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Tofino Mudflats (BC002)

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Tofino Mudflats (BC002)

Tofino, British Columbia

Latitude 49.129°N
Longitude 125.833°W
Altitude 0 - 5m
Area 99.76km²

Site Description

The Tofino Mudflats IBA is situated on the west coast of Vancouver Island near the town of Tofino, and encompasses the shorelines and mudflats of the Browning Passage as well as adjacent Chesterman Beach. Approximately half of the IBA is made up of six distinct mudflats known locally as Arakun Flats, Ducking Flats, Doug Bank's Flats, Maltby Slough, South Bay, and Grice Bay. The mudflats, exposed daily by the tide, support a rich invertebrate community as well as plant life in the form of eel grass beds and algae, giving way to saltmarsh and then forest at the high water mark.

Birds

Significant Species: The Tofino Mudflats IBA was designated in recognition of the globally important numbers of migrating Western Sandpipers that rely on the mudflat habitats there. Each spring and fall, 35,000 or more Western Sandpipers stop at the IBA from mid-April to mid-May, with individuals staying 2-5 days to replenish the critical fat reserves needed for their remaining migration. Within British Columbia the number of Western Sandpipers using this site annually is second only to that of the Fraser Delta.

Other species of Conservation Interest: The site is also important as a late summer feeding area for the fannini subspecies of the Great Blue Heron, considered to be of Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC; wildlife species that have been assessed as at risk by COSEWIC may qualify for legal protection and recovery under Canada's Species at Risk Act). During targeted searches in the fall of 2011, 48 individuals were counted on a survey of South Bay and Maltby Slough. The Cackling Goose has also been found to occur in the IBA in globally significant numbers; recent counts during spring migration tallied 5900 individuals in 2011 and 7000 in 2012. Small numbers of Marbled Murrelets, considered Endangered by COSEWIC, are known be present in the IBA during the summer months. In addition, a rich array of other shorebird and waterfowl species, including large numbers of Dunlin, also use the habitats here during migration.

Conservation Issues

A potential concern for migrant Western Sandpipers, as well as other shorebirds and waterfowl, is the disturbance caused by recreational use of Chesterman and Long Beaches. In recent years, Caretakers have noted increasingly high levels of disturbance to resting and foraging Western Sandpipers by unleashed dogs and people running and walking on the beach. Residential development along mudflat shorelines of the IBA also represent a possible threat to shorebird habitat although the District of Tofino has now established a development permit area along the shoreline of the mudflats that hopefully will minimize the impact of new developments.

In recognition of the importance of this wetland complex for waterfowl and shorebirds, the BC Government designated the Tofino Mudflats Wildlife Management Area in 1997, facilitating regulation and management for wildlife conservation. A portion of the IBA also overlaps the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada. The Tofino Mudflats was also designated a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) site of regional importance in March 2013, with the official name of Tofino Wah-nah-jus Hilth-hoo-is Mudflats. The District of Tofino has been active in promoting the site for WHSRN status by producing a short film on the importance of the mudflats for migrating shorebirds.

Shorebird research includes a collaborative project in initiated 2013 by Bird Studies Canada and Simon Fraser University studying Western Sandpiper behaviour and abundance during their southward migration. The Tofino Mudflats is one of the sites in this study, as well as in another study by Parks Canada which investigated the effect of unleashed dogs on the behaviour and distribution of shorebirds within the Long Beach Unit of the national park. Surveys investigating use of the IBA by migrating birds have also been conducted by Environment Canada and monitoring of bird numbers in near-shore areas is a focus of the Coastal Waterbird Survey program coordinated by Bird Studies Canada. Mapping and monitoring programs focused on studying the eelgrass beds within the IBA have been implemented by the Raincoast Education Society and include a strong education component. The society is also active in promoting conservation through their better birding program and regularly conducts habitat management in the IBA through removal of noxious weeds and other invasive plants.

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Short-billed Dowitcher
Number Year Season
2,000 - 8,0002004Spring
1,2002003Spring
1,600 - 4,0002002Spring
1,7002001Spring
1,500 - 4,0001999Spring
1,4001997Spring
1,300 - 4,5001996Spring
1,700 - 2,1001993Spring
1,400 - 5,0001992Spring
Western Sandpiper
Number Year Season
17,000 - 35,6542013Spring
25,000 - 38,8802012Spring
25,000 - 68,4202011Spring
20,000 - 40,4412010Spring
25,000 - 50,0002002Spring
20,0001999Spring
35,000 - 164,0001995Fall
45,0001995Spring
20,0001994Spring
23,0001989Fall
16,0001988Spring
Greater White-fronted Goose
Number Year Season
35,0002012Spring
26,8502011Spring
Iceland Gull (Thayer's)
Number Year Season
3002008Spring
Marbled Murrelet
Number Year Season
4582017Summer
Black-footed Albatross
Number Year Season
302017Fall
Buller's Shearwater
Number Year Season
502017Fall
Pink-footed Shearwater
Number Year Season
502017Fall
Cackling Goose
Number Year Season
7,0002012Spring
2,100 - 5,9002011Spring
Heermann's Gull
Number Year Season
302015Fall
1002002Fall
Great Blue Heron
Number Year Season
402017Fall
342015Fall
372012Summer
482011Fall
34 - 512004Summer
44 - 752003Summer
562002Winter
812002Fall
45 - 532002Summer
39 - 732001Fall
50 - 562001Summer
39 - 532000Fall
372000Summer
47 - 561999Fall
1001995Fall
391992Summer
Brant
Number Year Season
3,0002010Spring
Black Oystercatcher
Number Year Season
812009Fall