Tofino Mudflants wildlife management area
by Lisa Fletcher, Tofino
There is a place right in our backyard that is way more special than it gets credit for, even though many of us use it for canoeing and kayaking, bird watching, or are lucky enough to enjoy the view during morning coffee. This place is called the Tofino Mudflats Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and it is a whopping 1770 hectares of tidal flats (close to 88.5 million bathtubs full of mud!), 338 hectares of forested land, and is considered one of the ten most critical wetland areas for migratory birds on Canada's west coast.
The Tofino Mudflats were officially designated a Wildlife Management Area in 1997 by the province of British Columbia. In 2000, the government worked with other agencies and local groups to develop a management plan that focused on the protection of wildlife and their habitats as well as provide compatible recreational, commercial, and cultural activities. As a protected area, the Tofino Mudflats wma are an integral part of the Clayoquot Sound unesco Biosphere Reserve.
The wma is comprised of three separate units, mostly tidal mudflats. Units one and two are on the southwest coast of Meares Island (Arukun and Ducking flats), and the third unit is a complex of mudflats alongside Browning Passage, on the east side of Esowista Peninsula. These three units cover a range of different environments such as tidal channels, mudflats, eelgrass meadows, marshes and streams, riparian areas, a variety of forest ecosystems, all unique habitats that support a huge diversity of wildlife.
Mudflats are supplied with rich nutrients and organic sediments brought in by the mixing of fresh and salt water. Where the water meets, nutrients fall from the currents and make a nutrient rich sludge (the mud in mudflats!) that fattens up the invertebrates such as worms, crabs, clams, and ghost shrimp, which in turn provide plenty of food for the big guys further up the food chain.
The Tofino Mudflats contain the largest eelgrass beds over any other place on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Eelgrass is a flowering plant that grows under water in shallow coastal areas, and looks very similar to grass growing in the ocean. Some great things about eelgrass are that it helps stabilize and prevent erosion of the mud floor, offers safe breeding grounds & nurseries for fish and acts as a haven for other marine creatures such as crabs and clams. The diversity of critters within the eelgrass beds provides a neighborhood of fantastic feasting for all sorts of waterbirds. The mudflats maintain year round habitat for the water birds. Nearly 33,000 ducks and geese depend on the mudflats over the winter (Nov.-May) and 100,000 Western Sandpipers as well as 44 other species of shorebirds use the mudflats over the summer (July-Sept.). Migrating shorebirds are especially dependent on the Tofino Mudflats as one of the few fuel and resting stations along their route from South America to arctic breeding grounds and back.
Small runs of salmon from creeks such as MacKenzie and Meares flow into the mudflats and can feed the entire forest ecosystems, beginning with bears and eagles. Sea lions, whales, porpoises, diving ducks, and cormorants can sometimes be found feeding on fish in the deep channels that border the Tofino Mudflats
Another reason why the Tofino Mudflats are a very valuable area is because they are home to a number of threatened or endangered plant and wildlife species. California wax-myrtle is an evergreen shrub that exists within the mudflats and is considered threatened. A few other species in trouble in our back yard include the Red-legged Frog, Great Blue Heron, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Goshawk, Western Screech Owl, Northern Pygmy Owl, Yellowtail Rockfish, and the Spiny Dogfish. Unfortunately, this isn't the full extent of the list, but just an example why this space is protected and deserves respect.
Due to the sensitivity of wildlife habitat the Tofino Mudflat area, the Raincoast Education Society has began implementing a series of educational activities (such as, the "More than Just Mud" photo contest) to promote awareness and help build stewardship skills for conserving the ecological integrity of the wma. As part of the Mudflats Stewardship Program, residents living along the mudflats will soon be contacted and presented with a welcome wagon information package on how they can help preserve the amazingly diverse Tofino Mudflats wma. With proper care and minimal impact, the Tofino Mudflats can continue to support all the wildlife species that depend on it and allow us to enjoy all the beauty it has to offer.
For more information visit our website www.tofinomudflats.com or call (250) 725-2560.
Tofino Mudflats Wildlife Management Area is a 1770 hectares of tidal flats, 338 hectares of forested land, and is a critical wetland area for migratory birds on Canada's west coast.