Coastwatch is a Heiltsuk-driven scientific research initiative that provides Heiltsuk people with the skills and knowledge to be proactive in resource management and conservation planning in our traditional territory.
We are guided by our gvi’ilas and lhaxvai, the traditional body of laws and values that shape Heiltsuk governance and resource management practices. They are the source of our nation's authority as stewards of our land. With the understanding that the health of our environment is essential for the health of our nation, conservation is a high priority.
Monitoring: The foundation for successful conservation management lies in improving our understanding and knowledge of our environment. We employ a team of Heiltsuk technicians to record baseline data on key species and systems in order to establish bionomic benchmarks that can be used to guide Heiltsuk stewardship of our terrestrial and marine environments. The data we collect in our monitoring informs planning processes and supports a broader vision of Heiltsuk conservation.
Management Planning: We provide practical and usable information to existing governmental planning and management processes. We have also developed a Heiltsuk conservation management planning model to frame our participation and to ensure a strong Heiltsuk voice in those processes, including conservancy planning. Our work on Goose Island and the outer coast is an example of our commitment to providing relevant information for the development and implementation of Heiltsuk land and marine management plans.
Conservation: We assist the Heiltsuk in building robust and enduring frameworks and capacity for conservation management. Coastwatch monitoring provides ecological information to inform conservation planning and sustainable resource management strategies across both Heiltsuk and non-Heiltsuk territory.
Perhaps most importantly, Coastwatch is also a platform for youth to engage with the stewardship of their environment.
In 2007 we started a grizzly bear monitoring project. We identify individual grizzlies using DNA analysis of hair samples caught by barb wire snares that we put along rivers. In the fall of 2007 34 bears were ascertained to be using the Koeye River—18 males and 16 females. More bears were in the area as the number of returning salmon increased, and they were mostly in spawning areas. We did this work again in 2008, during the fall. In 2009 we started to also sample in the spring and summer. Our goal is to understand how many grizzly bears are in this area and how bear number change over time and in response to salmon run size, human activities, and forest management.
To date, Coastwatch has completed a successful grizzly bear monitoring program with its grizzly bear DNA sampling in the Koeye system. This season will give us critical third year data leading to a science paper to be published on the project this coming year, as soon as all the DNA results are available. This research is supported by a spring initiative with test sites in neighbouring watersheds to determine the home sites for some of the fall bears documented at Koeye. This continues to be an important project to determine the impact of salmon availability on bear range, but also the implications of that relationship for managing conservancy size and avoiding human/bear conflict.
Coastwatch is directed by William Housty. For more information please contact him at email@example.com.