Guardians Building Resiliency in the K’ómoks Estuary

Aug 8, 2018 | Environment | 1 comment

K’ómoks First Nation’s (KFN) Guardian Watchmen have teamed up with Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society to help deal with an emerging threat to the K’ómoks Estuary. The Guardians society has been successfully rehabilitating Vancouver Island estuaries since 2010, and has been studying resident Canada Geese – one of the main sources of estuary damage, since 2008. Introduced to the island in the 1970s for hunting and wildlife viewing, Canada Geese have flourished here, to an extent where they are now overwhelming ecosystems vital to other species, such as salmon. These resident geese overgraze the vegetation and grub the roots of the ‘marsh platform’ – a thick accumulation of nutrient-dense soils from land, freshwater aquatic and marine sources bound together by vegetation. One plant, Carex lyngbyei or Lyngbye’s Sedge, has taken the biggest hit. This sedge can grow to 1.5 metres tall and overhangs the channels. It provides critical shelter and shade, and hosts invertebrate food sources that young salmon need before they head off to sea.

The partnering Guardians, with support from the Pacific Salmon Foundation and BC Hydro Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, are fencing off parts of Hollyhock Flats on the K’ómoks Estuary to protect remaining sedges and eroding marsh platform from further damage by geese. By reviving cultural practices and innovating restoration techniques, the Guardians are preventing rich soils from being eroded and washed away with the tides. The KFN Guardians led by Cory Frank have developed an eco-cultural restoration solution to utilize young alder, providing the needed strength and structure to hold the fencing in place while allowing salmon fry to move in and out of the area. Other goose-preferred plants such as arrowgrass will thrive in the absence of geese and smaller birds such as Red-Winged black birds and Kingfishers use the alder poles as perches.

Next year, the Guardians will begin the process of re-vegetating areas devoid of vegetation with sedges from nearby donor sites. Ongoing monitoring will measure re-growth and use of the estuary by salmon and other species. Tim Clermont, Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society’s Executive Director explained the project will build resiliency in the estuary. “With habitat loss, warming seas, ocean acidification, overfishing – the salmon and future generations, need this healthy viable habitat to ensure resiliency within the estuary. We are fortunate that KFN and others are so committed to the health of natural habitats.”

Quote from Cory Frank, Guardian Watchmen Manager, Kómok’s First Nation:

The K’ómoks First Nation (Guardian Department) is very pleased to be partnered with the Guardians of Mid Island Estuaries and the Pacific Salmon Foundation in estuary restoration. Salmon are the lifeblood of many Aboriginal Communities and without the habitat to help sustain salmon stocks as they migrate to the estuary we will all suffer in the decline of these stocks. The K’ómoks Estuary has fed our people for thousands of years and with the restoration work we are embarking on and the work of many other community and volunteer groups we can all benefit from this habitat restoration in the future”.

Quote from Dr. Brain Riddell, CEO/President, Pacific Salmon Foundation, Vancouver, BC:

Estuaries and intertidal habitat are critical habitat for migrating Pacific salmon and in particular juvenile salmon. The Pacific Salmon Foundation fully supports the work of the Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society and the K’ómoks First Nation’s Guardian Watchmen who are working together to restore this vital habitat on the Hollyhock Flats in the K’ómoks Estuary”.

Quote from Jennifer Sutherst, Comox Valley Project Watershed Society, Estuary Coordinator and Staff Biologist:

For the past five years Project Watershed has been working hard to restore saltmarsh and eelgrass habitats in the K’ómoks Estuary to historical abundance. The rising population of resident Canada geese can potentially jeopardize this restoration investment and the recovery of these habitats. Therefore, we are happy to see that a management strategy to deal with the overgrazing by geese is being pursued by the Guardians of the Mid-Island Estuaries society in our local estuary”.

Tim Clermont

Guardians of the Mid-Island Estuaries Society



At issue is the forecasted hot and dry weather conditions over the August long weekend and beyond, with no significant precipitation in the forecast. With wildfire danger ratings at local stations already at Extreme, all users of the Cumberland trails are asked to be extra cautious and vigilant while recreating in the trail system.

Metal Recycling at Kus-kus-sum

Metal Recycling at Kus-kus-sum

In the spirit of summer fun, Project Watershed is holding a contest to see who can guess the number of full bins of metal that will come of the site. If you want to take a stab at estimating, email, or post your guess to Instagram or Facebook with #metalrecycling and #kuskussum, by Friday June 23rd. The closest three guesses will win a $25 gift certificate from the Peninsula Co-op. If there are more than three correct guesses we will draw three names from those who have guessed correctly.

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1 Comment

  1. Janet Fairbanks

    Thanks for this article honouring the great work being done to restore the estuary!


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