Sex on the beach: is there a better way to spend a beautiful August afternoon?

First Published on July 20, 2016 Written by The Bowen Island Conservancy

The Bowen Island Conservancy is looking for some volunteers to help us with a Forage Fish Sampling Blitz, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, on the afternoon of Saturday, August 6th.

What are Forage Fish? They are the cornerstone of marine food webs and are essential food for seabirds, marine mammals, and fish. Multiple species spawn on sandy and pebble beaches around Howe Sound and elsewhere in the Salish Sea. We are mostly aware of herring, which have been seen in increasing numbers in Howe Sound in the last few years. As well, juvenile salmon forage along the high tide line, feeding on land-based insects swept to the ocean’s surface by winds, and on tiny invertebrates living within the beach seaweed wrack line.

What species are we looking for here? We are interested in Pacific Sand Lance, Capelin, and Surf Smelt. These fish form massive schools which are often measured in metric tons, since they are so large. You can learn more about these fish with a quick Internet search, but to give you some high-level information about just one species, let’s look at the Surf Smelt. At maturity these fish will be about 20 cm long, and a typical fish shape with olive green backs and silvery bellies. They have relatively short lives of up to about 5 years, and spawn on beaches in summer and winter. The embryos are usually found buried just below the surface of beaches, between 2 and 4 metres below the high tide line. Watch where you tread next time you’re on a beach!

In 1904, at the peak of commercial harvest, 230 metric tons of Surf Smelt were caught in BC. In 2002 the catch was just 710 kg. As we all know, a number of fish, seabird, and marine mammal populations are in steep decline in BC, and scientists have now started to look at the link between forage fish biomass reduction and these declining populations. For example, 35% of juvenile salmon diet is made up of Pacific Sand Lance, so these fish are critical elements of the food chain that leads to our tables.

Why is there a “Sampling Blitz” taking place? In 2014, Conservancy members formed an Island team that conducts periodic surveys of certain Bowen Island beaches to test for the presence of forage fish eggs This is part of a much larger effort, coordinated by the Sea Watch Society and involving many other communities, to determine the locations of spawning beaches, and estimate the growth in population of these important species.

To date we have not found any evidence of forage fish eggs on Bowen Island. We know that other Howe Sound communities have found eggs, and that they are also present on Sunshine Coast and West Vancouver beaches, but nothing has shown up here. And we don’t know why. Possibly there’s something about our beaches that makes them unsuitable for spawning (could be the length of the beach, or the mix of sand and pebbles, or something else). But we want to sample as many beaches as possible in one day in August, which is peak Surf Smelt spawning season, to see whether we are able to obtain a positive result.

How will the blitz work? We are going to work from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm on August 6th. We’ll divide into two teams, and sample as many beaches as we can. We’ll try to include Pebbly (Cape Roger Curtis), Tunstall South, Tunstall North, Sealeigh Park, Bowen Bay, Bluewater, Galbraith Bay, Smuggler, Cates Bay, Eaglecliff, Pebbly (Deep Bay), Sandy, Snug Cove, Seymour Landing, September Morn, and Alder Cove beaches.

Do I need any qualifications to participate? No, we welcome everybody’s help. We are particularly interested in having children participate: they always enjoy themselves and make the sampling event special.

Do I need to bring anything to sample? All you need to do is dress to match the weather. A hat and sunscreen is probably all you’ll need (we hope that nobody needs rain gear!). And we’ll supply everything else that’s needed for sampling, so you just need to show up.

How do I learn more? Send us a quick email message at “info@bowenislandconservancy.org”, or call 604.612.6572, and we’ll get back to you with more details.

What happens afterwards? After sampling we will meet from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, with refreshments and snacks, to celebrate a job well done. We’ll process the afternoon’s samples by sieving to concentrate the fine material, and hope we find some fish eggs! And later we’ll be sending our samples to Vancouver Island to be analyzed. We’ll be sure to let everybody know the results once we have them.

