23 March 2019

Balloons More Deadly For Seabirds Than Any Other Kind of Plastic

Balloons and balloon fragments are the deadliest kinds of marine pollution for seabirds, killing almost one in five birds that ingest the soft plastic, according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The research, conducted by scientists at the University of Tasmania, examined the cause of death of 1,733 seabirds, 32 percent of which had ingested marine debris. Hard plastics — items like LEGO bricks or straws — accounted for 92 percent of all items ingested. Soft plastics — including packaging, rubber, foam, rope, and balloon fragments — accounted for just over 5 percent of items ingested, but were responsible for 42 percent of seabird deaths. Balloon fragments, specifically, composed just 2 percent of ingested plastic, yet the scientists found that if a bird ingests a balloon or balloon fragment, it is 32 times more likely to die than if it ingests a hard plastic fragment.

“A hard piece of plastic has to be the absolute wrong shape and size to block a region in the birds’ gut, whereas soft rubber items can contort to get stuck,” Lauren Roman, a marine scientist at the University of Tasmania and lead author of the new study, told ABC News in Australia.

Some scientists have predicted that by 2025, the cumulative amount of plastic in the ocean could reach 250 million tons. Some 180 marine animals — including mammals, birds, reptiles, crustaceans, and fish — have been found to ingest plastic. Even some of the smallest creatures in the deepest parts of the ocean have plastic in their stomachs.

Seabirds, which represent a shrinking portion of bird species around the globe, have been shown to consume large amounts of plastic waste, mistaking it for prey such as squid and small fish. Roman and her colleagues say their research could be used to shape future waste management strategies, as well as seabird conservation programs.
—Emma Johnson

21 March 2019

Pacific Great Blue Herons return to Stanley Park for 19th year

 Pacific Great Blue Heron

More than 180,000 people have checked out the Heron Cam since it was launched in 2015. It’s amazing to be able to get a birds eye view of these magnificent birds.  
Stuart Mackinnon, Park Board Chair

March 20 2019 

The long-legged Pacific Great Blue Herons are nesting again in Stanley Park for the 19th consecutive year!

They began returning March 11 to a colony located at the Park Board offices on Beach Ave. It’s one of North America’s largest urban heron colonies.

The Park Board Heron Cam is again live-streaming with a birds-eye view of 40 nests until the end of the breeding season in August. Viewers can take control of the camera, zooming in on multiple nests, using different angles.

Birds eye view

“More than 180,000 people have checked out the Heron Cam since it was launched in 2015. It’s amazing to be able to get a birds eye view of  the nesting, courtship, mating, nest-building, and egg-laying of these magnificent birds,” said Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon.

“HeronCam supports engagement by residents with nature in the city as part of our  Biodiversity Strategy and Vancouver Bird Strategy and enables our partner the Stanley Park Ecology Society to better monitor and protect the health of the colony.”

In 2018, there were 85 active nests and an estimated 98 fledglings raised. This was a higher success rate overall for the colony compared to slightly lower numbers in 2017.

Nest success in 2018

The SPES Stanley Park Herony Annual Report 2018 says last year’s return to normal amounts of nest success is likely due to decreased bald eagle predation. While not necessarily directly related, in Stanley Park there were only two successful bald eagle nests last year compared with four successful nests in 2017.

This year, we will offer a moderated Facebook Live Q and A, where partners at the Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES) will answer questions about the herons. SPES will set up a weekly in-person interpretation at the colony to answer questions.

The Pacific Great Blue Heron is unique because it does not migrate. Their natural year-round habitat is the Fraser River delta which is under pressure from urban development, resulting in the loss of feeding and breeding grounds. One-third of Great Blue Herons worldwide live around the Salish Sea and the Stanley Park colony is a vital part of the south coast heron population.  

Heron Cam is a collaborative effort between the Park Board and SPES, who have an Adopt a Heron Nest program which supports efforts to educate, monitor and maintain the herons and protect their home in Stanley Park.

12 March 2019

SPCA applauds Park Board decision to consider AnimalKind pest control standards

 March 12, 2019
The BC SPCA applauds the Vancouver Park Board’s decision to review its pest control management strategies for wildlife and rodents at the city’s parks and recreational facilities. The motion (PDF) was brought forward by Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon and passed unanimously at the Board meeting on March 11. Park Board staff will also assess if it would be possible to incorporate the BC SPCA’s AnimalKind standards for pest control (PDF) into its contracts.

The Board raised concerns about rodenticides causing secondary poisoning to animals that prey on rodents and travelling up the food chain, and turned to the BC SPCA to explore alternative methods are available for the humane control of wildlife. The BC SPCA’s AnimalKind standards and accredited pest control companies focus on removing the animals and preventing future problems instead of trapping, relocating or killing.

AnimalKind standards also outline best practices for rodenticide use, and note they should only be used when the continued presence of mice or rats is an ongoing threat to human health and safety. AnimalKind is an evidence-based accreditation program that was created in partnership with the UBC Animal Welfare Program, through the grant support of the Vancouver Foundation.

“We applaud the Park Board for being a leader on this issue,” BC SPCA chief scientific officer, Dr. Sara Dubois says, “Rodent control is unfortunately a necessary practice, but AnimalKind standards aim to minimize the amount of suffering these animals experience. The BC SPCA looks forward to working with municipalities and other institutions to see how AnimalKind can work for them.”
Pest control businesses that are interested in becoming AnimalKind should contact the BC SPCA at animalkind@spca.bc.ca for more information.

08 March 2019



VANCOUVER, B.C. – On Monday March 11, 2019, Green Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon will table a motion asking staff to review pest control management strategies for wildlife and rodents at Vancouver Parks and Recreation facilities. Mackinnon’s motion references the millions of animals who suffer each year from inhumane pest control methods and states that alternative methods are available.
Mackinnon’s motion further directs Park Board staff to assess the viability of including AnimalKind standards into its pest control contracts; AnimalKind is an animal welfare accreditation program for pest control companies set up by the BC SPCA.
“This is about ending needless suffering; and about preventing the harm or even deaths of animals that aren’t the intended targets of pest control,” said Mackinnon.
“Too often animals like hawks, dogs, cats, and owls suffer or die from consuming poisoned animals or the poison itself. All animals, whether they are the targets or not, should be spared unnecessary anguish if we can avoid it.
“Wildlife and rodent management is a necessary role of the board but we can and should be leading by example when it comes to humane practices and protection of wildlife.”
More Information:
Stuart Mackinnon: +1 604-379-7715