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NWCC partners to protect threatened marine species

PRINCE RUPERT Northwest Community College (NWCC) science students and faculty are joining forces with the Metlakatla Fisheries in what is being called the Abalone Cam Remote Surveillance Project, a proposal to establish a remote camera broadcasting live video stream from a critical abalone site located 30 km southwest of the city, where the threatened northern or pinto abalone species is still found in numbers. The video will be streamed to Metlkatla, where it will be monitored and broadcast over the Internet for other agencies to view. The camera itself will have zoom, pan and tilt features and can be controlled from any computer. The remote site will have a power generation system that will be a combination of fuel and green power. Both the transmitter at the remote site and the receiver in Metlakatla will sit on towers tall enough to allow the signal line of site. Phase I of this project is now underway. In order to prepare for the final installation, NWCC science faculty Erfan Zahrai will work with his physics students to install the transmitter on NWCCs campus building in Prince Rupert and transmit the signal to the receiver placed at a distant location possibly Mount Hays. This will permit us to identify and solve any bugs in the setup and calculate total power consumption. GIS mapping technology will be used to calculate tower heights required to raise the communications system over the curvature of the earth and over top obstacle, said Zahrai, adding he, fellow instructor Pouyan Mahboubi and students will do a site visit in the spring to take measurements of topography, bearings and distances, and do a preliminary assessment for location of structures. Beginning in the summer, the projects Phase II calls for the Metlakatla Fisheries to install the needed structures to the specifications provided by NWCC. Transmission equipment will be moved to the actual site and tested and NWCC science faculty will work with Metlakatla Fisheries and other experts to give input into optimal power generation options. Finally, a power generation system will be installed. Monitoring of the site at Tree Knob/Stevens Island group became a priority after the suspected poaching of some 1,000 abalone about a year ago. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Metlakatla Fisheries had collected the roughly 1,000 abalone from a large area in and around Stephens Island (east of Prince Rupert), and brought them together in an isolated coastal area nearby in what was considered the largest abalone study ever performed in B.C. Poaching is suspected because DFO has limited policing resources, making it impossible to patrol these remote sites to any significant extent. This project was envisioned as a means of allowing conservation agencies to keep round-the-clock watch on these types of critical sites, allowing for suspicious activity to be detected. Once this project is operational and the bugs worked out through a series of testing protocols, it can be replicated at other sites, says Mahboubi. If successful, it could offer cost savings to government agencies and eliminate a significant degree of risk to enforcement officers. The Abalone Cam Remote Surveillance Project is a joint applied research initiative between Metlakatla Fisheries and NWCCs Applied Coastal Ecology program funded by the Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk (AFSAR). In June 2003, the northern abalone were legally listed and protected as threatened under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

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