Art for Sea to Sky: Estuary
Estuary – 36”x48” – 2021 – acrylic on canvas
Sanctuary. Refuge. Nursery. Protected from the strong currents of Atl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound and fed by the nutrient rich waters of Terminal Creek, Mannion Bay/Kwil’akm is the region’s southernmost estuary. Located on the east side of Bowen Island it welcomes visitors as they make their way into Snug Cove via ferry from Horseshoe Bay/Ch’ax̱ay. Due to it’s prominent yet sheltered location the bay (S7atsnach) has seen a myriad of human activity over the years.
Sḵwx̱wú7mesh peoples used the bay for shellfish harvesting of native clams, mussels and oysters (“Kwil’akm” in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim (language) means “Clam Bay”). After settlers arrived to the island in the 1800’s creation of the causeway transformed what was once a typical estuary environment into separate lagoon and tidal sandflats/Ayelhḵw divided by a spillway. Despite this drastic alteration, and the continuing impact from human recreation and industry, ecology of the bay perseveres.
Kwil’akm supports a huge array of Atl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound’s shoreline/Askwukwem, intertidal and subtidal life. One of the most important species in the bay is eelgrass. Eelgrass is a remarkable marine plant; it provides food and shelter for a myriad of aquatic organisms, absorbs atmospheric carbon, releases oxygen, and the deep roots act as an anchor to stabilize shoreline sediments. Eelgrass beds nurseries for juvenile fishes such herring (Slhawt’) and are an important substrate for herring spawn. Often overlooked, estuaries are in fact one of the most valuable ecosystems to the life and health of Atl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound.
Special thank you to Bob Turner of the Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative for providing reference photos and information for this painting