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Campbell River student divers to collect critters for aquarium

Slurp guns, sea lettuce and grunt sculpins – if it’s not some underwater sci-fi epic then it must mean that Campbell River’s Discovery Passage Aquarium is preparing to open its doors for the spring season!

The local non-profit aquarium has once again enlisted a team of student divers from Campbell River’s DiveSafe International to collect specimens of local sea life in time for its opening day on May 14.

On May 11, a team of 10 students from DiveSafe International’s commercial dive program will gently collect fish, small octopuses, red-rock crabs, kelp greenlings, sea lettuce and other sea life to be transferred temporarily to the Discovery Passage Aquarium. They’ll also use a “slurp gun” – a clear, plastic tube with a plunger on one end – to bag the fish, and will collect strawberry anemones, which secure themselves to rocks and form a rose-coloured carpet on the seafloor.

They’ll scoop up colourful sea sponges that will create a beautiful, kaleidoscopic backdrop for the aquarium’s tanks, and they’ll definitely be on the lookout for grunt sculpins – tiny, brown-and-white striped fish that are hugely popular with children at the aquarium because of their pig-like snout and grunting noises.

Specimens collected are returned to their respective area of collection each fall.

On May 11, students of DiveSafe International’s commercial diving programs will collect local sea life for the Discovery Passage Aquarium, which opens May 14.

“We’ve been involved in collecting specimens for the Discovery Passage Aquarium most years since they opened in 2012,” says Kelly KorolDiveSafe International’s Director of Training. “We see it as a sort of annual public service; we’re just so pleased to help show people the wonder of what’s living right here in our local waters.

“Not only do we get to collect a diverse range of local sea life for Campbell Riverites to discover,” he adds, “but it’s also a great opportunity for our students to practice marine life identification. Tasks like this can give them a major leg-up toward snagging highly coveted jobs in occupational diving, aquaculture and marine biology.”

One of Canada’s leading dive training schools, DiveSafe International has offered commercial diving instruction out of Campbell River since 2005. Students learn directly from world-class instructors while immersed in local waters renowned for their diving and teeming with a vibrant cornucopia of sea life – an ideal training ground for future marine biologists.

“The goal is to prepare our grads with everything they’ll need to succeed,” says DiveSafe instructor Heather Kidd. “They get comprehensive theory and hands-on training, plus practical experience, industry connections and even work placements. And yes, they sometimes get to find some fascinating sea critters a new summer home.”

To learn more about DiveSafe International, including its upcoming five-week Commercial SCUBA course, visit

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