Island-conservation-gwaii-haanas-canada-british-columbia-featured-2

Seabird populations set to recover thanks to collaboration and innovation in Gwaii Haanas

Resources: Video & Photographs, Interviews
Contacts:
Heath Packard, Island Conservation, (360) 584-3051, heath.packard@islandconservation.org
Miranda Post, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Sitea (250) 559-6344, miranda.post@pc.gc.ca
Simon Davies, Haida Nation communications (250) 559-4468, simon.davies@haidanation.com

Seabird populations set to recover thanks to collaboration and innovation in Gwaii Haanas

Seabird populations in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area and Haida Heritage Site are at last recovering thanks to the hard work of the Council of the Haida Nation, the Government of Canada and partners of the SGin Xaana Sdiihltl’lxa: Night Birds Returning project.

This excellent news for Gwaii Haanas-based seabirds was reported to Canadian, American and Mexican conservation biologists at the Tri-Lateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem and Management Annual General Meeting in Ottawa, Ontario today. Murchison and Faraday Islands, once highly productive seabird colonies and important cultural resources, have been devastated by introduced, invasive rats. These island ecosystems are recovering thanks to the Night Birds Returning project implemented by the Haida Nation and Parks Canada alongside partners including Island Conservation and Coastal Conservation. Today, Parks Canada and the Haida Nation, announced these important ecosystems are rat-free.

Restoring balance to ecosystems on Haida Gwaii is part of the important work going on in Gwaii Haanas. Rats are disruptive on many levels and successfully removing them from these two Islands assures us that the island’s ecosystems will recover to their natural state. This success is a fine example of the governments of the Haida Nation and Canada working together to ensure that Gwaii Haanas is cared for in a way our ancestors would expect.” kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin President of the Haida Nation

Since the completion of rat eradication work in 2013, signs of ecological recovery have become evident on many of Gwaii Haanas rat-free islands. One example is the increased number of nests and successful chick-rearing by Black Oystercatchers, a species that acts as a sentinel for changes in coastal ecosystem health.

island-conservation-gwaii-haanas-canada-oystercatcher

Breeding success of shorebirds like these Black Oyster Catchers will also improve as a result of this restoration project. © Parks Canada

Invasive species are the number one threat to ecosystems and cultural elements in Gwaii Haanas. According to traditional knowledge, the Ancient Murrelet (SGin Xaana or “night bird” in the Haida language) was once abundant on Murchison and Faraday Islands 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.

The continued success of this project is emblematic of great regional and international conservation collaborations between first nations, Canada, Mexico and the US. Globally, 80 percent of all extinctions have been on islands and invasive species have been implicated in most of these extinctions. Invasive rats have been introduced to about 90 percent of the world’s island archipelagoes. There is much work to do, and partnerships are key to curbing this aspect of the extinction crisis. It is fitting that we are announcing this at the Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management.” Gregg Howald, North America Regional Director, Island Conservation

Parks Canada manages one of the finest and most extensive systems of protected natural and cultural heritage areas in the world and contributes to the recovery of species-at-risk. Gwaii Haanas is a shining example of cooperative management. A group called the Archipelago Management Board – comprised of Haida Nation and Government of Canada representatives – manages Gwaii Haanas from mountain top to sea floor using consensus-based decision making.

Parks Canada is a recognized world leader in conservation. Through initiatives like this, we are achieving tangible conservation results to support our species at risk protection efforts. The restoration of Faraday and Murchison islands enables the return of the night birds. This project is a shining example of collaborative and innovative actions by the Haida Nation, the Government of Canada and our many partners to protect our cultural and natural heritage.” Ernie Gladstone, Superintendent, Gwaii Haanas Field Unit

These islands support a significant proportion of the world’s population of Ancient Murrelets, a Species-at-Risk in Canada. © Parks Canada / C. Bergman

These islands support a significant proportion of the world’s population of Ancient Murrelets, a Species-at-Risk in Canada. © Parks Canada / C. Bergman

During the Night Birds Returning project, the Haida Nation and Parks Canada worked with regional partners 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.

Quick Facts

* 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. Approximately half of the world’s population of Ancient Murrelets breed on these remote islands.

* Invasive rats were introduced to Haida Gwaii as early as the late 1700s during the advent of maritime shipping and as stowaways on modern vessels visiting Gwaii Haanas.

* 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 kilometres squared 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.