We hope that you will be able to join us as we search for evidence of Sex on the Beach on Saturday, August 6th.


West Coast Symphony Concerts for the Community


First published May 26, 2016 Written by Sarah Haxby

How do all those musicians end up in the gym?

The West Coast Symphony is an extraordinarily generous group of people: did you know that all sixty-five plus musicians and their helpers all donate their time? For over a decade they have  travelled to Bowen Island twice per year at their own expense with their formal attire and valuable instruments and volunteer for what amounts to an entire day’s worth of their time, plus all their time practicing! They do it just to share their love of music with our community in a unique format that is by donation and therefore is accessible for all ages. It’s wonderful to see grandparents, parents and children of all ages enjoying the experience of live music. There’s nothing quite like live music: watching the musicians play and work together to create incredibly moving soundscapes.

The West Coast symphony exemplifies the virtues of cooperation, teamwork, respect and discipline as they all work together under the direction of various conductors that have included guest children from the audience! The upcoming summer concert for the community is 2pm, Sunday June 12th at BICS and  features: Malcolm Forsyth: Jubilee Overture; Elizabeth Knudson: Blueprint: Concerto for Jazz Trio (World Premiere); Aaron Copland: Rodeo Suite (Four Dance Episodes); Georges Gershwin: American in Paris and Bujar Llapaj, Conductor.

The tradition of affordable by-donation concerts for the community, held biannually, is made possible by a network of community support; with BICS, as the island’s community school and hub bringing all the elements together. Also, it helps that one of the musician’s family is on Bowen! The Community School Coordinator organizes the many elements of the event to ensure a success for all, including: providing local p.r. support, connecting community youth and BICS students to the event, inviting the seniors at S.K.Y., writing articles, preparing the rental forms, invoice forms and connecting the WCS to the Community School Association (CSA). The CSA is the local sponsor/supporter of this event by assisting with the rental costs and providing volunteers and at-cost hospitality concession.  Extraordinary volunteer Yvonne McSkimming will once again be baking goodies for the concession including carrot cake, scones, and her famous butter tarts.

The West Coast Symphony Concerts for the Community series is a unique opportunity to directly experience affordable classical music with a full symphony of over sixty musicians twice a year. It is also one of the few musical opportunities for parents with young children to hear classical music in an open-door venue that allows for quick exits if needed, or a quick break on the playground outside before returning to the show. Despite the ability to pop out during the middle of the show, most people of all ages stayed in their seats and the Symphony are generally impressed by the level of respectful concert-etiquette by the youngest audience members and the warm, appreciative community reception from Bowen Island that keeps the Symphony wanting to return.

The generosity and humour of the West Coast Symphony is exemplified by their performances, which always includes at least one funny surprise in amongst the repertoire. The West Coast Symphony musicians get much joy from seeing multiple generations in the audience, all sitting together, and are delighted by how many students and youth attend the concerts. It is great to see parents bringing babies and young children and teaching them audience etiquette and enjoyment of the music. It’s hard not to smile when a two year old is dancing and smiling and feeling the music!

The Bowen Island Community School gym is currently the only space on the island large enough for the symphony and the two hundred or so audience members who come out to hear them play. Despite that the gym vents blow when they have to and sometime people are shouting and playing outside whilst the symphony plays in the gym… the show goes on and the WCS are understanding. Despite the imperfections of playing in a gym every concert goes well and everyone is smiling at the end.

The WCS greatly appreciates the support of our Bowen island community. Every year they go through a democratic process to decide where they will play in the upcoming seasons, and as Bowen gets a 100% positive response from the musicians, so we hope that this tradition, with your support, will continue.

The West Coast Symphony collects donations at the door, and have cds mugs and merchandise (please bring cash/cheques,) to help cover their costs as a symphony because sheet music, insurance, etc. all add up, but the musicians themselves don’t get paid; their music is a gift to us from each of them, so please thank them when you come to the concert which starts at 2pm in the BICS gym on Sunday June 12th!




