BC Parks and the Gitga’at First Nation are calling for public input as they development a management plan for the K’nabiyaaxl/Ashdown Island Conservancy at the mouth of Douglas Channel.
BC Parks describes the area as:
K’nabiyaaxl/Ashdown Conservancy covers 727 hectares of marine and uplands ecosystem on the northwest coast of British Columbia, south of Gil Island. The conservancy is 40 kilometres south of Hartley Bay and 120 kilometres southwest of Kitimat. The conservancy is in the traditional territory of the Gitga’at First Nation.
The public has until December 9 to read the management plan and file comments with BC Parks and the Gitga’at Nation.
Although not well known outside the Kitimat region, Ashdown Island did receive some measure of fame because it was one of the islands that disappeared from Enbridge’s promotional animation of the tanker route for diluted bitumen from Kitimat to Asia if the controversial Northern Gateway project goes ahead. As well as a haven for wildlife, Ashdown is known as a prime halibut fishing area.
Ashdown Island is on the proposed “Southern Approach” for Enbridge’s tanker traffic routes.
Recent studies by both Fisheries and Oceans and scientists have identified the area as “critical habitat” for the rebounding humpback whale population visiting the BC Coast. The Northern Gateway Joint Review panel recently refused to consider those studies because they were released after the deadline for filing evidence.
The BC management plan notes:
The area and nearby waters have been and continue to be intensively used by the Gitga’at people for cultural, social and economic purposes. In Tsimshian language (Sm’algyax), K’nabiyaaxl means “place where cliff” – which is located on the west side of Ashdown Island.
The conservancy encompasses all of Ashdown Island and the foreshore area
and land covered by water within 200 metres of the high tide line. It
has high intertidal values, especially for seaweed, and contains an important
Steller Sea Lion haulout. The waters around the island support important Gitga’at
Although in Gitga’at traditional territory, the plan notes that the Haisla, the Kitasoo community of Klemtu; and Gitxaala community of Kitkatla on Dolphin Island should be consulted.
It goes on to say:
The conservancy protects an entire small island representative of the Hecate Lowlands Ecosection. The island’s foreshore marine environments include high value intertidal areas which provide high value habitat for important marine wildlife species and migratory birds. The conservancy also protects a haulout for Stellar Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus), a species of concern (provincially blue- listed3)…
Stellar Sea Lions use small islets off the south end of Ashdown Island as a winter
haulout, with up to 12 pups and 107 adults observed
The plans lists the Humpback Whale (Blue-listed, S1N); the. Killer Whale (Red- or Blue-listed, S2 or S3 depending on sub-species); and the Fin Whale; as Ashdown Island species at risk. (SARA species schedule procedure site)
The conservancy contains seven hectares of potential Marbled Murrelet habitat
which, although small, may provide important habitat when combined with core
Marbled Murrelet habitat in nearby areas.
K’nabiyaaxl’s remote location provides an excellent opportunity for maintaining
biological diversity and natural environment values. This habitat should not be
disturbed by conservancy use and development.
The island and the near shore are also part of the Gitga’at’s rich cultural heritage.
The conservancy is near the seasonal Gitga’at village camp of K’yel. The Gitga’at
travel in the spring from Hartley Bay to K’yel, which they use as a base for conducting intensive marine and intertidal harvesting and hunting activity.
Since time immemorial, the Gitga’at people have harvested fish and marine
mammal species in waters adjacent to K’nabiyaaxl. They also collect seaweed,
plants and berries from intertidal and upland areas on the island.
Archaeological sites are known to exist in the area. That the BC Archaeological
Branch does not have archaeological sites registered in the conservancy is not
indicative of the rich history of Gitga’at occupancy and use of K’nabiyaaxl.