Connecting the Land, the Water and the People
The Strait of Georgia marine region is the smallest of the five Parks Canada marine regions on Canada's Pacific coast, and the most intensively utilized by British Columbians and the many visitors who enjoy these waters each year. Its seascapes range in diversity from the fjords of Desolation Sound to the extensive mudflats of Boundary Bay, from the cloudy sediment plumes flowing from the Fraser River to the clear waters among the southern Gulf Islands. The rich subtidal communities provide some of the best scuba diving in North America, and these waters are well known for their world class opportunities for pleasure cruising in vessels from yachts to kayaks.
Kayaking is a nice way to explore the marine world! © Parks Canada / G. Skinner
The governments of Canada and British Columbia joined forces in 1995 through the Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy to protect these values through an expanded system of marine and coastal protected areas focusing initially in the southern Gulf Islands and the southern Strait of Georgia. In addition to the establishment of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and additional provincial protected areas, Parks Canada and British Columbia are undertaking a study to assess the feasibility of establishing a national marine conservation area reserve in the southern Strait of Georgia, including the waters surrounding the national park reserve. This study area covers around 900 sq. km.
Subtidal communities throughout the island waters are rich and varied and include anemones, sea urchins, a variety of crabs and sea stars, and Pacific octopus. herring, the five species of Pacific salmon, Pacific cod, lingcod and several species of rockfish are common, although past levels of fishing have left some populations in depleted condition. Harbour seals and Steller's and California sea lions are frequently observed. Orca (killer whales), harbour porpoise and Dall's porpoise are also common in the area. Small colonies of glaucous-winged gulls, pelagic and double-crested cormorants are scattered throughout the area, as are breeding sites for bald eagles and pigeon guillemots. The marine waters are particularly important to migrating and wintering populations of loons, cormorants, grebes, murres, gulls and ducks.
Steller sea lions are part of the pinnipeds familly that include seals and walrus. Sea lions have sensitive and long facial whiskers which they use to sense prey and feel their way underwater. © Mark Heibert
North Pacific Giant Octopus is the largest octopus in the world and we can find them in the Strait of Georgia! They measure 3 to 5 m. long. © Mark Heibert
Orca will often hunt around kelp forests, places where many marine species, including salmon and herring, feed or take refuge. © Parks Canada / J. McCullough
The southern end of the Strait is the most heavily utilized and impacted of all the marine regions on the west coast of Canada. Increasing urbanization and associated economic activity in the region have created stress on the marine environment, and there is visible evidence of significant habitat alteration and loss, deteriorating water quality and declining populations of many species. Parks Canada and British Columbia are working with local governments, First Nations and a host of stakeholders achieve the protection of the proposed NMCA reserve in the southern Strait of Georgia in manner that will permit Canadians to continue to enjoy and discover this unique area.