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The sea otters at Ivory Island need to know
August 26, 2012
VANCOUVER, BC, Aug 26, 2012/ Troy Media/ – As we circled about Back Eddy Bay for the second time, with both lines down 65 feet trailing cut-plug herring baits, we saw a Bald Eagle swoop down from a stunted Douglas fir with talons out- stretched. It splashed down and locked onto an unseen fish that was swimming just beneath the water’s surface. Slowly and with deliberation the eagle used its wings to breast-stroke to a seaweed-covered shoreline exposed by the low slack tide.
Once ashore, the great bird fumbled about on the slippery rocks and dragged a flapping Yellow Eye Rockfish up to a slanted granite surface. Here the parent was joined by an immature fledgling, and together they began to eat their meal. We kept watching the two birds as our boat swung back into the bay for a third circle on the same tack, and saw the fledgling fly up to a huge stick-built nest with the remains of the rockfish. The parent stayed quietly on the tide- line, occasionally extending its wings in the early morning sun. After about 15 minutes it flapped airborne, and flew out of the bay, west towards the mouth of Seaforth Channel on Milbanke Sound.
This coastal portal is the soul of the mid-North West coast of British Columbia, roughly halfway between the southern tip of Haida Gwaii and the northern tip of Vancouver Island. It extends east from Queen Charlotte Sound, with Price Island to the west, Swindle Island to the north, and the Goose Group of islands shimmering offshore to the south- west. Milbanke Sound has a broad open mouth to the Pacific, and the ragged ocean- facing shoreline has storm-tossed driftwood easily 50 feet above the high tide line. This is a part of the coast that knows something about the power of the southeast wind.
Ivory Island Lighthouse guards Milbanke Sounds’ entrance with its sparkling white and red keeper’s residence and light tower, and the Canadian Maple Leaf flies taughtly in the prevailing westerlies. In the bay just east of Ivory Light, a school of bright silver Northern Coho are jumping wildly, and they beckon us in with serial airborne jumps, three – four – five times before settling into the blue deeps.
Soon the boat’s radio crackles to life, and the fish guides down south report that a pod of transient orcas have gathered off Cape Mark, heading north. ‘The fishing is done here for awhile,’ and ‘Amen to that!’ comment two guides in well- outfitted Shearwater Lodge boats. We wonder if the frenetically jumping coho are already aware of the orcas, but then notice two California sea lions horsing along the kelp line just outside the bay. One of them has a coho in his mouth, which he flips harshly down into the surf to stun.
All about us, as far as the eye can see, are scores of islands, now tinged with blue Pacific haze as the sun rises in the forenoon sky. Suddenly a sea otter head pops up off our port beam. He lies on his back watching us carefully as we troll by, and then suddenly descends out of sight.
From the point of view of two Vancouverites exploring this area for the first time, our morning has been visually, olfactorally, and experientially overloading. We decide to spend our afternoon exploring the Heiltsuk First Nation’s village of Bella Bella, also known as Waglisla. We go ashore at the water taxi wharf and pass by two large canoes drawn up on the beach. There is lots of evidence of country food harvesting in the yards of the houses, and people smile and occasionally wave as we continue our walkabout. Many of the houses display ‘No to Enbridge’ posters in their windows, and one has a brightly painted poster proclaiming ‘ORCAS NOT OIL.’
As we wind back down the hill to the wharf, my memory dredges up images of the recent National Energy Board hearings here in Bella Bella, and the huge community crowd that gathered to ‘welcome’ the pipeline company to the meetings. There was absolutely no support for the project in Heiltsuk territory, and the industrial lure of construction and operations and maintenance jobs in pipelining fell on very deaf ears.
I wonder to myself if the corporate lawyers, engineers, environmental and socio-economic consultants and public relations folk had spent any time in Back Eddy Bay or off Cape Mark prior to attending the hearings? Had they squinted their eyes and tried to make out the elusive promise of the Goose Group for offshore kayak trips and soul mending?
When will we collectively realize that ‘enough is enough?’ Maybe more to the point, can the corporate mentality even comprehend the concept of ‘enough?’ The sea otters at Ivory Island need to know.
Troy Media syndicated columnist Mike Robinson has lived half of his life in Alberta and half in B.C. In Calgary he worked for eight years in the oil patch, 14 in academia, and eight years as a cultural CEO. Now back In Vancouver, he is still a cultural CEO, but also has business interests in a resource company and mutual funds.
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