In order for an area to be designated by DFO as an Ecologically and Biologically significant area (EBSA), it must meet one or more of these three core criteria. Baynes Sound meets all of these criteria.
Core criteria for an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area (EBSA) include: • uniqueness: unique, rare, distinct features • aggregation, including areas where most individuals of a species are aggregated for some part the year • fitness consequences: defined as areas that are used by species for life history activity(ies) and that make a significant contribution to the fitness of individuals of those species.
Baynes Sound, located within the biologically significant region of the Strait of Georgia, is a thermally stratified inland sea (Figure 1). Features that make this region unique include: • soft bottom habitat • key herring spawning & nursery region • seal lion haul out • Important Bird Area (IBA) • key forage fish habitat • 15 salmonid bearing streams • key juvenile salmonid habitat/nursery • high bivalve density. These combined features make Baynes Sound one of the most unique and biologically sensitive regions along coastal BC.
Critical Spawning and Nursery Habitat:
- Lambert Channel and, especially, Baynes Sound act as a nursery for the Strait of Georgia. The main point is that many fish species (nearly all forage species and juvenile salmonids) spend much of the first year of life in relatively shallow, productive, nearshore habitats like Baynes Sound.
- The combined areas of Baynes Sound and Lambert Channel are the single most important herring spawning area on the BC coast and possibly the entire Pacific Coast. Baynes Sound acts as a nursery for herring larvae that spawn there, as well as, the herring larvae from Lambert Channel that migrate into the relatively shallow and protected waters of Baynes Sound where they remain for several months until they are mature enough to move into more open waters.
“There is a risk that any major disruption to herring spawning could lead to either a change of herring spawning areas or a decline in overall abundance of herring in the Strait of Georgia. In both cases there could be cascading and increasing adverse impacts on other valued ecosystem components, such as marine birds and salmon.” Dr. Doug Hay
- There are 15 salmon bearing streams (14 on Vancouver Island, one on Denman Island) draining into Baynes Sound which is home to six salmonid species.Coho, chum and cutthroat trout are the most widely distributed species. The estuaries of Baynes Sound are considered significant rearing habitats for juvenile salmon, in particular chinook and chum salmon. (Emmet, B. 2002, Activities and Potential Environmental Effects Associated With Shellfish Aquaculture in Baynes Sound: A Discussion Document)
- Baynes Sound and Lambert Channel provide important habitat for spawning forage fish, other than herring, such as the Pacific Sand Lance and Surf Smelt. Forage fish are key food in the diet of BC salmon and comprise over 70% and 50% of the prey captured by Chinook and Coho salmon respectively. Forage fish are also a major fishery playing a significant economic role in coastal communities.
Critical Bird Habitat:
- Baynes Sound is a critical feeding and overwintering area for migratory birds, as well as, resident birds and is internationally recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA). (Axys et al. 2000). It ranks second only to the Fraser River Delta as a region that supports globally significant species and numbers of migratory birds: Pacific Loon, Brant, Black Turnstone, Scoter (Surf and White-winged), Harlequin Duck, Mew Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Thayer’s Gull and the Western Grebe, a species that is designated of ‘Special Concern’.