SATURNA ISLAND

Almost 50% of Saturna Island is within the Gulf Islands National Park. Most of the waters surrounding the island are within the proposed National Marine Conservation Area. This unique garry oak ecosystem in the Georgia Strait lowlands is one of the most ecologically at risk natural regions in southern Canada. It supports a rich and diverse group of species and habitats. Each park within the GINPR on Saturna Island, has a very different local ecosystem. From rocky shores to pebbled ones, high ridges to lowland marshes, there is a diverse habitat for thousands of species of flora and fauna.

Some of the sandstone beaches around Saturna Island are the birthing beaches for Harbour Seals. Peak birthing time is in July, and it’s common to see pups and their mothers hauled out on the rocks through the summer months.  

 

It appears that Harbour Seals return to the same place each year to birth their pups. Since the 1970’s, the Harbour Seal population in the Salish Sea has rebounded dramatically from less that 5000 animals to about 40,000, and they seem to have stabilized at this level. They are a favourite food of Biggs/Transient orcas and this may be contributing factor to the recent increase in Biggs sighting around Saturna and throughout the Salish Sea.

A group of Saturna Island volunteers rescued the Fog Alarm Building (FAB) from demolition, rehabilitated and turned it into an interpretive centre focused on historical stories of the island. Located at East Point in the Gulf Islands National Park, many stories are displayed inside on graphic panels and in video format. It has an undisturbed view of Boiling Reef, where lots of marine life can be observed and serves as an office and meeting place for SIMRES.

The lighthouse and Fog Alarm Building are designated as one of BC’s first historic light stations to receive heritage protection under the federal government’s Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. It is one of only 6 lighthouses in Canada to have this designation.

East Point, on Saturna Island, is one of the very best locations in the Southern Gulf Islands of Canada to see orcas from land. The Southern Resident Pods swim past East Point from May to November as they travel from the Pacific Ocean to the Fraser River Delta, which is one of their favorite feeding grounds. The orcas often swim very close to the sandstone cliffs, along the kelp beds on the south side of East Point and through Boiling Reef on the east side. Transient orca groups and occasional humpbacks and greys are seen throughout the year. This is a place where sea lions haul-out from October to May. Harbour seals birth on the sandstone beaches and porpoise can be seen in July and August.

The shoreline of Saturna Island is affected by big storms, surf and strong ocean currents. These conditions erode the sandstone, creating beautiful sculptural pools and crevasses in the intertidal zone. It’s here where the most unique species of plants and animals can be found and where oceanic plankton originates.

 

Look closely into the tide pools and a beautiful, busy world will come into view. You’ll be mesmerized by the many varieties of anemones, sea cucumbers, molluscs, chitons, sea stars, limpets, tube worms, coralline algae, crustaceans, urchins and so much more. Sit quietly, watch closely and you'll never step on a beach in the same way again.

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