The Resurrection of Whaler Bay

Dave Ages, Whaler Bay
January, 2010

Whaler BayWhen Islanders think about the south arm of Whaler Bay, what comes to mind? The log dump, the government dock, a muddy polluted bottom, fouled water, bad smells on Sturdies Bay Road? To some extent this is true. Its very name comes from its early role as a harbour for small whaling vessels.  Whaler Bay is also surrounded by some of the densest development of any area of Galiano.

And yet, Whaler Bay has been going through something of a renaissance over the last few years. A number of the area residents have recently had septic systems installed - some as part of a building project, others just because it was the right thing to do. This, along with the closing of the log dump, has resulted in a significant improvement in water quality in the Bay. In fact, its been amazing how quickly things have changed.

The water looks better, of course, and now it's the rare day when there is any smell at all, and even when it's there it's usually just in the old log dump area. But more importantly, the eel grass is healthier and the bay is teeming with small fish.  And where there is a food source, feeders are quick to follow: there have been observable increases in both water fowl and mammals over the last few years. Canada GeeseThe last several springs have seen Canada Geese raising large gaggles of goslings in the bay. We are seeing more ducks, cormorants, and goldeneyes each year. The resident heron is now often joined by several more during the summer months. The presence of eagles and kingfishers can now be relied upon year after year.

This past spring and summer the bay welcomed additional life -- birds we have not seen for many years. Two osprey took up residence for a time and a loon stayed for several weeks, putting on an amazing underwater gymnastics display as it chased schools of fish.Swan A Mute Swan stayed for several months, working dock after dock demanding food between stints of feeding on more natural foods growing in the bay. This swan clearly had had previous human contact - maybe it was seeking a respite from its home in Stanley Park. Sightings of oystercatchers have also been reported.

Of course, all this activity is in addition to that of the many forest birds in the area, from Rufous Hummingbirds to finches, Pine Siskins and nuthatches to Piliated Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers and many more.

On the mammalian side, seals now regularly come up the bay from their residence near Gossip Island. Mink are often sighted running along the shore. The abundant raccoon population now Sailboat on Whaler Bayincludes the shoreline as part of its foraging area. River Otters are regular visitors, alternating between fish feasts and eating the mussels off of dock and boat bottoms. Even deer can now be seen out in the exposed flats at low tide looking for food.

The abundance of wildlife in Whaler Bay is enhanced by its gentle use by area residents and visitors. Kayakers have made the bay a regular stop on their travels around the Gulf Islands. It's the rare summer day (and in the case of a few hardy souls -- spring and fall as well) that swimmers can't be spotted. And what could be more delightful than seeing a couple of Greg Foster's grandchildren effortlessly rowing down the bay in one of his beautiful, handcrafted boats?

There are still some worries, of course. Some gray water still goes into the bay from area residences and there are concerns about pollution emanating from the new construction at the government dock. That said, Whaler Bay has come an amazing distance in just a few years -- testament to the ability of nature to recover from the indignities inflicted by humans.

Go To the Whaler Bay website

Merganzers on Whaler Bay

Jan 02/10