From rocky cliffs to sandy beaches and shallow lagoons to deep gorges, Cortes Island has a diverse array of marine habitats supporting an incredible amount of biodiversity. Our work seeks to track changes in the environment so that we can identify changes, address impacts and share what we learn.
Unfortunately, our marine environment is facing a number of extreme threats. Climate change is causing rising ocean levels, increased acidification, rising water temperatures, and increased frequency of extreme weather events. For example, in June 2021, a heat wave occurred across much of Western Canada and the Northwestern United States. The intense temperatures – reaching up to 40ºC in parts of the coast – were coupled with some of the lowest tides of the year, and experts fear that over one billion marine animals were killed as a result. Here on Cortes, we noticed an increased mortality in oysters, mussels, barnacles and sand dollars after the heat wave had passed.
Marine biodiversity is also threatened by other human impacts not directly related to changing climate. Wastewater discharge, near-shore development, microplastic pollution and vessel traffic all negatively affect our coastal environment by disrupting habitats, damaging the health of marine life and disrupting ocean water chemistry. Increased input of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus through pollution, runoff, or sewage discharge, combined with warming ocean temperatures, contributes to algae blooms that can create areas of oxygen-depleted water, making it difficult for other marine life to survive.
Our marine stewardship initiative aims to foster connections between the community and the marine environment. Through mapping, monitoring and educating each other, we can help protect it from the many threats it is currently facing and learn to live in harmony with the natural beauty and wonder around us.
Marine Stewardship Overview
Friends of Cortes Island Society’s Marine Stewardship Initiative has been researching the marine environment of Cortes Island and environs since 1995. Read more…
This long-term environmental monitoring program began with a pilot project in 1995 whixh identified sites in Cortes Island’s rocky foreshore. Read more…
During the winter of 2014/2015, twelve subtidal study sites were established by a team of two professional divers on/around Cortes Island. Read more…
Pacific sand lance (PSL) are small (6–8” long) schooling fish that represent a critical component of the marine ecosystem. Read more…
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