“Our goal is to offer you the highest quality sea kayaking experience possible. Our desire is to help you develop a sense of place and make an authentic personal connection to the natural environment.” These words by founder and owner Bruce Smith encompass what Seascape Kayak Tours is all about.
Seascape Kayak Tours has been operating as a small, ecotourism focused company since 1994, specializing in small group travel that minimizes environmental impact and allows for a more enriching experience. They offer fully guided expeditions whether you are looking for a couple hours, a full-day tour or an overnight adventure. Their base on Deer Island is located right in the heart of the Quoddy Region of New Brunswick, surrounded by the beautiful ocean environment of the Bay of Fundy. This allows visitors to experience a variety of marine ecosystems and see the abundant wildlife of the area including whales, bald eagles, fish, seals and sea birds. Their kayak tours have been designated as a Canadian Signature Experience by the Canadian Tourism Commission.
In addition to sharing the Quoddy Region around Deer Island with visitors, Seascape also provides sea kayak expeditions to Newfoundland and operates tours in Costa Rica from November to May.
Seascape was founded by Bruce Smith, an outdoor enthusiast and avid environmentalist. With a strong background in outdoor recreation and 25 years of experience in outdoor leadership, Bruce has worked for various governments and organizations developing outdoor courses, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 by the New Brunswick Department of the Environment. With a mission to raise awareness of the importance of the Quoddy Region and the need to protect it, Bruce ensures Seascape maintains a strong commitment to culture, history and the natural environment. Each tour looks to share the importance of the region with visitors and raise awareness of the ocean as a precious resource. He hopes that by facilitating personal connections to nature and sharing the importance of the area, people will be more inclined to help protect it.
Contact Seascape Kayak Tours and book an adventure to experience the magic and wonder of the Quoddy Region for yourself.
Harbour porpoise play in the wake left behind the M/V Quoddy Link, the catamaran whale watching vessel out of St. Andrews, NB as it glides across the Passamaquoddy Bay. The deck of this vessel is where Danielle Dion, senior naturalist and marine biologist with Quoddy Link Marine has spent the summer months for almost 20 years.
Danielle’s love of the ocean began at a young age with a keen interest in whales and dolphins. She studied marine biology at the University of Guelph in her home province of Ontario, where she became fascinated with the entire marine ecosystem. It was during her studies that she was introduced to St. Andrews and the Bay of Fundy while attending field courses through the Huntsman Marine Science Centre.
Danielle’s main role is education. It is her hope that guests leave the Quoddy Link with a better understanding of the dynamic waters of the Bay of Fundy and wildlife that call it home. She collects important data that is donated to research organizations to help study whale population structure and movements as well as the health of individual whales. She also documents any special sightings such as shark, dolphins, turtles, and birds.
Over the years Danielle has had the chance to help name North Atlantic right whales and humpbacks from the Gulf of Maine population. Danielle says, “When it comes to naming whales you have to get creative and make sure the names are easy to pronounce, they are culturally sensitive, and they can only be used once”. She has personally named three right whales- Cello, Cottontail and Sickle. Right whales are often named for the pattern of callosities- the rough patches of skin on their head, scarring, or even a location if the individual was sighted somewhere unusual.
When asked the importance of naming whales, she explains, “North Atlantic right whales are given names for ease of ID in the field and to show a more emotional side in the media. The public may hear a name such a Clipper and possibly gain a greater connection to her and her story as opposed to hearing only her number, #3450”. Sadly, Clipper was killed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2019, a summer that saw 10 known right whale deaths within Canadian and American waters. Following an investigation, it was determined that her cause of death was most likely the result of a vessel strike. Danielle continues, “each right whale is given a number when they are officially added to the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog. The numbers can provide a lot of information such as year of birth and a clue to the identity of the mother.” The catalog is open to the public; you can explore it here.
While reflecting on her experiences with right whales over the years, Danielle says a trip in 2009 was particularly memorable. “It was a foggy morning as we headed out on a special extended right whale trip that took us into the open Bay of Fundy, to the old shipping lanes, which were moved in 2002 to protect right whales. We found the right whales by listening for their exhales and moving very slowly. We found a few whales and then the fog lifted, and we could see we were surrounded. I had to encourage our passengers to put their cameras down and just look, look with their eyes and not through their cameras. You could see tails and blows in every direction. After speaking with researchers that day, who were also out on the water, there were close to 100 right whales in the area. It was a truly magical experience, to be surrounded with almost a quarter of the worldwide population. It’s something I will never forget.”
