Beachcombers get to explore B.C.’s lowest tides in a decade today

The lowest tides in about a decade will grace B.C.’s South Coast today, with a combination of natural factors creating the perfect situation for combing the beach for creatures and treasures. 

Low tide is expected to hit just after noon in Vancouver, and just before noon in White Rock, a municipality south of Vancouver near the U.S. border. The lowest tides in Victoria are expected at about 9:30 a.m. and 8:45 p.m.

Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and moon.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe says these low tides are a result of three cycles that have lined up perfectly. 

First, spring tides — when tides jump from extreme highs to extreme lows and line up with the full moon — are currently in effect

Second: the full moon overnight is the closest it will be to Earth in 2022.

“It might not sound like much in astronomical terms but the moon being that much closer will have that much of an extra pull on our tides,” Wagstaffe said. 

Low tides are a result of three cycles that have lined up perfectly, explains CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe: the occurrence of spring tides, the moon’s close distance to earth, and the approaching Lunar Standstill. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Third, the peak of the moon’s 18.6-year cycle, also known as the Lunar Standstill, is fast approaching. The peak occurs in 2024-2025, but observable effects extend for at least three years around that period. 

‘A fantastic chance to learn’

Low tides make for a good time to hit the beach and look at intertidal creatures, ones that may not be seen otherwise.

Alison Wood, co-founder of education organization Ocean Ambassadors, says she has been out with her summer camp kids, checking out what low tides offer.

“It makes exploring in the intertidal zone really fun,” she said.

In particular, she and her crew have been able to spot sea stars, limpets and crabs.

“There’s dozens for them to see.”

People are pictured walking along tide pools during a low tide in White Rock, British Columbia on Wednesday, July 13, 2022.
Now is the time for beachcombers to explore intertidal zones, as the tide will be lower than usual on B.C.’s South Coast on Thursday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Jackie Hildering, a marine biologist in northern Vancouver Island, says it’s important to take that opportunity to learn about sea life.

But it’s equally important for beachcombers to help protect the creatures impacted by low tide. 

“There are stressors and especially the life that gets exposed on lower tides … they’re not designed to be able to deal with that in the same way as animals that can move around,” she told All Points West host Robyn Burns. 

Stressors include being out of the water, heat, and increased predation from birds, bears and other animals while the tide is out.

She’s reminding beachcombers not to touch animals, especially if they’re unsure of whether the animal should be in the water. 

“We’re often inclined to think, ‘I’m going to save this animal because it’s not in water,’ but for example, there are fish that are incredibly adapted to be able to have water tucked behind their gills and you might be taking away a male fish that is guarding its eggs.”

People hang out on the beach in front of a barge while the tide is out.
People are pictured on the beach near Spanish Banks during low tide in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

She adds that it’s important to be careful when walking and reconsider taking shells and other treasures home. 

“When you’re going into an area, it’s a privilege, it’s an opportunity, it’s a fantastic chance to learn and to interact in a way that’s respectful.”

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