The first marine National Wildlife Area

Canadian Wildlife Service and Science and Technology Branch

Established in 2018, the Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area (NWA) is the first protected marine area established under the Canada Wildlife Act. Located off the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island, the islands and the surrounding marine waters support millions of seabirds as part of one of the most diverse marine ecosystems on Canada’s Pacific coast. The Province of British Columbia has protected the terrestrial parts of the Scott Islands since the 1970s, while the Scott Islands marine NWA conserves the surrounding 11,546 square kilometres of marine environment.

Work by biologists and researchers from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service and Wildlife Research Division spans 6 decades and provides a valuable long-term dataset to inform conservation. Most research in the Scott Islands NWA occurs on Triangle Island: a treeless, steep, and windswept island that forms the furthest reaches of the Scott Islands archipelago. This remote and rugged rock hosts large colonies of Cassin’s auklets, tufted puffins, rhinoceros auklets, and common murres. The research on Triangle Island has evolved over the decades. There were a few research projects in the 1970s, a comprehensive seabird monitoring program in the 1980s, and collaborations with the Centre for Wildlife Ecology at Simon Fraser University in the 1990s. All of these efforts resulted in efforts to designate the marine NWA in the 2010s. Collectively, the work in this area represents the most comprehensive seabird research and monitoring program in Pacific Canada. In fact, a surprising number of our seabird biologists and research scientists successfully fledged from programs on Triangle Island.

The research and monitoring conducted by ECCC scientists in the Scott Islands provides key long-term information about seabird ecology on the Pacific Coast and addresses information gaps in how and why seabird populations change in response to their environment.

Ongoing studies include:

  • assessing seabird diets and demography
  • tracking studies to identify key seabird foraging areas
  • population monitoring
  • studies of contaminants

This research and monitoring allows us to assess the impact of human activities such as pollution and ecosystem impacts from climate change. It also supports the ongoing conservation and management of marine protected areas.

To find out more visit the Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area and Wildlife research and landscape science Web pages.

A man kneels to install radar equipment on a rocky shoreline littered with wood debris.

Figure 1: Dr. Doug Bertram conducting marine radar surveys for counting Cassin's auklets on Triangle Island in 1996. Photograph courtesy of Doug Bertram, Environment and Climate change Canada

A man wearing a hard hat is examining an egg in one hand and looking at another egg sitting on the rocky ground.
Figure 2: Dr. Mark Hipfner measures eggs from a very well hidden black oystercatcher nest on Triangle Island. Photograph courtesy of Mark Hipfner, Environment and Climate change Canada
A person’s hands are shown holding a small black bird with bright blue eyes. The bird has an electronic tag attached above its wing.
Figure 3: Cassin's auklet fitted with a GPS (global positioning system) tag for tracking at-sea movements and foraging behaviour. Photograph courtesy of Alice Domalik, Environment and Climate change Canada
3 people in hard hats sit along a steep slope overlooking a rocky ocean shoreline.
Figure 4: In 2019, seabird monitoring biologist Laurie Wilson and colleagues resurvey the same monitoring plots established in the 1980s to document long-term seabird population changes on Triangle Island. Photograph courtesy of Erika Lok, Environment and Climate change Canada
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