Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor, left, works on eelgrass restoration in the Cowichan Estuary with Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Cowichan Estuary eelgrass re-planting part of $2.7M restoration project

“In historic times the elders tell of fields of eelgrass across the whole estuary”

Cowichan Tribes, with support from Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Coastal Restoration Fund, has teamed up with the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre to re-plant eelgrass in the Cowichan Estuary.

Eelgrass restoration is being overseen by a team of experts from SeaChange Marine Conservation Society who will work with divers and many volunteers to replant the estuary.

“For many years the northern side of the estuary has been lacking eelgrass while the southern side near Hecate Park has continued to thrive,” said Chief William Seymour of Cowichan Tribes. “In historic times the elders tell of fields of eelgrass across the whole estuary where they raked crabs and harvested seafood. When the tide was out the table was set.”

The team will re-plant two pilot areas, one on the extreme northern edge of the estuary and one within the Western Stevedoring lease area along the Westcan Terminal Causeway. The pilot areas will be monitored in six months and if successful additional planting will take place over the next two years.

“Our government is committed to protecting our waters and our coasts,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. “That is precisely why we’re implementing our world class Oceans Protection Plan. This allows us to work together to make our oceans and coasts safer, cleaner and healthier. The $75 million Coastal Restoration Fund, run under the Oceans Protection Plan, is helping to address threats to our ocean and coastal areas at the community level. This project and the restoration of eelgrass habitats will improve rearing conditions for juvenile chinook and chum salmon entering the Cowichan estuary. Chinook are important prey for Southern Resident killer whales. Our government’s collaboration with the Cowichan Tribes will help to secure healthy, thriving coastal habitats in British Columbia today, and for future generations.”

The Cowichan/Koksilah Estuary Restoration Project including eelgrass restoration is a component of a larger CRF award of $2.7 million for five years of restoration work on three different projects (estuary restoration, riparian restoration and Stoltz sediment remediation) in Cowichan between 2017 and 2022. During the first two years of the estuary project, Cowichan Tribes, industry and other land owners partnered to complete a second breach of the WesCan Terminal Causeway and historic railway to reconnect the Cowichan River to the southern side of the estuary. Studies were also completed to narrow down limiting factors to eelgrass growth in the estuary and to identify suitable areas to try replanting.

Replanting took place from June 24 to June 28.

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