Right whales are a critically endangered species, meaning they are only a step away from extinction, with a worldwide population of around 400 individuals. The low numbers and the troubles they face are mainly human-caused, with entanglements and vessel strikes being the most common cause of death. Danielle believes we all need to do better when it comes to protecting right whales. “I understand that this all sounds like doom and gloom and there is no hope, but there is! These whales have adapted, and quickly. They found their shifting food and moved from Fundy to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Their population can increase like it did in the 2000’s but the entanglements and ship strikes need to stop as they cause immense stress and even death.”
Danielle knows people protect what they love and understand and encourages people to get out and explore New Brunswick. She says, “walk the beaches at low tide and gently turn rocks over to find sea stars and crabs or grab some binoculars and look for birds in the forest, at the beach or in your backyard. Join your local nature club and possibly meet some like-minded passionate people. And if you can, get on a boat. And, if you come face to face with a whale don’t forget to put that iPhone down and look with your eyes, listen to the exhale, smell the ocean air and maybe even whale breath! It’s an experience you will never forget!”
We agree Danielle, there is nothing better than fresh salty air and the sound of whale blows. We hope to see you on the water this summer!
Make sure to follow Quoddy Link Marine on Facebook to keep up to date on the 2020 season and their most recent COVID-19 updates.
Header photo by Nick Hawkins.
We need your help! Take ACTION for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Let the Government of Canada know you support an improved Action Plan- one that truly protects these special animals. Learn more and write your letter here: https://rightwhaletosave.org/en/
Shark Tagging and Conservation in the Bay of Fundy
The early morning fog lifts as the sun begins to break through, revealing the coastline of Passamaquoddy Bay. Nicole Leavitt Kennedy has spent most of her life on these waters, her family has made a living off the ocean for as long as she can remember. Her father, Chris, was a 7th generation fisherman who became interested in boat building. In 1999 he and his wife, Carolyn, started a new adventure opening Island Quest Marine- Whale & Wildlife Cruises based in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.
Those summers spent on her family’s whale watching boat helped ignite Nicole’s love of the ocean- she went on to complete both a bachelors and masters at the University of New Brunswick. As the head biologist her summers are spent coordinating summer students, cataloguing whales, running social media, and as liaison for their shark tagging research.
After running their whale watching business for 10 years Nicole’s father, Chris, decided to expand their business- returning to his fishing roots with St. Andrews Sport Fishing Co. While fishing for things like cod and mackerel, Chris began encountering sharks. He came to Nicole, wanting to know more about the sharks he was encountering. These questions led to a partnership with Dr. Steve Turnbull at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John and the Canadian Shark Conservation Society. This began their involvement with shark tagging research.
Porbeagles are the focus of their tagging research because very little is known about them, especially in the Bay of Fundy. The work examines where and how they are using the bay, why they’re here and where they are going after they leave. To date, approximately 100 sharks have been caught and tagged, six of which have the more expensive satellite tags. Almost all of the sharks that have been caught and tagged have been females and are significantly larger than the few males that have been tagged. After leaving the Bay of Fundy, the sharks with satellite tags have been tracked to Newfoundland and Massachusetts!
Over the 9 seasons of shark tagging, Nicole has seen a spike in interest from the public with more sightings being reported as well. “The passion people have for the conservation aspect of shark tagging is amazing to see. It’s great because we do get guys that want to come out and maybe not necessarily for the conservation side. But once you sit down and talk to them about how important sharks are for the ecosystem, and how their populations have just been decimated around the world I think they really start to understand that you don’t need to necessarily kill everything that you catch.”
She believes the importance of their work expands beyond the information they are learning about sharks. It also teaches the public about the importance of conservation through the experience and education they provide to their guests. “So, I think that’s important, letting the public experience something as amazing as being able to tag a shark is really probably the best part of it for us. Once they have that connection and get to do it, then they have the passion for conservation. We are basically ground zero for inspiring the love of the environment.”
