Night birds can now return to remote islands
April 15, 2015 Skidegate, Haida Gwaii Parks Canada
Once a highly productive seabird colony and important cultural resource, Arichika Island was devastated for years by introduced rats.
Today, Parks Canada and kil tlaats ’gaa Peter Lantin, President of the Haida Nation, announced this important ecosystem has been declared rat-free. Arichika Island is recovering thanks to a restoration project implemented by the Government of Canada and the Haida Nation in collaboration with international partners experienced in island restoration and invasive species removal.
Invasive species are the number one threat to ecological and cultural heritage in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site. According to traditional knowledge, the Ancient Murrelet (SGin Xaana or “night bird” in the Haida language) was once abundant on Arichika Island and a seasonal food source for the Haida. Approximately half of the world’s population of Ancient Murrelets, a species at risk in Canada, breeds on remote islands in Haida Gwaii.
Since the completion of rat eradication work in 2011, signs of ecological recovery have become evident, including increased numbers of nests and successful chick-rearing by black oystercatchers, a species that acts as a sentinel for changes in coastal ecosystem health. Another native species, the Dusky shrew has dramatically increased in numbers since invasive rats were removed. Their populations are now similar to those on other rat-free islands.
Parks Canada and the Haida Nation have been working with regional partners in Canada such as Coastal Conservation, Simon Fraser University and Laskeek Bay Conservation Society, as well as United States-based partners Island Conservation, Bell Laboratories, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Luckenbach Council and Mexico’s Conservacion de Islas.
- The west coast archipelago of Haida Gwaii is home to 1.5 million nesting seabirds, many of which nest on remote islands in Gwaii Haanas.
- The Ancient Murrelet or SGin Xaana is listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
- Invasive rats were introduced to Haida Gwaii as early as the late 1700s during the advent of maritime shipping.
- Located in the southern part of Haida Gwaii, approximately 130 km off the British Columbia coast and 640 km north of Vancouver, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site encompasses more than 5,000 km2 from mountaintop to seafloor. Gwaii Haanas is equally renowned for its spectacular wilderness and its vibrant cultural resources as well as for the intimate connections between land, sea and people.
"The introduction of rats to many of the forested islands of Haida Gwaii has meant the demise of several historic seabird nesting colonies. Of particular concern are the impacts that invasive rats have had on the Ancient Murrelet. This seabird was once an important food source for our people."
kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin President of the Haida Nation
"The protection of species at risk is a high priority for Parks Canada. Through initiatives like this, Parks Canada is achieving real conservation results in support of the National Conservation Plan. The restoration of Arichika Island enabling the return of the night birds is a shining example of concerted actions undertaken in a cooperative manner by the Haida Nation, the Government of Canada and partners."
Ernie Gladstone, Superintendent, Gwaii Haanas Field Unit
"Removal of invasive species, such as rats, from islands is a permanent solution, and once completed, will allow ecosystems to recover naturally. The benefits of restoring the islands of Haida Gwaii will pay dividends for both wildlife and people that both rely on the islands for their livelihoods, and for the visitors that come to this world-class archipelago."
Gregg Howald, Director of the North America Region, Island Conservation
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve,
National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site
Haida Nation – communications