Winter Bay Bird Conservation
Marine birds are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. Bird population trends are vital indicators of overall ecosystem health. A decrease in species population could be due to a reduction in their food supply, quality of food, or changing ocean conditions. By protecting marine birds, we improve the circumstances for many species, including humans.
Birds that flock together on Kwilákm are particularly vulnerable when vessels spill fuel, oil and other pollutants into shallow water. When oil sticks to a bird’s feathers, the feather’s waterproofing is harmed, exposing the bird’s skin to cold ocean water, resulting in hypothermia, meaning the bird becomes very cold. An oil-soaked bird is unlikely to recover.
Derelict and poorly maintained vessels pose a particular environmental hazard. To restore environmental and community well-being to the Bay, the Bowen Island Municipality has control over what happens in Kwilákm. Boaters with mooring buoys in the Bay are required to pay an annual fee to the Municipality. They also need to provide contact information and proof of third-party liability insurance. Living on a boat in Kwilákm is not permitted. For more information, search online using the terms: “Kwilákm Revitalization – Bowen Island Municipality”.
Bowen citizen scientists and volunteers have embraced restoring Kwilákm’s natural environment. For instance, Dive Against Debris is an annual event where volunteer divers, boaters, kayakers, and shore support come together to remove garbage from the bottom of Kwilákm. Over five years, volunteers hauled over 2,700 kg of debris. The SeaChange Marine Conservation Society is leading a volunteer effort to replant and restore the Bay’s eelgrass Meadows.
Eelgrass provides essential habitat for small fish and aquatic invertebrates to the benefit of loons, grebes, cormorants, and other fish-eating seabirds. Learn more at Eelgrass.
Herring are a cornerstone of the marine food-web and spawned in Snug Cove up until the 1970s.
Flocks of loon, merganser, cormorant, murrelets and grebes feed heavily on this oily little fish and during the herring spawn scoters, goldeneye, bufflehead, widgeon, and mallards gorge on herring eggs.
Herring like to lay their eggs on seaweeds and on wooden structures–wharf pilings are a favourite. The creosote used to preserve the wooden pilings, however, kills the herring eggs. Herring supporters recommend wrapping the dozens of creosoted pilings in Kwilákm and Snug Cove with nontoxic landscape fabric in the hope of restoring herring spawning that once occurred here.