Rising 200 meters above the Pacific, the cliffs of the Scott Islands are a magnificent site to behold. Even more spectacular are the Cassin’s auklets and tufted puffins that arrive here every spring — in the millions — to nest and breed in the cliffs. Cassin’s auklets are small, fairly plump, darkly-coloured birds with bluish-coloured feet that nest in the natural cracks and crevices of the Scott Islands. By comparison, the tufted puffin is mostly black with a white facial covering but has a signature bill that is a brightly-coloured orange-red with yellow and sometimes green markings.
In total, some 1.4 million birds travel to the Scott Islands in the spring, making these islands the largest seabird colony in British Columbia and the biggest one for Cassin’s auklets in the world. While the Scott Islands have a protected designation, the surrounding waters do not. Yet it’s in these waters that seabirds spend a great deal of their time searching for food. The birds travel thousands of kilometers from as far away as Japan, Australia and Chile to reach the Scott Islands. At-risk seabirds like blackfooted albatrosses and marbled murrelets are found in the region. And the Scott Islands provide the only breeding ground for thick-billed murres in BC.
To protect this important region from the threats of commercial and industrial activity, Earth Rangers is working with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) on a campaign raising Canadians’ awareness of this vital bird habitat. A protected designation by governments for these waters would help seabirds avoid a range of threats like becoming accidentally caught in long-line fishery nets or being subject to oil pollution from the incidental discharges of passing ships.
Already, the population of Cassin’s auklets is down 40 percent over the past decade, primarily because of warming waters in the Pacific that have reduced the amount of zooplankton on which the birds feed. While a protected designation can’t impact water temperatures, by reducing commercial and industrial activity in the region, it may at least help reduce the number of stressors faced by these birds.
The isolated Scott Islands are not well-known to most Canadians and yet this region is an important sanctuary for millions of seabirds, some of which are at-risk. That’s why we’ll keep raising awareness of these islands as we work to protect the surrounding waters. You can help by spreading the word about the Scott Islands and the many bird species that inhabit the area. Talk about this region with your family and friends. Point them to our blog and join us on Twitter and on Facebook.
If you would like to make a donation in support of our important work, we’d greatly appreciate it.
With the support of our members and Canadians from coast to coast, we can ensure the critical habitat of the Scott Islands is protected for the little Cassin’s auklet, the colorful tufted puffin and the millions of other seabirds that call this region home.
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