Federal safeguards to protect prime nesting home

Protection is underway for the Scott Islands Archipelago, five islands off the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the largest single seabird colony on Canada’s West Coast.

“The archipelago and the surrounding water make up the most productive and biologically diverse marine eco-systems on the Canadian Pacific coast,” said Erika Lok, marine habitat planner for the Canadian Wildlife Service.

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“The government of Canada is committed to establishing the Scott Islands marine natural wildlife area,” said Lok in a telephone interview from CWS Pacific headquarters in Delta.

The islands, about 10 kilometres off Cape Scott, are the annual nesting home to about 1.1 million seabirds, 40 per cent of the nesting population of B.C.

Among the nesting birds are more than half of the province’s nesting Cassin’s auklets, most of whose world population nests along the B.C. coast. Also nesting on the Scott Islands are 90 per cent of Canada’s tufted puffins and 95 per cent of the country’s common murres.

The federal protection move, the subject of discussions with the province and industry, will safeguard more than 11,000 square kilometres of ocean. It’s crucial foraging area for seabirds to take fish and tiny marine creatures as food for themselves and their young.

Lok said the archipelago’s three smaller, outer islands — Triangle, Sartine and Beresford — are free of predators and rats, crucial for viable seabird nesting colonies. Those three have already been protected as provincial ecological reserves.

The two largest islands, Cox and Lanz, are host to raccoon and mink, both introduced deliberately in the 1920s and ’30s for raising fur.

But Lok said predator eradication has been done successfully elsewhere around the world and could be considered.

Seabird species nesting in B.C.

Fork-tailed storm petrel

Leach’s storm petrel

Double-crested cormorant

Brandt’s cormorant

Pelagic cormorant

Glaucous-winged gull

Common murre

Thick-billed murre

Pigeon guillemot

Marbled murrelet

Ancient murrelet

Cassin’s auklet

Rhinoceros auklet

Tufted puffin

Horned puffin

Black oystercatcher (A shorebird, not a seabird, but included because it nests only in the coastal environment and on many of the same islands as seabirds.)

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