by Magali Grégoire
2017 was another successful year for Back to the Sea! While it was only our second year of operation as a society, we increased our impact exponentially. We participated in more events, recruited multiple volunteers, added to our core team of Board Members and launched our very own miniature marine interpretive centre - the Touch Tank Hut!
Here's a recap of the significant moments of 2017.
As you know, we operate our permanent and portable touch tanks on a seasonal basis. We began and ended the season with partnering events. Kicking off during Oceans Week HFX, we had a great time at The Ocean and You and An Ocean of Discovery events (click on the links to read blog posts from our volunteers). Then, a little later in the summer, we enjoyed a day at the Canadian Sea Turtle kiosk.
1 & 2: Oceans Week event at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. 3: Sea Turtle Network kiosk
The fall kept us just as busy with the You, Me and the Sea program (part of the Sustainable Oceans Conference) and the Bedford Institute of Oceanography Open House - all on the same weekend! Over 22,000 people came through the open house!
We also participated in the Halifax Oyster Festival and had our team members volunteer their time to hand out water to the participants of the Maritime Race Weekend.
1&2: Halifax Oyster Festival. 3: Maritime Race weekend water station.
Sandwiched between all those events is our biggest accomplishment to date, the Touch Tank Hut!
In just five weekends we had over 1,800 visitors!
The Touch Tank Hut is truly proof that you can be mini and mighty all at once.
We are grateful to have captured the interest of visitors, locals and the media with this initiative. See our media page for all Touch Tank Hut coverage.
1: Le Téléjournal Acadie with Radio Canada. 2: Interpreter and Aquarist Leah at the Global studios.
Thank you to the dozens of volunteers who helped make this achievement possible. This includes everyone on our Board, our staff, our Communications Committee, our Advisory Board, our volunteer interpreters and all our friends and family members who got their hands dirty and picked up a paintbrush, collected animals, cleaned, did plumbing, electrical and construction work. It's one long list and are hearts are full!
A huge thank you as well to all those who donated to the cause. Thanks to over 70 contributors, we surpassed our crowdfunding goal and raised $5150!
We are also grateful to our top sponsors and want to give a special shout out to Alderney Landing who donated the use of the space to us.
Thanks to Alderney Landing's continued support, we will be able to open this coming summer!
A VIP visit for Scotiabank employees as a thank you for their top level sponsoship.
That's not all! We are also very happy that our Founder was able to present at the See Change, Tides of Environmental Learning Conference hosted by the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication. And finally, we had a blast during our Goodwill Bot event, a fundraiser put on by Good Robot Brewing Co.
Missed last year's Goodwill Bot? Save the date! We're doing it again on Monday May 21st 2018!
Before we sign off, we'd like to introduce you to our newest Board member who joined our team last year, Jonathan Primack. Jonathan is a Project Manager at Noble Grape and a father of two young children who are already among the Touch Tank Hut's number one fans! We're happy to have his energy and passion on our Board.
We would also like to thank Lisanne Jacklin who also joined our Board last year, however had to end her term early due do unforeseen circumstances. We thank her for her contributions and for remaining an important part of our team as our law advisor.
1: Jonathan on the far left helping out with the Maritime Race Weekend. 2: Lisanne with Alderney Landing Executive Director Bea McGregor and Back to the Sea Founder Magali.
Thank you to our founding Board members Maggie, Rodrigo, Courtenay and Greg who have been with us from the start and continue to work on all of Back to the Sea's initiatives, including the eventual construction of a permanent space.
While we remain a Society that is ran in most part with volunteer efforts, we were proud to hire our first staff last year. With Maggie stepping in as Board President, our Founder Magali stepped off the board and was able to take on a new staff leadership position as Executive Director. Leah and Kim were are first Interpreter and Aquarists and did a fantastic job inspiring all our Touch Tank Hut visitors.
From left: Leah, Kim and Magali
Here's to another great year and we look forward to opening our doors and welcoming you to the Touch Tank Hut on June 2nd!