Behold The Green Man


First published May 11, 2016 Written by Shelagh MacKinnon

On May 21st, at 11:30, the Cove is transformed to celebrate the Green Man Festival. Greenery and flowers abound!  Step back in time and celebrate the wonderful return of spring!  But wait, will Winter give up??  Will the Ice Queen agree to let this sunny weather continue? I am not sure that she will and more than that, I have heard that Icicle decorated winter lovers are helping her stay strong!! What will happen?  The little buds will be cheering for the Green Man who brings us summer, but I don’t know if they are strong enough to win the day!! You better come and help cheer for one side or the other!!
This year, we are adding a parade to the Festival.  Decorated bikes, and trikes, festooned wagons and dogs, adorned ponies and horses are all welcome.  The RCMP will be there to make sure everyone is safe and has lots of fun.  We don’t know who this little girl is in this picture, but she sure has the right idea!
We will still have our wonderful Maypole.  This year Sarah Haxby is going to organize the ribbon dances. Last year was so much fun, but quite a tangle to tell the truth!! The Black Sheep will be there to help her out.  Plan now for lots of twists and turns as the pattern is made around the Maypole.
There will be face painting across from the Library and also wand making.  We have a few extra costumes which Tracey Lee Hearst will be offering for kids of all ages who want to get into the mood.  A wonderful Medieval feast will be available, and some hand crafted trinkets as well! On top of ALL that, there is wonderful music by Susanna Braund and Doug Stepple!

Don’t worry about getting lost…our Town Crier Murray Atherton will direct traffic and answer questions!
Our planning team is Shelagh MacKinnon, Rosie Montgomery, Tracey Lee Hearst, Graham Ritchie, Carol MacKinnon, Helen Wallwork, Susanna Braund, Doug Stepple and Sarah Haxby.  Huge thanks to all of them!!




I hope everybody’s gearing up for another season of protests, petitions, and public meetings. LNG in Howe Sound isn’t dead yet. While local residents up and down the Sound have made their opposition to the proposed plant clear, we are now heading into the quagmire that is the approval process. The pessimists among us might be thinking, “Well isn’t that just great, here we go again – even the new Federal government is selling out our environment” and the optimists may be thinking, “Well, there are dozens of steps in the approval process at which the whole thing could be rejected. Maybe this is the government’s way of stopping LNG without making any of its supporter angry” (or maybe that’s the cynical opinion, not the optimistic one!)
The Squamish Chief just published an article about how our MP, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, is dealing with public opinion on the decision to proceed with the approval process:

Pamela Goldsmith-Jones knows some people are upset with her over the federal granting of an environmental assessment certificate to the Woodfibre LNG Project on March 18…
“It is a very, very tough situation for me to be in,” she acknowledged Thursday from her Ottawa office, almost a week to the day that Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced she had granted the certificate.
“I have done my best to represent the interests of the community with regard to the environment, and it is terrible to be stuck with a system that nobody has any faith in from before,” she said, referring to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s process.
Goldsmith-Jones said she talks to McKenna daily about constituents’ concerns, and quickly after the decision was announced, she went to Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo, “talking to him about the standards for fish and fish habitat, that we have to have in place, talking about the threat of the cooling system, talking about the abundance of herring,” she said.
She said she also met with Minister of Transport Marc Garneau to discuss coastal protection.
“I am not giving up,” Goldsmith-Jones said. “People are obviously being very critical of me, but to me, I know where that comes from and I am hanging in there.”
“With the decision that has been made by the minister, it runs with 122 conditions and another 25 conditions of the Squamish Nation,” she said. “And there’s a lot of steps to go through. Principally, these are Fisheries and Transport Canada permits that need to be issued, and so I am vigilant because I think it is still going to be quite a challenge. I feel our government means it when it says it is going to stand up for the environment.”

