By Nelson Winterburn
Published: March 13, 2016
Published: March 13, 2016
THE NEXEN Lands will be the new showcase of Squamish, and part of this new look needs to include a dedicated facility to house a marine-oriented public education center. Ask yourself what plants and animals live in Howe Sound? The quick answer is seals, dolphins, and orcas, many types of birds in addition to ducks, geese, and gulls. But wait, what about fish? Salmon, herring, cod, trout, and yes, sharks. And there is also many species of shellfish. Also ask what land animals live on the edge of the Sea. How do all these living organisms interact?
A marine education center would be an exciting focal point to answer such questions and would become a tourist attraction to add to the amenities Squamish has to offer both its citizens and the visiting public. Based upon my consultations with the aquarium staff at both Stanley Park and Ucluelet, Squamish could fulfill a need to inform the public about some of the secrets of local ocean life. And there are many.
What a thrill it would be to walk into a facility at our waterfront to see a display of salmon eggs in a stream, next display showing the young fry, and then seeing a school of mature fish in the ocean. Picture the herring eggs spawning and the dolphins coming in for a mass feeding, closely followed by a pod of hungry orcas. Next display might showcase the interaction of the ocean grasses, plankton, and blennies. As the tide rolls out the next diorama would demonstrate gulls and other seabirds feasting on shellfish while seals lurk about planning their next meal. Land mammals such as otter, deer, bear, raccoons and coyotes also come to the seashore to feed. What a wonderful natural laboratory we have here in Howe Sound!
In connection with a Federal Fish Hatchery within the Squamish boundaries, an in-depth display describing the four species of salmon that return to our river systems to spawn and keep the life cycle in motion would be crucial. Remember, it’s mainly the spawning salmon that attract the eagles, and the eagles attract people to come to the river banks to watch them soar and scan the river shores for their next meal. Such a facility would be an excellent entry point to teach about local biodiversity, ecological interactions, encounters with wildlife, etc.
Further to the marine flora and fauna, one must not ignore the human use of the waters around the Nexen Lands. For example, the fall salmon runs are very popular and frequently one will find anglers standing in the water shoulder to shoulder casting their lines in the hopes of reeling in their supper. Or, on a shore not far-off one will see boaters trying their luck as they troll back and forth hoping to catch ‘the big one!
And to further enrich our ‘marine’ display one would need to include a component that has some of the rich culture of our local first nations members.
Nelson Winterburn is a former member of the SODC board.