Ban hunting in the Cowichan Bay estuary
Cowichan Bay is a rich ecological treasure and Important Bird Area, where thousands of birds and species live, and thousands of people enjoy all year. Hunting there allows dangerous shooting and major noise pollution — near houses, high use trails, and tourist areas. Confusing regulations and boundaries, plus careless shooters, have led to frequent poaching, killing of protected species like swans, and cars and equipment being shot. This is dangerous and destructive — the CVRD land should now be closed, as is the North Cowichan portion. People are part of nature; especially with COVID, we want outdoor family hiking there to watch wildlife — alive.
The beautiful Cowichan Estuary, originally Tribes territory, is one of the richest habitat areas of the world — home and shelter to fish, shellfish, mammals, and large flocks of many waterfowl. According to Birds Canada surveys at least a quarter of these bird species are in significant decline due to food and habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Divided into North Cowichan, Tribes, and CVRD lands, plus farmland, the Estuary has differing regulations that make legal hunting complicated at best.
Regardless of one’s opinion of killing for sport, hunting is not a right, it is a privilege, with legal regulations enacted for real reasons. Personally, I think it may be justified if: one needs food, knows exactly what and where to hunt, and isn’t endangering other species or humans. None of these conditions are met in the recreational hunting at the Estuary. If hunters are concerned about poaching giving them a bad name, they can do something about it — educate, post signs, do patrols, talk tough to poachers. As it is, there are almost no consequences to wrongful killing and dangerous practices; legal enforcement is usually too little too late. Hunters can go elsewhere, hungry waterfowl can’t.
The Community Plan of both the Area D and the CVRD acknowledge the dollar value of “nature visitors” who come and spend here, from all over Canada. Birders regularly travel long distances to see and photograph the Estuary’s beautiful overwintering flocks. With a growing population and the Village upgrading, the Bay is no longer remote, even in winter. Many efforts to clean, enhance and restore these wild areas are underway, by the Cowichan Valley Naturalist Society, the CERCA enhancement group, the Tribes, and the Nature Trust.
There is even an education centre, the Nature House, to foster family appreciation of the Bay. We share the Valley and the Estuary with people and wildlife, and are blessed with a rare healthy Bay; let’s respect it as times change.
There is a citizens petition to the province and the CVRD, to stop hunting on their part of our naturally rich Estuary, with over 41,000 signatures. If anyone wants to sign it, hopefully in February before it is submitted, it is online at change.org as cowichan-valley-regional-district-ban-hunting-in-the-cowichan-bay-estuary. Concerned neighbours, ecological groups, and community leaders are behind this effort; it should be discussed widely.
We are keepers of our healthy public lands, forests, and waters for future generations, we must not take them for granted. The Cowichan Bay Estuary should be fully protected.