If you snorkel from Pebbly Beach on Kwilákm at a low tide, you may see the extensive beds of eelgrass just off shore. The flowing blades of this undersea tall grass meadow host rich life such as schools of small fish, crabs, and other invertebrates.
Eelgrass beds (green on map) form a discontinuous band and patches in shallow waters just offshore from Pebbly Beach in the north to the shores of Snug Point in the south.
The Voluntary No Anchor Zone protects most of the bay’s eelgrass beds.
Although eelgrass looks like a seaweed, it is a flowering plant and a relative of grasses that occur on land. Beds or meadows of eelgrass grow on sandy floors of shallow sheltered bays throughout Atl’7katsem/Howe Sound. In Kwilákm, eelgrass blades can grow up to a metre in length, creating a dense underwater jungle for small fish and other life on the seafloor. This seafloor jungle provides critical habitat for many species such as juvenile salmon, crab, shrimp, and herring. It is estimated that along our coast, 80 per cent of commercial fish and shellfish species depend on eelgrass habitat at some point in their lifecycle.
Eelgrass is so rich because its blades become covered with a coating of algae (diatoms) that provide a rich food for small invertebrates. These small bugs are in turn a rich food supply for small fish and crustaceans. Eelgrass beds are busy with life.
Kwilákm has been a popular boat anchorage for many years. Wind and tides push a boat around, dragging the anchor chain across the ocean floor, and damaging anything the chain encounters. It is likely that eelgrass beds in Kwilákm have been fragmented by past anchor chain damage. In 2020, the Sea Change Marine Conservation Society worked with community volunteers to transplant eelgrass from nearby healthy beds to damaged areas.
This restoration work is coupled with efforts to protect both existing and newly transplanted eelgrass beds in Kwilákm, so that the eelgrass meadows can recover. It is easy to avoid damaging eelgrass, as it only grows to shallow waters up to a depth of about seven metres. If boats are moored in deeper water, their anchor chains won’t damage eelgrass. A voluntary no-anchor zone was established in 2021 in the shallow near-shore waters of Kwilákm.