Traditional knowledge leads to innovative habitat solution

Community group and First Nations Guardians employ “eco-cultural restoration” for Vancouver Island estuaries. 

Overabundant Canada geese have grazed estuarine marshes on Vancouver Island for decades, leading to the loss of more than 90 per cent of this important juvenile salmon habitat.

The Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society is working to restore these high-quality fish and wildlife habitats.

“Estuaries are so important for salmon and for other wildlife. Now, we’re dealing with this problem of too many geese on Vancouver Island. The Canada geese that are here now — which were introduced in the 1970s and 1980s — love to eat the Carex sedge, a plant we’re trying to protect,” says Tim Clermont, executive director of the Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society.

The society has created strong partnerships with local Indigenous groups, including the K’ómoks and Wei Wai Kum Nations Guardian Watchmen. Together, they developed a unique Canada goose management solution, called eco-cultural restoration, to rehabilitate critical salmon estuary habitat. The technique involves installing alder and willow fencing around Carex sedge grasses to keep geese out and allow salmon to utilize the now protected and recovering sedge marsh, similar to ancient Indigenous fish trap technology.

“Our goal is to provide nature with the ability to recover,” says Clermont.

The Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society conducts their restoration work in six estuaries across Vancouver Island: Campbell River, K’ómoks (Courtenay River – pictured), Little Qualicum River, Englishman River, Nanaimo River, and the Craig Creek estuary. (Braela Kwan)

PSF awarded the 2022 Hungerford Award to the Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society.

The Hungerford Award, named after PSF founding chairman George Hungerford, is a $10,000 prize granted to individuals or community groups that demonstrate exceptional dedication to salmon conservation and restoration. Awardees are recognized for their community impact, contributions of influence and innovation, and benefit to Pacific salmon and their watersheds.

Since 2018, PSF has supported the Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society with more than $123,000 delivered through grants from PSF’s Community Salmon Program. PSF proudly presents the Hungerford Award to the group to advance their vital habitat rehabilitation efforts.

PSF presented the award to Clermont at the annual PSF Comox Valley Gala Dinner & Auction, presented by Mosaic Forest Management, on Sept. 23, 2022.

Team members from Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society and K’ómoks Guardian Watchmen. (Allison Colina)