Please click here to see the full article and to add your voice to the discussion.
Some people are perhaps not so confident in our new Prime Minister, like local Bowyer Island resident and activist Jackie DeRoo who recently published this Letter to the Editor in several North Shore newspapers:

Open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau:
I may be naive, but it’s not just me. Many citizens are disillusioned with your climate change pronouncements right now. On March 18 your government failed its first real on-the-ground climate test.
By quietly approving a new fossil fuel industry for Canada — LNG for export — you have locked Canada into a massive new fossil fuel paradigm for decades to come. How can you possibly justify this and simultaneously attempt to transition Canada to a new low-carbon economy? We thought “real change” included real action on climate change.
By approving the Woodfibre LNG project in Howe Sound, B.C.’s iconic and world renowned fjord, your government has broken faith with thousands of hopeful citizens who voted for your party in the last election.
How naive we are. We believed Minister McKenna’s announcement at COP21 that “Canada is back.” It was an exciting message. Under Harper we gave up hope that we could leave a safe and sustainable future for our children. Mr. Trudeau, you have no idea how hard so many of us worked to put you on that world stage!
In addition to the climate issues of approving Canada’s first LNG export project — two egregious components under your government’s control remain unaddressed:
1. The once-through seawater cooling system: cheap — but also banned in California and Europe as hugely destructive to marine ecosystems. After decades of industrial abuse Howe Sound is actually returning to life. The salmon fishery recently reopened. Herring have rebounded. Whales, orcas and dolphins have reappeared. Approving Woodfibre’s discharge into the ocean of 400 million litres per day of hot chlorinated water for 25 years is simply unacceptable.
2. The hazards of LNG as a dangerous cargo: LNG tankers are classified as the second most dangerous ships on the ocean, next only to ships carrying explosives. Designation of LNG plant and LNG tanker hazard zones are compulsory in the U.S. We have no such regulations in Canada. This is also unacceptable.
Unless these shortcomings are addressed head-on, impacts on marine life and people will come back to haunt you. A very large community of B.C. voters have not given permission for Woodfibre LNG.
Your words are eloquent, but approval of this project is not!

Locally we’ve got Concerned Citizens of Bowen Island, The Future of Howe Sound Society, My Sea to Sky, and Save Howe Sound all working hard to stop the LNG proposal. I’m sure the coming weeks and months will see lots of editorials, initiatives, and events – this is the time to live up to our reputation as the Salish Sea’s protesty-est island!

– Margaret Miller

Earth Day Every Day: Leap!


Originally posted February 3, 2016 written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

