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Five thousand year old First Nations territory in the Deep Bay area was visited by Qualicum Band Chief Michael Recalma and (Ret) DFO scientist Dr. Ian Birtwell over this past May long weekend. They led a group of some 40 eco- locals down a steep trail to the beach area that contains the hand selected laid up stone fish weirs that created the clam gardens.
This area stretches from Deep Bay Spit some 2 kilometers south east along the beach. Although the reality is that from Oregon to Alaska along the Pacific coast these kinds of tools can be found in many locations. We are privileged to recognize them in our area. Canoe launches, middens, and the stone fish weirs were the topic of interest. Three archeologists were in the group as well as a few children. Dr. Birtwell concentrated on the kids who asked the most brilliant questions! He uncovered the fish eggs we had come to find, as well as the adult Plainfin midshipman who has taken up spaces under stones within the gardens for laying their eggs. Our Plainfin midshipman feed the young salmon as the adults are vital components of their diet. The area is highly utilised seasonally and the biological benefit is obvious and quite unlike some other areas close to human settlements with altered foreshores
There were more eagles than people on the beach! The uniqueness of the Bowser lagoons is related to habitat diversity and its biological productivity, lack of human interference and the congregation of eagles (and other predators) to numbers higher than those recorded at other locations on our south coast in summertime.
As low tide receded the raptors could see the movement behind the weirs of fish caught up in the seaweeds and water left behind and it was easy pickings for their lunch. Dr. Birtwell explained that the raptors did not eat the newly hatched young, but only the adults. He also explained that the fish could actually be heard making calling sounds to their mates!
Indeed we have begun to recognize a very special area of our island and the purpose of the visit was two fold. First of course was to introduce the local community to what is exactly happening along our beaches which are threatened by industrial seaweed removal to feed cows in the Comox Valley , as well by the spraying of pesticides to control spartina plant growth which is claimed to be an invasive species.
Humans are the first invasive species. Followed by Japanese oysters which brought along the coveted Japonica weed that is storm cast seaweed onto our beaches. Many so called “invasives” are simply nature doing its thing of adaptation…so this intellectual concept of trying to remove/control the invasives should start with ourselves!
The second aspect of the field trip is to now work on getting official protection of these left over tools from long ago. We need a Marine Protected Area (MPA) placed upon these beaches. Having an official federal Marine Protection Area will stop any further Industrial Development with heavy tanks driving and crushing the embryo of the Sand Lance as well ceasing the toxic application of chemicals along our shores. By protecting the storm cast seaweed from industrial removal it will allow once again the slow discomposure of the material to remain as food for many beach dwellers as well as the final decomposition into fluid nutrients that flow as food for all the shellfish being cultured in Baynes Sound.
Currently the Regional District is looking at an Official Community Plan Review of the area so we will begin by getting that small government group to recognize this community’s treasure. Then deal with the Provincial Ministry of Environment, but they seem to like putting toxic material into watersheds so its probably best that we focus our attention on the Federal Environmental Protection of this area. Perhaps Gord Johns our MP from Tofino will read this and decide to get on board !