Roberts Bay is an important estuary on the northeast side of the Saanich Peninsula in the Town of Sidney and the W̱SÁNEĆ Traditional Territories. The bay is part of the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which was established in 1931 and encompasses 144 hectares of sheltered bays and extensive intertidal mudflats. While Roberts Bay is surrounded by residential development, it is an important habitat for many species, with more than 40 species of marine birds regularly spotted within the bay.
Coastal ecosystems are often most desirable for agriculture, fishing and hunting, industrial practices, transportation infrastructure, habitation, and development. As a result, these critical coastal ecosystems are under threat as they have been disproportionately lost, degraded, or modified over the past century, with some estimates putting this loss upwards of 70% in the Salish Sea.
The Mermaid Creek Salt Marsh
Mermaid Creek flows into Roberts Bay, creating an important estuary and the Mermaid Creek Salt Marsh. A salt marsh is a coastal wetland that is flooded and drained by the ocean tides. The Mermaid Creek Salt Marsh is a small but mighty regionally rare coastal ecosystem, as salt marshes provide blue carbon sequestration, important nutrients, water filtration, productive habitats for fish and wildlife, and natural protection for upland areas.
The Roberts Bay Blue Carbon Study found that the Mermaid Creek Delta marsh had experienced a significant decline of approximately 70% over the last 60 years. In the last two years, we have seen a significant acceleration of erosion rates with about 30% of the marsh area eroding annually (CORI 2022). Another study completed by DHI’s coastal engineers in 2022 found that the historical changes to natural sources and sediment flow from Mermaid Creek and the ocean, along with stronger erosion due to climate change factors like intense storms and rising sea levels, likely contributed to the decline of the ecosystem.
The report concluded that if action is not taken there is a large likelihood that this ecosystem and habitat will be lost, resulting in ecological consequences to Roberts Bay including loss and diminishment of the ecosystem services such as stormwater filtration, blue carbon sequestration, shoreline stabilization, sustainable beach nourishment, shoreline protection, pollination, aesthetic and cultural values and the productive habitats for fish and wildlife.
SeaChange Marine Conservation Society and Peninsula Streams Society, in close collaboration with Tseycum Marine Stewardship, have secured funding* to begin restoration efforts to the Mermaid Creek Salt Marsh.
The Roberts Bay Salt Marsh Restoration Project will involve:
- Creating ~ 1m high rock crescent clustered headlands ~20 m seaward of the existing marsh edge to attenuate wave energy from intensifying storm surges;
- Nourishment of the area between the existing marsh edge and the newly formed headlands with ~ 4000 tons of imported marsh and beach sediments; and,
- Planting and stabilizing the restored marsh area with pickleweed and salt grass
- Adaptive Management / Monitoring of elevations, materials, and plantings
Through the active restoration of the lower marsh through the construction of small headlands, expanding and elevating the area of the marsh through sediment replenishment, and through planting native marsh species, we will be increasing and enhancing:
- Carbon sequestration capacity of the marsh
- Nature-based shoreline protection from projected increase in storm surges and sea level rise
- Vital habitat for fish, birds, invertebrates, bivalves, and other wildlife
*This work is funded by Environmental and Climate Change Canada, the World Wildlife Fund – Canada, the North America Partnership for Environmental Community Action, The Real Estate Foundation of BC, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and the Town of Sidney.
Now we need your support! Submit your comment to share your support for our restoration efforts and why Roberts Bay is important to you. Commenting will close on February 6, 2024.
- The Mermaid Creek Delta marsh has declined by approximately 70% over the last 60 years.
- Roberts Bay is home to the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary, an important habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl during migration and through winter.
- The Mermaid Creek Delta is a provincially red-listed habitat and requires restoration to help prevent more erosion and habitat loss.
- Restoration work in Roberts Bay will help create a healthy and resilient habitat for important wildlife species as well as help protect housing and keep the bay enjoyable.
- We can’t delay restoration work any longer.
Here is a template you can use to build your comment.
"I am writing to you today to share my support for the Mermaid Creek Salt Marsh restoration project from Peninsula Streams Society and SeaChange Marine Conservation Society. It is important that we do all we can to protect and conserve coastal ecosystems. Salt marshes, estuaries, and riparian ecosystems are important to the health of the oceans and terrestrial habitats as they provide blue carbon sequestration, important nutrients, water filtration, productive habitats for fish and wildlife, and natural protection for upland areas.
Research has shown that erosion is continuing to impact the salt marsh, harming important habitat for migratory birds in the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and other important wildlife species, and putting homes and the community at risk. The restoration planned by Peninsula Streams Society and SeaChange Marine Conservation Society will increase and enhance the carbon sequestration capacity of the marsh, improve habitat for wildlife, and help prevent further erosion from projected increase in storm surges and sea level rise."