Gone crabbin’

Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors summer adventure part 8:

Gone crabbin’

By Clara Vuillier-Devillers

2022-2023 Parks Canada Youth Ambassador

Our first day visiting Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was absolutely incredible! The landscape was like nothing the three of us had ever seen before (the Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors). As Patricia put it, “It’s like Georgian Bay on steroids”. Island after island with the striking Mount Baker in the background, we admired the views on the hour long boat ride towards Cabbage Island. Knowing that it was going to be a very hot and long day out on the water, we made sure to pack enough food, water and sunscreen.

At Cabbage Island, we got to team up with our colleagues from Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, as well as two youth volunteers from the Canadian Conservation Corps. It was awesome to talk to the volunteers, Calen and Shaylynn, about their volunteer placement working alongside the Parks Canada Resource Conservation team. They told us how everyday was a new adventure, getting to help out with a variety of conservation projects like invasive plant removal, southern resident killer whale surveying, and more! Patricia, Karam and I were all very interested in the program and saw a lot of parallels with the work we’ve been doing as Youth Ambassadors.

After introductions, we all pitched in to the work at hand setting up European green crab traps in the shallow waters around the island. The European green crab is an invasive species that harms the marine ecosystem in the park. When these crabs hunt their prey and burrow in the sand, they uproot and cut the eelgrass meadows which are a crucial habitat for many native marine species. Eelgrass meadows are vital to sediment deposition, as well as providing important nursery habitat for fish and shellfish. They provide food, shelter and protection from predators for many juvenile species of great importance to the West Coast, like the iconic Pacific salmon. 

After weaving the crab baskets shut with pieces of herring inside as bait, it was time to place them in the water. In total, we placed 10 crab traps that would be left there for 24 hours until collected for analysis the next day. The contents of the traps are meant to give a representation of species abundance and distribution around Cabbage Island. The goal is to find no European green crabs inside the baskets upon retrieval, and instead only native species like Red rock crab or Dungeness crab. The Parks Canada team will continue to monitor this area to ensure that the invasive crab species does not establish itself in the park waters.

Once all the traps were set, we wandered off to a shaded corner of the island for a well-deserved lunch on the beach while admiring the landscape. Before heading back to the marina, we walked around the perimeter of the island and met lots of people who were camping overnight on Cabbage Island.

After a windy ride back on the boat, we finally arrived back at the Sidney marina, where we unloaded all of our gear. Although our work day was over, it did not mean that the fun ended there! After work, we headed into Victoria and met up with Calen and Shaylynn for a refreshing dip in the estuary followed by dinner at a local restaurant. Overall, we had an incredible time in the Gulf Islands. We met some wonderful people who are doing important conservation work, and having fun along the way. 

– Clara

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