As most members are aware, the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association (SCCA) has a long history of working successfully to protect old growth forests, species at-risk, wildlife habitat and various ecosystem services within the 2.5 million hectare area of the greater Sunshine Coast region. With our current effort, the Habitat Area Nomination Project, the SCCA is moving on formal nominations of specific areas for either Wildlife Habitat Area (WHA) or Fisheries Sensitive Watershed (FSW) designation. We are also designing an educational program about what biodiversity is and what is needed to protect this regions biodiversity.
Priority Number One: Marbled Murrelets.
Our first priority is to assemble the best currently available scientific information about the locations of Marbled Murrelet nesting habitat within our region and nominate those areas for WHA status through the BC Ministry of the Environment. At this point, we are in the data-gathering phase of the project. We already have critical information about population densities in all the regions major watersheds and we also have a wealth of information about the specific habitat qualities that characterize the birds nesting habitat.
For those of you that are not familiar with this magical species. The Marbled Murrelet is a small seabird that nests in old growth forests. It needs very old trees (more than 250 years old) and the trees need to be tall. It builds its nest on mossy platforms that sometimes grow in the crook between branch and trunk. The birds need a relatively open old growth stand structure, but they also need their nests to be well away from human disturbance, such as clear cuts. Loss of nesting habitat is the major cause of population decline among murrelet populations. The decline of forage fish populations is also a contributing factor.
About Fisheries Sensitive Watersheds (FSR).
Historically speaking, the major rivers of our region produced a landed salmon catch measuring in the 100s of millions of kilograms annually, until the fishery began to decline sharply in the 1970s. As well, this regions rivers supported First Nation populations, very similar in size to the Sunshine Coasts current population, for at least 10,000 years. The salmon fishery, along with forestry, provided the foundation of wealth that built our contemporary society. The fisheries declined for several reasons: overfishing, hydroelectric dams and logging. Both the extent of logging and specific logging practices were responsible for massive environmental damage. Today, we urgently need to restore our fisheries.
When the Province of British Columbia implemented the new Forest and Range Practices Act in 2006, it also created a new designation, the Fisheries Sensitive Watershed. Unfortunately, government still hasnt actually designated any watersheds so we are going to prod them into action. With our project, we are moving decisively toward recognition of the work that needs to be done in order to restore the regions salmon rivers. The fisheries sensitive designation mandates consideration of the cumulative hydrological impacts of forestry and it results in changes to the pace of logging so that logging does not destabilize fish bearing streams. The designation itself will not restore the fisheries, but its a necessary step along the path of ecologically responsible management and incremental recovery of populations.
Fisheries Resources on the SCCA Website.
Where did all these fish come from? As part of the HANP, we have been collecting historical information about fish spawning escapements in each of the regions major rivers. This information gives us a rough idea of the ecological potential of a watershed for producing salmon and the benefits that society received in the past and might anticipate in the future. An interactive map will be posted on the website shortly. It will allow you to see historical records of the size and diversity of salmon returns in each of the regions major rivers.
Public Education: Biodiversity.
The term biodiversity is often used these days in conversations about sustainability and in fact all life depends on biodiversity. However, people often have only vague notions of what biodiversity is and why it is so important. In the past weve found it difficult to explain biodiversity concepts in words or using tables and graphs. Our new presentation program will use images of Sunshine Coast ecosystems and landscapes to illustrate what biodiversity is in relation to forest types, old growth stands and plant communities at-risk. We will be contacting you and various groups soon, looking for opportunities to make this presentation.