Oysters in Kwilákm
About Oysters in Kwilákm
Oysters Are Important
Oysters are a foundation species, meaning they play a strong role in structuring their whole marine community. Oysters offer shelter for invertebrates and small fish that live among the shells of live oysters; inside shells of dead oysters; or in the spaces between oyster shells in oyster beds. During low tides, when the beach is hot and dry, oyster beds trap moisture, provide shade, creating cool, moist refuges for intertidal creatures such as marine invertebrates and crabs.
Oysters Do Well in Quiet Bays
Oysters prefer the brackish waters of estuaries. You can see them right where Terminal Creek drains into the sea in this most protected part of Kwilákm (see map).
If you walk these shores at a low tide, you will see thousands of oysters wherever the shoreline has boulders and cobbles for oysters to settle on.
Longtime resident John Rich believes Kwilákm’s current population of Pacific oysters may be higher than at any time over the seven decades he has been exploring these beaches: “When I was a child in the 1950s, it was rare to find an oyster on the beach in Snug Cove or Kwilákm. There were a few, and when we found them, we sometimes opened them up to eat them raw.”
Kwilákm translates as “clam bay” in the Squamish language. Clams must have been a significant source of food for First Nations people living along these shores. What do researchers know about the role oysters may have played shaping local First Nations’ diet and culture?
The Olympia oyster, BC’s only native oyster was vastly reduced in numbers over the past century, principally by over harvesting and pulp mill pollution. Find out more about BC’s Olympia oysters, affectionately known to fans as the “Oly”. Who are they and could any remain in Mannion Bay?
The Pacific oyster, now BC’s common oyster, is a relative newcomer, purposely introduced into aquaculture operations in 1925 after the collapse of the Olympia oyster fishery. Farmed Pacific oysters escaped into the wild to become BC’s overwhelmingly dominant oyster species, including at Mannion Bay.
Harvesting Mannion Bay’s shellfish is both illegal and unhealthy.