Seabird populations recovering in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve

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Seabird populations in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site are at last recovering thanks to the SGin Xaana Sdiihltllxa: Night Birds Returning project – a collaboration between the Council of the Haida Nation, Parks Canada and key partners, including Island Conservation and Coastal Conservation.

Murchison and Faraday Islands, once highly productive seabird colonies and important cultural resources, have been devastated by introduced, invasive rats. Parks Canada and the Haida Nation on Wednesday announced that these important ecosystems are rat-free in a report to Canadian, American and Mexican conservation biologists at the Tri-Lateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation Management annual general meeting in Ottawa, Ontario.

Since the completion of rat eradication work in 2013, signs of ecological recovery have become evident on many of Gwaii Haanas’ rat-free islands. One example is the increased number of nests and successful chick-rearing by Black Oystercatchers – a species that acts as a sentinel for changes in coastal ecosystem health.

Invasive species are the number one threat to ecosystems and cultural elements in Gwaii Haanas. According to traditional knowledge, the Ancient Murrelet (SGin Xaana or “night bird” in the Haida language) was once abundant on Murchison and Faraday Islands and a seasonal food source for the Haida. Approximately half of the world’s population of Ancient Murrelets – a  species at risk in Canada – breeds on remote islands in Haida Gwaii.

During the Night Birds Returning project, the Haida Nation and Parks Canada worked with regional partners Coastal Conservation, Simon Fraser University and Laskeek Bay Conservation Society, as well as United States-based partners Island Conservation, Bell Laboratories, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Luckenbach Council, in addition to Mexico’s Conservacion de Islas.

Kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin, President of the Haida Nation, said: “Restoring balance to ecosystems on Haida Gwaii is part of the important work going on in Gwaii Haanas. Rats are disruptive on many levels and successfully removing them from these two islands assures us that the island’s ecosystems will recover to their natural state. This success is a fine example of the governments of the Haida Nation and Canada working together to ensure that Gwaii Haanas is cared for in a way our ancestors would expect.”

Gwaii Haanas is a premier example of cooperative management. A group called the Archipelago Management Board – comprised of Haida Nation and Government of Canada representatives – manages Gwaii Haanas from mountain top to sea floor using consensus-based decision making. – CINEWS

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