Great experience for kids to see AND respect animals!
- 2017 Touch Tank Hut visitor
by Meghan Borland
With the holiday season upon us, love is in the air. Recently, the same has been said about the ocean depths, and it is all because of a shark named Hilton. Hilton is a 600-kilogram great white shark that has been cruising his way around the east coast waters. In fact, last weekend he was said to have passed by the Father Christmas Festival in Mahone Bay. Hilton has successfully sought Twitter fame, but scientists are wondering if he was actually searching for love off Canada’s east coast.
Hilton was tagged by the research group Ocearch in March in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He first appeared on Nova Scotia’s south shore in early August, and now appears to be heading southward, saying farewell to Nova Scotia. During Hilton’s stay, he sparked curiosity amongst several scientists and Nova Scotia residents.
Hilton the great white shark being tagged in Hilton Head, South Carolina by the Ocearch research group.
While more research is needed, the water surrounding Nova Scotia may be a mating hotspot for sharks. This is exciting given that the mating habits of sharks are currently a mystery. A multi-year project to investigate potential mating sites in Nova Scotia has been proposed by the Ocearch research group. Hilton is not the first great white shark that has been tracked in Nova Scotian waters. A 300-kilogram great white shark named Pumpkin was detected in the Minas Basin in July, and a 900-kilogram great white named Lydia was spotted around Sable Island in 2013 and 2016. If Nova Scotia is found to serve as an important mating area for great white sharks, this may explain Hilton’s stay, as well as Lydia’s and Pumpkin’s.
Hilton's trajectory along Nova Scotia
After an unsuccessful love encounter, people often say, “there are lots of fish in the sea.” Unfortunately for Hilton, shark populations across the globe are in big trouble. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy reported that the population of great white sharks in the North Atlantic has dropped by 75 per cent in the past 15 years, and is now listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This not only provides Hilton with fewer prospects, but it poses a problem to the entire ocean.
Sharks are essential to healthy ocean ecosystems, and have been for over 450 million years. Sharks are referred to as apex predators, meaning that they are at the top of the food chain. Essentially, they keep ocean ecosystems balanced and in check. If future research reveals mating hotspots within Nova Scotia, protecting these areas would offer conservation benefits for great white sharks. An ocean without Hilton and his friends (or lovers) would be disastrous. For the love of Hilton and for the entire ocean we need to do all we can to protect sharks. The truth is, humankind needs healthy oceans, and healthy oceans need sharks.
by Magali Grégoire
2016 is the year that the Back to the Sea Society was officially born!
I have been slowly working towards the idea of opening a "mini aquarium" in or around Halifax since the start of 2015. I began to spread the word as I worked with my mentor, Founder of the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium, and other advisors to build local relationships and put a plan in place. However, it wasn't until March 2016 that I welcomed my first official Board member, Maggie Sutherland.
Maggie was quickly joined by Courtenay Parlee and, a few months later, we added Greg Sheffer's name the team. Rodrigo Menafra completed our Board of Directors team for 2016 when he joined us in the fall.
These individuals bring to the table an incredible amount of knowledge and, above all, passion! Want to get to know them a little better? Read there bios here.
A huge thank you to these four wonderful people who have been among the first to believe in the proposed Back to the Sea Aquarium. Your hard work has already paid off!
From left: Magali, Maggie, Courtenay and Greg. Not pictured: Rodrigo.
Our biggest accomplishment of 2016 has been the Touch Tanks Days!
We created this event series as a proof of concept for the proposed aquarium. We wanted to obtain community feedback, spread the word and begin our mandate of ocean education.
And it was a huge success!
With a target of 500 visitors, we tripled this goal and saw over 1,500 people of all ages!
Touch Tank Day visitors with volunteers Ronnie and Candace.
We hosted a total of 7 Touch Tank Days, with 5 of them being in Fisherman's Cove. We received extremely positive responses from the surrounding communities, making us confident in our decision to establish the aquarium in this location.
