critters you can discover in our waters, we wanted to give you a taste of what you might find for macro life. An added bonus is that regardless of the visibility, you can always enjoy your dive by looking for the tiny and often overlooked gems of the macro environment.