Last Earth Day I committed to carry on walking through the wilderness regularly, and report back here as the year went by. Well, it’s February, spring is here again! It’s not the spring of daffodils and tulips, yet; not of bees and bare feet and warm grassy hillsides. It’s not even the spring of March storms and robins appearing on lawns. No. This is the more subtle, early spring. This is the spring of tiny skunk cabbage shoots appearing from the mud below the water’s surface in the flooded forest. It’s the spring of cold grey branches just beginning to plump up and push lumps forth that will soon become buds. It’s the uncomfortable feeling of discovering you’ve worn too many clothes, as walking through the woods into sunlight has warmed you beyond what you planned for, and then the chill as the sun suddenly drops behind the trees and it’s still mid afternoon.
This is the time of year some of us like to curl up with our seed catalogues, but outside on the forest floors the seeds do not wait for us. Even quite a long way from maple trees, maple seeds are popping cotyledons up like green candies among the brown rotten leaves and crumbled bark. Grass and annual flower seeds, recently frozen in the meadow’s crunchy surface, are swelling with the squishy soil as the creek breaches its banks and floods the meadow trails. Soon the dull green of the winter grasses will be enriched by a growing charteuse from underneath. Everywhere, green is pushing brilliance through the din. This is the season when shoots seem to spring from the ground, and we understand the meaning of the word Spring. Everything is taking a great big leap into action.
Have you heard of the Leap Manifesto? In the briefest terms, it is “a call for an economy based on caring for the earth and one another.” This is a leap year – a time to extend our calendar to align ourselves with the earth’s schedule. It can also be an opportunity to extend our minds and actions – to leap forward into a new way of living. I’ve been writing this Earth Day Every Day series for almost a year. This is the final piece before I begin a new series in April. Next time you hear from me we’ll be into the big, intense, no-holds-barred, hang-out-every-flashy-flower-you’ve-got kind of spring. So here’s our opportunity to leap into it.
For ten months now I’ve been taking walks by myself and sharing my thoughts with you. Now I’d like to leap. LEAP, I say! Seriously – it’s getting a little late in the game for my lovely, personal, but not-so-far-reaching little wanders, and thinking about Nature. Yes, it matters what I do. Yes, it makes a difference and the more we all do it, the more connected we all become, and the more we understand the place we live, the community (built and natural) that we are a part of, and the changes we can make by being aware. But I feel like we need to do more. Not something else. More. As in keep walking out on our land and exploring, but also bring others with us. Also make big changes in our lives.
Eight years ago we took a huge leap and pulled our son out of school, completely. We hesitated for ages mostly because I was afraid of telling the teachers, but when I finally did, they congratulated me. Then we took another huge leap and told our very concerned parents and friends that we intended to unschool them – to give them a rich and fulfilling life but to have no agenda whatsoever for their academic futures. No curriculum, no classes. Just life. We were told it was impossible; maybe illegal, even (it’s not). We were told it would harm our children and that it was irresponsible. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, and definitely the most controversial. I was terrified. But it turned out to be a fabulous choice for my children and for our family. We leapt wholeheartedly in, spending lots of time running around in the literal and proverbial wilderness and seeing where we would end up. We unschooled entirely until our first child reached grade seven and wanted more regular social interaction. Then we continued to hold onto our open and free-range parenting principles as he navigated the new-to-him adventure of school. That was a leap, too. Sometimes you just have to go running as fast as you can, and leap without holding on. I think it’s time to do that again. I am not sure where the next leap will take us, but it’s going to have to make a difference in our world.
Will you leap with us? What difference can you make in your personal, family, or public life? How can you inspire others to jump with you and help us leap as an entire community – an entire culture – to a new and proud future?
See you on Earth Day. The maples will be blossoming with abandon, then.

– Emily van Lidth de Jeude



Originally posted Jan 28, 2015 written by Margaret Miller

Happy New Year Everyone! Brace yourselves, I’m about to say something that you may find shocking and controversial – I love this time of year. Sometimes the weather can be less than perfect and sometimes, although far less often now, we lose power for a day or two, but the sense of beginning and renewal that this season brings just can’t be beat. It starts the week after New Years, which is always extremely quiet up at the Square. You get the feeling that after all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, everyone has just decided to hibernate for a few days (or weeks)! For me, I look forward to these weeks all year. It’s a time to finish jobs left undone, put away things left out, and look ahead to what this new year will bring. It’s a time for dreaming, planning, and implementing change. This year, of course, that natural rhythym has been amplified with the new council settling in and the ferry refit.

The Bulletin is also going to be going through some changes this year. Since Murray has been elected Mayor – Congratulations Murray! – he won’t be writing any editorials for the foreseeable future. So, I’d like to take this time to try something a little different with our editorial column. My hope is to gather a group of 10-15 people who will each write a couple of pieces a year. The goal is to have a group with diverse ages, occupations, backgrounds, and beliefs commenting on a variety of issues with different perspectives. The editorial guidelines are fairly broad. Your piece needs to be approxiamtely 825 words, it needs to be non-fiction, prose, and somehow relevant to Bowen Islanders. It may not promote violence or hate, and while it is perfectly acceptable to attack an idea or issue, it is not okay to use your editorial for personal attacks. If you would be interested in adding your voice please give me a call at 604-947-9119 or email me at theoffice@artisansquare.com. Special interest groups are also invited to send in editorials. Let us know about your group – what issues you’re involved in, what initiatives you’re taking on, or what problems you face!

– Margaret Miller

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