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Salmon Steward: Winter 2021
Gail and Ted Newell are salmon folk. Based in Deep Cove, North Vancouver, the couple volunteers with PSF’s Citizen Science Oceanographic Program.
It all began in 2016 when Ted started volunteering as a deckhand with the Steveston Patrol after retiring. He’s continued the gig ever since, owing mainly to his love of the water.
“It’s a good place to be,” he says.
In his lifetime, Ted has worked in the engine division of a construction equipment manufacturer, ran a fabrication shop that built boats in Parksville, B.C., and led his own Vancouver-based construction design engineering company. Now, as a volunteer in the Citizen Science Program, he’s refocusing his energy to help bring salmon back.
“We’ve done a lot of salmon fishing throughout our lives and it has really changed,” says Ted. “We used to visit Campbell River and there always used to be Coho there. When we lived in Nanaimo, we could catch salmon any time of year. That’s not the case anymore. Things have really gone downhill with salmon.”
In 2019, three years after Ted joined the Citizen Science Program, he recruited his wife Gail. It was a natural fit. She shares Ted’s connection to the water – in fact, it runs in her family.
Gail’s grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were all skippers on Fraser River tugs. In her youth, she would go fishing with her grandparents in an old boat in Pender Harbour. “My earliest memories are on the water, being in a rowboat as a kid,” says Gail. “I like the water. After 27 years as a lifeguard/ swimming instructor, I’m very comfortable in the water and around it… if it’s calm!”
(Photo) Gail and Ted Newell gather samples and take measurements across the Strait of Georgia. Photo by Rob Newell.
As citizen scientists, Gail and Ted take their boat into the Strait of Georgia roughly 20 times a year to collect phytoplankton and nutrient samples and to measure oceanographic conditions of conductivity, temperature and depth at eight separate stations.
Running the Steveston Patrol together affords this couple quality time on the open water while allowing them to observe wildlife and collect data that contribute to our collective knowledge of Pacific salmon and their ecosystems. “We’re both retired. We’ve got time. It’s good to be out on the water and see what’s out there,” says Ted.
When they’re not gathering salmon intel, Ted and Gail visit their cabin in Johnson Bay, Indian Arm, often doing maintenance work or paddling their kayaks, canoes and the rowboat Ted built with his dad when he was 15 years old. Ted has also taken up the bluegrass banjo. Gail recently started a birding course with Cornell University.
Yet despite ample hobbies at their disposal, the Newells have no intention of retiring from the Steveston Patrol. “We’re going to keep doing it for as long as we can,” says Gail.
Learn how citizen scientists like the Newells are helping to advance our understanding of Coho and Chinook diets, forage fish spawning habitat and more at Pacific Salmon Foundations Marine Science Program site: marinescience.ca.