Sk’waayee tlljuuhlda: Restoring Marine Habitat around Log Handling Facilities in Haida Gwaii
Submitted by Marine Planning
A House of Assembly (HOA) resolution from 2018 states a need for heavily impacted river estuaries and marine habitat to be restored based on Haida laws of yahgudang respect and reciprocity. As part of implementing the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan, the CHN and the province of BC, along with Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada through their Coastal Restoration Fund, are working together on a new marine habitat restoration project. The project aims to, “improve habitat under and around past and current log sorts, booming areas and other areas impacted by logging and related activities” (see the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan, page 39).
After a list of 69 historic log sorts around Haida Gwaii were documented and examined, the historic log sort at Juus Káahlii Juskatla Inlet was chosen as the pilot site. This is a pilot that will take place over the next three years. Other historic log sites are also being considered for restoration in 2021. CHN is in discussions with Taan Forest and the municipal government in Gamadiis Port Clements on the pilot project Sk’waayee tlljuuhlda.
Harvested tree logs are transported to log handling facilities where they are dumped into the ocean and loaded onto barges. At Maaman Stl’ang near Juus K̲áahlii, twenty truck loads were processed each day during peak logging years and that came with significant environmental consequences. Haida Fisheries divers have observed thick layers of bark and woody debris on the seafloor. While these can cause large subtidal ‘dead zones’ where marine life dies due to a lack of oxygen, the seabed at Juus K̲áahlii seems to be slowly restoring itself.
Over the years, sediment from the Maaman Gandlee Mamin river estuary, has started to cover some areas of the woody debris layer. Additionally, during log dump operations tons of infill were piled on top of a large t’anuu eelgrass meadow and the vibrant fish nursery it previously supported. This important habitat and many rivers and areas need help to restore and heal.
While some damage is irreversible, a diverse team of Haida Fisheries divers, biologists, excavator operators, specialists in environmental assessments and t’anuu planters are working together to respectfully give back to the area with the ultimate goal of enhancing fish and other marine life habitat. In the hopes of restoring a marine meadow the size of ten to twenty basketball courts (0.4-0.8 hectares), the focus is on carefully pulling back the infill with excavators to recreate the shallow, gradually sloping foreshore where t’anuu can be planted and thrive. Small patches of t’anuu will be carefully transplanted from healthy patches in the neighboring bay.
The project goal is not only to restore impacted habitat, but also to gain experience in restoration techniques so the CHN team can enhance formerly impacted coastal habitat around Haida Gwaii.