Some of the sea birds and mammals that venture into Kwilákm are easily overlooked. There are also many creatures that live in the water column and on the bottom that few of us are fortunate enough to encounter. This section features some of the common deep water creatures that live or hunt further from shore.
The deep water of the bay is in direct contact with the mineral-rich salty waters of outer Atl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound. Living here can be challenging. In summer, the upper waters stratify as lighter, sun warmed waters lie on top of dense, colder deep waters. The density differential prevents these layers from mixing. As the summer progresses, phytoplankton use up many of nutrients in the upper layer, starving the plankton, fewer plankton survive into late summer.
In summer, red tide plankton can be washed in from the Sound and the open waters of the Salish Sea. The toxins they release can poison and sicken fish and other marine creatures.
In winter, the waters change in many ways. The surface can be very rough when the winds come from the east. Wave action mixes the upper and lower levels of the ocean making it a uniform cold as low as 4oC. As well, winter rain storms swell the freshwater outflow from Terminal Creek, flushing thousands of litres of cold fresh water. The fresh water can rest on the ocean surface until mixed by wave action into the salt waters below, resulting in significant winter dilution of the salt water in the entire bay.
Winter sea birds and year-round resident harbour seals must be adapted to cold rough waters.
At any time of year, predators from outside Kwilákm, such as pods of Bigg’s killer whales, can venture in to hunt seals and sea lions.