The lagoon at Manson’s Landing is yet another location on Cortes, which experienced alarming rates of marine creature die-off in the wake of the recent heat wave — the sand dollar population being hit the hardest, with losses as high as 85 per cent.

Photo credit: Mansons Lagoon at low tide by Max Thaysen

“My guts tell me, everything I see tells me that climate change is hitting us, and it’s just going to speed up. We’re going to see more of these events, I am sure of it. And it is going to change things — it already is,” said Deb Cowper.

She is a local marine biologist who led the Manson’s Lagoon Gumboot Walk for the third year in a row this past Saturday, July 11. She described the extensive devastation she witnessed, as compared to conditions just two and a half weeks earlier on June 23, when she led another outing at the lagoon for a group of students from the Cortes Island School.

“Intertidal critters are some of the toughest beasties going, they have to cope with drying out on a regular basis, they have to deal with lots of temperature changes and … salinity changes, as well as all of us trampling and bringing our boats and so on. So they are a really tough group of critters anyway. But when we were experiencing those extreme temperatures, it wasn’t really surprising that we were going to exceed their threshold, their comfort zone.”

A group of people standing on the rocky shore look out into the lagoon

Participants in the Cortes Museum’s July 10 Lagoon Gumbooting observe the dies-off in Mansons Lagoon - photo by Max Thaysen

Cowper reported that “one of the most striking differences was in the sand dollar beds.” On June 23rd, she had noticed a much higher concentration of them than in previous years. Yet sadly on July 11, there were few healthy living specimens left.

In her 20 years of studying local intertidal pools, Cowper has never seen anything like this. “Climate change is … a reality, and it’s a crisis.” In her opinion, hope for the future lies in pressuring the government to take action. “It’s time you stepped up, and we actually made a difference in Canada and lead the way in the world.”

Links of Interest:

Top photo credit: Some of the dead sand dollars in Mansons Lagoon. The dark sand dollars are alive, the others are dead. – photo by Max Thaysen

This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative