Photo: Phytoplankton

Welcome to the phytoplankton page of the 'I Am Fish' tour. The three guiding words, I am fish, appear simple. But they reflect an ancient and extraordinary web of biological activity that connects humans with the ocean.

I am phytoplankton

At the base of the complex marine food web are phytoplankton: single-cell plants that convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and nutrients into the energy source for all living creatures in the throughout the world's oceans.

Only a moderate level of phytoplankton production occurs in Canada's North Pacific. What makes the area so unique is not so much its ability to grow these small plants, but the capacity to retain and concentrate them. The unique geology both on land and in the water produce ocean currents that help retain phytoplankton in the area, and then further concentrate them into dense patches. These become productive feeding areas for fish, birds, sea lions and whales.

Why are phytoplankton important to humans?

Although people don't consume phytoplankton directly, every fish we eat, seabird we envy, whale we admire, or salmon we catch is comprised of molecules that were first transformed into living matter by phytoplankton. Ensuring that the processes which enable this conversion are maintained is critical to human existence.

What can we do to protect them?

Climate change is altering the temperature of the ocean, rainfall and wind patterns, and ocean acidity. All of these changes have the potential to change the way phytoplankton is produced, retained and concentrated in Canada's coastal waters. We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the sake of our oceans.

> Next destination: Zooplankton

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