Seagulls prey on fishermen’s catches during 2018 annual herring run in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area. (Michael Briones photo)

Seagulls prey on fishermen’s catches during 2018 annual herring run in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area. (Michael Briones photo)

Special seagull research project slated to begin next month in Parksville

Birds to be trapped and released, fitted with GPS tracking devices

Starting next month, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) will begin a seagull-centered research project in the Parksville area.

City council granted permission during their last meeting, on Dec. 7, for ECCC to conduct research on the Salish Sea seagulls. A similar request had been made by ECCC earlier this year, but was delayed due to the inability to conduct field research within the “time constraints.” The researchers involved will be based at the Pacific Wildlife Research Centre in Delta, and the Simon Fraser University in Burnaby.

In a letter penned to Parksville city staff, the research team said they intend to start field work between January and March next year, but would follow up with precise dates once a field plan was finalized. The letter stated they plan to investigate the habitats and movements of the glaucous-winged gulls in hopes to better understand the health of the Salish Sea.

“An area of importance to both humans and wildlife,” read the letter. “The Salish Sea is a key site for wintering marine birds, and attracts birds from South America to Alaska.”

In assessing the habitats and movements of wintering gulls, the ECCC aims to understand how variations in the gull’s movement can influence their exposure to man-made stressors such as pollution and marine transportation.

As part of their field research, the ECCC will trap and release gulls in order to collect blood and feather samples for diet and contaminant analysis. The gulls will also be fitted with GPS tracking devices.

The ’ letter states the ECCC animal care committee has approved their techniques, as the birds will be captured, sampled and released unharmed.

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