Nicole says it’s difficult to pick out a specific favourite memory from their years conducting the research. “You have people that cry, you have people that scream for minutes on end especially once you get the tag on the shark. You do a good release and watch the shark, they are robust, especially porbeagles, they are football shape, large girls. You release, and the guys whoop and holler and you know it’s such a rush to know that you just put a tag on the shark and watch them swim away successfully. Every time is memorable it’s just the feeling and experience.”
When asked about the role of sharks and why people should care about protecting them Nicole had this to say: “Shark populations around the world are decreasing dramatically, because of things like overfishing, shark finning, and even climate change. So, they are incredibly vulnerable at this point in time. Sharks are such an important species in an ecosystem- they keep fish populations healthy, they transfer carbon, as an apex predator they keep the ecosystem in check. They are incredibly important for keeping our ocean ecosystems all around the world healthy.”
Nicole believes that the health of the oceans in Atlantic Canada need to be looked at more as a whole, as opposed to little pockets or industries and that protections for sharks in Canada could be greatly improved. She also thinks that the ocean ecotourism industry is one of the most crucial for educating the public about ocean health and conservation issues. Every summer this industry reaches thousands of people, inspiring love for the animals and love for the area. And when people feel attached or connected to an area, they are more likely to protect it. We agree Nicole, thank you for being a New Brunswick Ocean Champion!
Baymount Outdoor Adventures is a Canadian owned outdoor adventure company that provides kayaking, hiking, and biking tours in the Bay of Fundy UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. They currently employ 8 full time staff and another 8 to 10 part time employees. Their “Kayak The Rocks Tour” is part of the Canadian Tourism Commission’s “Signature Experience Collection” which is used to promote Canada internationally. This sea kayaking tour is a 2-hour journey around the Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park on either side of the high tide. They also offer a 1.5-hour long mid-tide coastal tour in which guests can obtain a panoramic view of the Hopewell Rocks a little way from the shoreline.
Shaun Gibbs, the former manager of Baymount Outdoor Adventures, worked with them for 20 of the 23 years they’ve been in business! He now owns the company with his wife Ashley. He noticed that as the number of visitors to the Hopewell Rocks increases, they’ve had an increased demand, and more people seem interested in discovering all they can about the Bay of Fundy’s tides and the shore bird migration that happens in the late summer. They also typically answer a lot of questions about the various marine animals that live in our waters. Shaun says that they always try and educate their guests about the tides and the importance of the Bay of Fundy habitats to marine life and the shore birds that travel through it.
Because they are on the water every day that they are open, the condition of the ocean is very important to the staff at Baymount Outdoor Adventures. CPAWS NB believes it is important to protect our Bay of Fundy and ensure that this amazing natural area and the wildlife and businesses it supports, such as Baymount Outdoor Adventures, can thrive for many years to come.
Turtle Shore Adventures is an ecotourism business in the beautiful town of Saint Andrews-by-the-Sea. They offer a variety of tours in both English and French, they love teaching their guests something new, and are involved with beach clean ups. Genny Simard, the owner and operator of Turtle Shore Adventures, started her ecotourism business five years ago. A biologist by training, she started working in the tourism sector to combine her love of nature, storytelling, and to share the seaside town of Saint Andrews with visitors. Genny offers a wide variety of tour options that can be personalized to suit each groups’ specific interests including tours in her four passenger Jeep, walks on the beach, historical tours, and other nature and wildlife tours.
With a growth in the ecotourism industry, Genny has more guests contacting her for tours and hoping for a natural component and learn about the regional wildlife – especially with guests from out of country. Many guests are now asking about sustainable fishing in the area, issues with marine species, and plastics in the ocean. The latter interest results in guests helping clean up the beaches and trails they visit.
Genny believes that ocean education and conservation is very important, and that the more people know, the more than can act on issues they care about. She makes sure she educates all ages equally, and encourages the youth that are engaged with local environmental issues. The older generations are no exception, says Genny, because a lot of the issues we are facing are new, and they may not be aware of them. Even though Genny’s guests are all on vacation, they come to learn, and Genny enjoys teaching what she knows.
The condition of the ocean affects Genny’s business, and, she assures us, the whole of tourism in Saint Andrews. Guests that visit its beautiful coast do not want to see it littered with debris. The businesses understand that it is important to have a healthy ocean and healthy marine life to maintain the businesses that go out to see the wildlife within the bay.