Our thanks to Hope for Wildlife and the organizers of the Sustainable Oceans conference for inviting us along to their events.
Getting some help putting the animals away at the Hope for Wildlife Open House and some curious kids and parents at the You, Me and the Sea program.
Thank you to all the organizations and individuals that helped us in 2016. We look forward to continuing these partnerships and working together in the coming year!
Dalhousie University played an integral part in our Touch Tank Days. After experiencing some delays with our collection permit, John Lindley was able to ensure that we had some animals to show all of those who were anxiously awaiting our touch tanks.
Since we don't yet have a permanent tank system set up, we were able to keep our animals happy between Touch Tank Days thanks to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. Paul Fraser set up our holding tank and ensured we could access the animals whenever we needed.
Some behind the scenes - Sometimes this work requires collecting seawater at night! We also need to collect kelp to feed our urchins.
Our Touch Tank Days had a home thanks to Board member Greg, his wife Catherine and their son and daughter in law Scott and Jenna.
It felt so great when we made those first few brush strokes in our signature colour!
It was through the Touch Tank Days that we welcomed our very first F(l)ounders, The Image Salon and Eyes on Optometry. As our first big donors, we will forever be thankful for their support!
Every donation is special and goes a long way, but it's extra meaningful when it comes from your target audience. We strive to inspire and educate young children and, in September, we received their vote of confidence!
After being nominated by 10-year-old Grace, the members of 100 Kids Who Care voted for us as their non-profit of choice. Each child in attendance brought $10 of their hard earned money and we received a donation of over $300.
We had such a wonderful time attending their following meeting in December to publicly thank Grace for her nomination and presentation and to show the kids some sea critters!
We had a blast participating in a few other ocean-themed events in 2016!
In June, I attended the Ocean Literacy Conference: Ocean Optimism and hosted a workshop titled A Catch-and-Release Aquarium for Halifax Metro: Come be Part of the Adventure! It was inspiring to hear what the participants had to say about their relationship to the ocean and how it has changed throughout their lives. I also received many great ideas for our future aquarium!
And last but not least, we wrapped up the year at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Their second annual Family Fun Day was titled Fish out of Water, the perfect event to have our touch tanks! We saw over 350 people at the museum that day!
See our Events page for photos of all the events we attended!
Pier 21's mascot, Fenton, with two of our volunteers, Jessica and Joana (right of Fenton).
We had the chance to both start and end the year with some media coverage!
I did an interview on Mainstreet in January about small-scale aquariums and CTV Morning Live covered the Family Fun Day in December. But no need to go into the details here, we have Media page for that now!
We had a wonderful year and we can't wait to see what 2017 has in store for us!
We'll be working hard on our fundraising efforts to make the Back to the Sea Aquarium a reality (with a goal of opening in June 2018) and we look forward to keeping you up to date with our progress.
Thank you to all our advisors, volunteers, donors and to our consultants Ocean to Eye Level - we could gush about you all day long!
And finally, thank YOU!
Thank you for reading and thank you for your support! Every e-list subscription, Facebook like, Twitter and Instagram follow and touch tank visit makes a difference in this journey.
You've made it clear that you want to see a catch-and-release aquarium in Nova Scotia, and together, we will make that happen!
By Magali Grégoire
On January 18th, myself and Melanie Knight had a great time on air with CBC Radio One to discuss the concept of mini aquariums. We told listeners all about the catch and release philosophy and how these seasonal educational facilities can spark curiosity for local marine life.
"Why doesn't Halifax have an aquarium?" is a question that come up time and time again in Nova Scotia. Both locals and tourists are surprised that this coastal city is without an aquarium. It's time for that to change!
We received positive responses from this interview, a great sign that we are moving in the right direction and working towards a goal that we all want to see happen in greater Halifax.
If you would like to hear the interview, submit your email below.
Thanks to Melanie for phoning in from Vancouver to join in on this interview. Melanie is the Founder of the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium and CEO of Ocean to Eye Level Consulting, one of our valuable advisors.