An Opportunity to Turn the Clock Back

Lions Bay Community News
Written by Roy Mulder
Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Howe Sound has recently shown some indictors of a healthy change. We have witnessed pacific white-sided dolphins and even a gray whale foraging in the sound. Two of the main environment stressors, the mill in Squamish and the Britannia Mine clean-up may well be responsible.

The dolphins could be a positive indicator or a negative one. Have they left their previous feeding ground because there is no longer food there or have they come to Howe Sound because food is starting to return?

Dolphins are returning to Howe Sound
Dolphins are returning to Howe Sound

The Squamish Streamkeepers have been wrapping creosote-covered pilings allowing the herring to successfully spawn once more. This has resulted in the return of the herring. This program will be expanding to Bowen Island and hopefully will spread up the coast.

The Marine Life Sanctuaries Society of BC has recently started a campaign to create some voluntary marine sanctuaries in British Columbia.  In combination with an education program and community stewardship program, MLSS is creating a citizen-based initiative for protection. The government has been working on creating marine sanctuaries since the Chretien government, with no success. They are still mired in process and areas are “marine protected” in name alone.

The Rockfish Conservation Areas have proved to be a lackluster method of protecting rockfish. On any given day in Howe Sound fishing boats are busy in the Bowyer Island Rockfish Conservation Area. Unfortunately the legislation allows many other forms of predation (fishing) which also catch rockfish.  Rockfish are a long-lived species with some living over 200 years. When caught as a by-catch their air bladders do not allow them to go back down after being caught. That means that once they are caught they are certain to die, catch and release will not work for rockfish.

Rockfish and lingcod used to dominate Howe Sound. Now only the odd survivor remains. For Howe Sound to return to health, a full no-take marine sanctuary approach will be required.

MLSS has decided to start a program to allow citizens to actually do something.  “Being a member of MLSS means that you, as a member and marine steward, will voluntarily refrain from extracting marine organisms out of Rockfish Conservation Areas, Marine Conservation Areas, Marine Mammal Conservation Areas and other marine reserves”. We are asking people to do something “by doing nothing”. It seems like a pretty easy way to send a message, while allowing the fish to return.

The MLSS local stewardship program will address the illegal activity that constantly happens in Howe Sound. Using an organized system of local citizen stewards, we will observe, record and report to the official government departments to deal with the offenders. It is evident that the current protection system is not working. We were quite surprised to learn that the BC Parks rangers in Porteau Cove don’t even have the authority to police their own parks protected areas. The simple act of deputizing park rangers would give them the power to protect the park.

The MLSS education program is educating children and adults alike on the life in the sea.  Using divers and qualified interpreters, we help to create an emotional attachment to the creatures few ever get to see in real life.

A local Lions Bay resident Glen Dennison has discovered some amazing deep water glass sponges directly off of Lions Bay. Unlike every other living carbon based life on our planet, these sponges are silicone-based life.  These unique organisms have no protection.

Howe Sound is highly stressed being close to the largest population centre in British Columbia. If we don’t put in some adequate protection methods, the fish in Howe Sound will never return. We encourage everyone to be part of the Marine Life Sanctuaries programs to help the life in our ocean to come back. You can join on-line at and “like” our Facebook Page. We are the only organization on the coast that has active ocean protection programs. We welcome all volunteers and would be happy to bring our beach-side education program to Lions Bay.

link to online article


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