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Walker Hook:
A Rare & Sensitive Ecosystem

Vancouver Islandís eastern coastal lowland and adjacent Gulf Islands comprise an ecological region that is unique in Canada. The warm climate, long growing season and complex geography create a variety of productive ecosystems that support many rare species of plants and animals. Increasing development and urbanization throughout this region, however, have hastened environmental degradation and resulted in the fragmentation and loss of most of these magnificent areas.

Located in the southern Gulf Islands Walker Hook is a rare ancient landform that geologists call a tombolo. A tombolo is a spit of land connecting a mainland or large Photograph by Bart Terwielisland (in this case Salt Spring Island) to a little islet (the "Hook") just off shore. Click on the icon to view an aerial photograph of Walker Hook. In the Sensitive Ecosystem Survey (SEI) conducted by the B.C. Conservation Data Centre and the Canadian Wildlife Service Walker Hook was designated a "sensitive ecosystem."

Sensitive ecosystems are rare and fragile terrestrial ecosystems that are critical to the survival and reproduction of many plant and animal species. In principle, the Sensitive Ecosystem Survey is a Click to view a larger imagemanagement tool. Local governments can use this tool to inform their community planning process in a way that minimizes or mitigates the irrevocable loss of rare and sensitive ecosystems. For example, the SEI information could be used to designate Environmentally Sensitive Areas and Development Permit Areas.

The events that have transpired at Walker Hook, however, show that not all local governments make use of important management tools such as the SEI. Development was allowed despite the fact that a SEI has never been completed, and despite the fact that three different classes of sensitive ecosystem exist here : 

Each of these habitats is rare - only 1.9% of the entire Gulf Islands contains either wetland, sparsely vegetated or coastal bluff/dune ecosystems - yet all are present at Walker Hook.1

Members of the Waterbird Watch Collective have documented the feeding habits of many bird species at Walker Hook. Their records indicate that many threatened species or species at risk use Walker Hook on a regular basis including:

  • Coastal Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias fannini) - a non-migratory subspecies of Great Blue Heron
  • Double-crested Cormorant (Phalocrocorax auritus)
  • Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)
  • Turkey Vulture (Cathartes Aura)

1. Ward, P. Letter to Canadian Wildlife Service Re: Walker Hook Sensitive Ecosystems. Submitted to Woodward & Company, June 11, 2003.
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