Towards bountiful life in Boundary Bay

Meandering through A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale Environmental Center is the Little Campbell River / Tatalu. Walking around the watershed, you might spot a flowering Vancouver Island Beggarticks, a nesting Barn Swallow or even an elusive Salish Sucker, thought for a time to be locally extinct. This little river, once a place of bounty, is now the greatest source of faecal contamination into Boundary Bay (Pacific Ocean). Harvesting shellfish in the Bay was an integral part of Semiahmoo First Nation nutrition and culture, but due to contamination, the Bay has been closed to harvest since the 1970s.  

To address this issue, A Rocha Canada works in partnership with the Semiahmoo First Nation and other members of the Shared Waters Alliance to monitor water quality in 19 locations: 17 freshwater sites along the Tatalu and its tributaries and two marine sites in Semiahmoo Bay. Water quality is an excellent indicator of overall watershed health, and this data addresses a knowledge gap about the current state of faecal contamination and how and where conditions have changed since the 1970s.  

A Rocha Canada is also undertaking microbial source-tracking to determine the causes of this contamination. These can include septic system discharges, runoff from agricultural land containing livestock waste, pet waste and cross-connections between storm and sewage pipes. A Rocha also partners with landowners and local municipalities to discuss the extent of the issue and how to combat it. One solution is to restore habitat along the river – putting up fences to keep out cattle and horses, replacing invasive plants with native species, for example – to increase the forest buffer, which helps filter contaminants and supports biodiversity.  

Ultimately, improving the ecological health of the water is important for everyone: from plants, to fish, from birds to people. A Rocha hopes that together, our efforts will enable everyone to enjoy the bounty and biodiversity that this watershed has to offer.  

You can hear more from A Rocha Canada and Semiahmoo Chief Harley Chappell in this video.