Eelgrass Restoration

Eelgrass Restoration Underway in Cowichan Bay

 

Cowichan Tribes, with support from the federal Coastal Restoration Fund, has teamed up with the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre to re-plant eelgrass in the Cowichan Estuary for a second year.  Eelgrass restoration is overseen by a team of eelgrass aficionados from SeaChange Marine Conservation Society. They will work with SCUBA divers and community volunteers to replant the northern area of the estuary. If all goes well, salmon will have a meadow to find shelter and food as they leave the river system or return home.

“For many years the northern side of the estuary has been lacking eelgrass while the southern side near Hecate Park has continued to thrive” said Chief Seymour of the Cowichan Tribes. “In historic times the elders tell of fields of eelgrass across the whole estuary where they raked crabs and harvested seafood. When the tide was out the table was set”.

The team will re-plant two areas on the northern end to supplement plants installed in June 2019 with the support of volunteers. The transplants from last year did fairly well, considering the big rain storm in late January, 2020. The sites will be monitored every 2 months to see how they fare this coming winter.

The Estuary Project including eelgrass restoration is a component of a larger CRF award of $2.7M for 5 years of restoration work on three different projects (Estuary Restoration, Riparian Restoration and Stoltz Sediment Remediation). During the first two years of the Estuary Project, Cowichan Tribes and Industry partners focused on completed a second breach of the WesCan Terminal Causeway and historic railway to reconnect the Cowichan River to the southern side of the estuary.  Studies were also completed to narrow down limiting factors to eelgrass growth in the estuary and to identify suitable areas to try replanting.  In 2019, we collectively transplanted 5,000 shoots. This year we are aiming for 6,000. The shoots are harvested from the southern end of the bay, which continues to do well.

Replanting will take place from August 24th through 29th.

Volunteers are needed to tie weights onto the eelgrass donor plants to ready them for the divers to restore the estuary.  We will meet at Hecate Park for 2 hour shifts, beginning at 9:30 am daily. We will follow a Safety Plan to keep everyone safe and comfortable.

For more information and to sign up, contact Nikki Wright (SeaChange): 250 652-1662 or email: seachange@shaw.ca

Or contact the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre at 250-597-2288 or email: coordinator@cowichanestuary.ca

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