A yellow smart buoy bobs alone in the ocean.

Photo Credit: Marine Labs | Twitter

Smart Buoys Do More Than Mark Crab Traps and Hazards

VanIsle First Nation and tech company team up to read the ocean

Curious about how our coastal waters are changing? This dream team is about to find out

We know climate change is affecting our world. But how is it affecting our coasts?

VanIsle tech company MarineLabs and the T’Sou-ke First Nation are teaming up to find out.

Even in just the last few years, the T’Sou-ke have noticed changes in their territory, particularly around the coast.

The air and sea are warming up. That has changed the water’s chemistry, and the changes are killing a ton of marine life. Sadly the nation’s traditional food sources are being really hard hit.

“It could have an adverse effect on who we are and the way we live our lives on this coastline,” T’Sou-ke Nation Chief Gordon Planes told the CBC.

So to combat this, they’re using a new tool to monitor the change in real-time.

Smart buoys.

They might look like crab buoys. But they have sensors to detect wind speed, wave size, water temperature, salt levels, and the number of boats or ships passing through.

They basically read the ocean and everything that’s impacting it. They can tell us more about how the ocean reacts to extreme events like heat waves and storms.

The real-time data will help the T’Souke interpret what’s happening right now.

“Science is key,” Planes said. “Knowing a history of what’s been happening in the last few years will be able to really tell us where we are. It will set a foundation for the future.”

If you live on VanIsle, you may have seen a smart buoy before. There are currently 41 similar models floating around our coastline.

They detected the biggest rogue wave ever tracked off Ucluelet a couple of years ago. But is 41 enough?

MarineLabs CEO Scott Beatty told CBC there should be thousands along the coast. And not just because he owns the company.

“The statistics of the ocean are changing and climate change is making that worse,” Beatty said. 

The more we read the ocean, the more info we have to make a difference.

Ryan Chamberland is the T’Sou-ke Nation marine manager. He hopes that with the right information, the nation will be able to find solutions to the problems they’re facing.

The T’Souke Nation has a really active fisheries program. But climate change is impacting different fish species.

“This is really helping protect that long-term investment of having these fisheries and access to food and ceremonial fisheries,” he said.

The smart buoys could be a great tool to tell us all what’s really going on. They could be useful in places like the Alberni Inlet, where unusual spring rains made life interesting for returning sockeye this year.

At the end of the day, though, it’s up to all of us to decide what we will do with the info they give us.