Over the course of the Connected Estuary webinar series, we explored the connectivity and ecological importance of the Fraser River Estuary to a myriad of species, including Pacific salmon, Southern Resident killer whales and migratory birds.
As the host of this series, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the scientific research conducted by our guest speakers, which focuses on the connections between the habitat types of the Fraser Estuary and the species they support. I learned how access to salt marsh habitat is critical for juvenile salmon, how researchers in Washington have used Southern Resident killer whale poo to quantify the importance of Fraser Chinook salmon in their diets, and how a global community of bird researchers are using tiny GPS tracking ‘backpacks’ to better understand the migration patterns of shorebirds. As I mostly focus on salmon conservation in my role at Raincoast, learning how the Fraser Estuary is connected to other ecosystems across hemispheres through the Pacific Flyway was absolutely fascinating. Isn’t it amazing that the Western Sandpiper migrates 18,000 kilometers, twice a year?
Throughout the series we also learned of the cultural importance of the estuary to Indigenous Nations of the Lower Fraser and listened to stories that describe their inherent connection with the delta. Memories of foraging for crab in the intertidal, fishing in the estuary, and stewardship activities that connect people with place were generously shared with participants. Learning this rich cultural, social and ecological significance of the estuary was complemented by research led by Raincoast team members and colleagues, who have identified the vulnerabilities of the Fraser Estuary to continued loss of habitat, ongoing development, climate change and a growing human population.
I found that despite the increased threats facing the largest estuary on the West Coast of North America, our guests spoke of innovative and collaborative solutions to address these challenges. I was particularly interested in learning about creative nature-based solutions such as living dikes, youth education and stewardship activities, and the need to implement an overarching management plan. Hearing about the cross-sector collaboration occurring to implement these projects made me hopeful that we will move away from siloed decision-making and management, and move towards a future where scientific-research, Indigenous voices and community concerns are all integrated into the restoration and conservation of the Fraser Estuary.
Thank you for joining us in this dialogue on scientific research and lived experiences based in the Fraser River Estuary. I know I took away important teachings from our guests and am inspired to continue acting on behalf of the ecological resilience of the estuary, and the species and people that rely on it. We hope you did too.