This post is part of Matador’s partnership with Canada, where journalists show how to explore Canada like a local.

GRAND MANAN IS AN ISLAND RULED BY THE TIDES. 30+ foot exchanges sweep the shores of the rocky Atlantic island every six hours. The boats here often tie up to a dock but end up on dry land before too long.

The people of Grand Manan live by the graces of the sea. But as fish stocks in the Bay of Fundy decline, so do jobs. Overfishing is directly harming the livelihood of the people here. Weir fishing, an ancient form that involves trapping shoals of herring, is becoming less and less worthwhile in waters near the island. Several sardine canneries (herring = sardine), have already closed.

On Grand Manan, almost everyone waves as they drive by, and strangers smile big when you approach them. The welcoming culture of the island felt familiar, though I’d never known anything like it before the trip.

From Grand Manan I made entry to Machias Seal Island — population 5 — to photograph the elusive Atlantic puffin. Machias Seal lies in waters contested between the United States and Canada and is home to the only manned lighthouse on the Atlantic coast of Canada. Two lighthouse keepers and three researchers hold down this rock. My excursion with Sea Watch Tours was one of only two operations with permits to visit the island.

Hidden in a nearby blind, I watched the diminutive birds stumble over themselves with mouths full of fish.

Photo: Author

Video annotations

0:17Dark Harbour, one of the few accessible locations on the west side of Grand Manan.

0:24Castalia Marsh, a birding spot and the site of Castlia March Retreat.

0:38 – A 4+ hour timelapse of the changing tides at Seal Cove, site of McLaughlin’s Wharf Inn.

0:40 – The Swallowtail Lighthouse, first opened in 1860, and still shining today.

0:45 – Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), nearly a dozen of them, gorge on herring trapped by fishermen in a converted aquaculture pen.

0:53 – Hole in the Wall Campground and arch.

1:00 – Long Eddy Point Lighthouse near Inn at Whale Cove restaurant and cottages.

1:26 – The ferry between Blacks Harbour on the mainland and North Head on the island.

1:32 – Sailing and whale watching with Whales-n-Sails.

1:56 – A mother humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) and her offspring approach the Whales-n-Sails boat, then swim under it.

2:08 – A puffin watching tour of Machias Seal Island with Sea Watch Tours.

2:30 – An Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) with a mouth full of fish. These birds, sometimes called the Jokers of the Sea, spend most of their lives at sea, and come to shore only to lay a single egg, once per year.

Photo: Author