Port Hardy, British Columbia
The Duke of Edinburgh Ecological Reserve is located at the western end of Queen Charlotte Strait, midway between the coast of British Columbia and the northern tip of Vancouver Island. It is comprised of six islands grouped into three clusters: Storm Islands, Reid Islets, and Naid Islets are the most northerly and outermost islands; the Buckle Group lie farthest to the southeast; and Pine Island and Tree Islets are located in between.
The larger islands have a forest cover of Western Hemlock, Western Red-cedar and Sitka Spruce with an interior ground cover of salal, salmonberry, elderberry and in some areas, moss, grasses and forbs. The perimeter of some of the large islands and some of the smaller vegetated islets, are covered with dense growths of salmonberry and other shrubs. Other islets are mostly bare rock with small areas of lush grass and forbs.
The shorelines of most of the islands are comprised of steep rock dissected by gorges and crevices. Areas with shelving rock and boulders are used by Harbour seals as haul-out sites.
The Ecological Reserve supports over one million seabirds and is the second largest seabird nesting site on the west coast of Canada (the Scott Islands are the largest). It contains the largest colony of Rhinoceros Auklets in Canada and the largest colony of Leach's Storm-Petrels and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels in British Columbia.
Approximately 161,600 pairs of Rhinoceros Auklets have been estimated on Pine and Storm Islands. This represents approximately 26% of the global and as much as 45% of the national population. Large numbers of storm-petrels also nest on the Reserve, including 60,000 Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels (2.4% of the global, and 32% of the national population). An even larger population of Leach's Storm-Petrels (276,600 pairs - over 3% of the global, almost 10% of the eastern Pacific, and 50% of the western Canada population) nest on all the islands except Naiad Islets and Pine Island. Small colonies of Cassin's Auklets (6,710 pairs) also occur among the other burrow-nesting seabirds (mostly on the Buckle Group) but not in nationally significant numbers. In addition, all of the islands except Pine support nesting Black Oystercatchers, with 23 pairs being present. This represents over 2% of the Canadian Black Oystercatcher population. Pigeon Guillemots also occur around all of the islands, with nearly 3% of the national population being present.
Large numbers of Glaucous-winged Gulls are also present (275 pairs) and Bald Eagles nest on most of the islands. The surrounding marine waters are also important for migrating Red-necked Phalaropes. Flocks of thousands feed on tide lines during July and August.
Pine and Storm Islands, Tree, Naid, and Reid Islets, and the Buckle Group are all part of the Duke of Edinburgh Ecological Reserve. The reserve was designated by the province of British Columbia in 1988, and as such, most major disturbances and threats are managed. Potential oil spills, general environmental contamination, and disturbance from boaters, however, are still a concern.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status