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This World Oceans Day, Britannia Mine Museum is excited to share footage of some recent visitors to our waters. For a few weeks in late Spring, our site was filled with the barking sounds of California sea lions. These large marine mammals spent several afternoons resting near the Britannia Beach dock. The presence of these large, fish eating mammals is a major indicator of Howe Sound’s recovery. In 2021, the Sound was recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, but this fragile ecosystem has been threatened by many human-caused activities such as climate change, noise pollution, overfishing and contamination from the mine.
Britannia Mine was once one of the world’s most successful copper mines. At its peak, as much as 30% of the world’s copper was produced here and then shipped via Howe Sound’s waters. However, the mine’s activities seriously degraded aquatic habitats. Britannia Creek, which connects the old mine tunnels to the shores of Howe Sound, was for a time one of the most heavy metal-contaminated bodies of water in North America.
Fortunately, the Epcor Britannia Mine Water Treatment Centre was completed in 2005. It can now remove dissolved metals from approximately 4 billion litres of water annually. Each year, approximately 600 000 kgs of heavy metals can be diverted from the Creek and the Sound. This has paved the way for animals to return: in 2011, salmon were spotted spawning in the Creek. Fish like these provide food to many predators, including marine mammals like California sea lions.
Today, Britannia’s legacy is one of #remediation. Seeing large, complex marine animals return to these waters is a reminder that habitats that been heavily damaged by industrial activity can still recover. We encourage visitors to check out our Terra Lab exhibit this summer to learn more about the history of Howe Sound’s remediation.
Britannia Mine Museum is also pleased to announce that our temporary exhibit Ore & Orcas: The Remediation of Howe Sound / Átl’ka7tsem will return this Fall. Originally offered in the Terra Lab space in October and November of 2021, this display featured a real killer whale skeleton loaned from Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society as well as preserved fish specimens from the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Ore & Orcas will return for a 2 month engagement starting on October 1st, 2022. Field trips to see the exhibit sold out quickly in the exhibit’s first year, so teachers are encouraged to book early. Keep an eye on our School Programs page for more details, or sign up for our teacher’s newsletter HERE.
The Year of the Salish Sea is a "call on our leaders and on the public to take action, a provocation for greater collaboration, and a catalyst for change."
The District of Squamish Council proclaimed June 8, 2022-June 7, 2023 the Year of the Salish Sea at their regular council meetings last night, June 7, 2022.
The District of Squamish now joins the City of Vancouver, the City of Richmond, the City of Olympia, the City of Powell River, the Town of Gibsons, the Municipality of Bowen Island, and the Islands Trust Council as the seventh and eight governing bodies to pass a motion in support of the Year of the Salish Sea.
Follow @yearofthesalishsea for more updates, or sign up for their newsletter at yearofthesalishsea.ca.