Ecology | Let's Talk Sable Island! | Let's Talk Sable Island!

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4 months ago
CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

Sable Island National Park reserve is home to Earth’s largest colony of grey seals, thousands of migratory birds and species that only exist here on Sable Island. As a small and isolated island, its ecosystem contains one of the largest dune systems in Eastern North America and is remarkably resilient while remaining at the same time vulnerable to impacts from human activities and natural processes. There is however a long history of human use on the island spanning 400 years, with continuous human presence on Sable Island for over 200 years.  During this time, the island has been home to many families and supported various activities, from subsistence farming for the lifesaving stations to a failed tree-planting attempt in an effort to stabilize the island. Evidence of Sable Island’s human history remains present in the form of old buildings, paths, and debris, as well as hundreds of introduced species of plants and animals. It is important to recognize that human use has shaped the present day ecosystem. 

What do you value about the natural environment of Sable Island and what would you like to see Parks Canada prioritise when making decisions on managing for the health of the ecosystem? 
Relates to Relates to document: Natural History
  • H2O 5 months ago
    Unfortunately, since this band of sand in the North Atlantic has been designated a National Park, it has become a commodity. There are careers involved, armies of bureaucrats, doctoral thesis and monetary gain all vying for a piece of the Sable pie. It should never have been designated a National Park but should have remained a truly wild and anthropogenically isolated place. No tourism of any sort should be allowed on this island.
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    • Aaron Carpenter 5 months ago
      One government body or another has to be responsible for managing and protecting the land.What other status for the land is there that gives its managers the means to enforce the highest level of protection possible?There is no such thing as just "wilderness" without having unregulated access.Being a national park does not have to mean a free for all of tourism if that is not what the public wants, that is the point of this process.Almost every post in this forum has suggested a minimization of tourism on the island, so lets hope PCA takes that message to heart as it moves forward in its management plan.
  • Group - QueensU - YA - 7 5 months ago
    • Limit the number of tourists each year to maintain the ecological integrity. • Conduct research each year and determine the actual effects of a larger human population on the Island. • Only develop infrastructure at key points of the Island and keep the majority untouched. • Limit boat traffic for the safety of the seals.• Detailed protection against invasive species that could potentially be brought by the tourism industry. • Find a solution to account for the heavy foot traffic of tourists so the soil does not become compact and vegetation is not destroyed. • During the peak mating season for the grey seals, make sure there is no tourism during that time.• The higher the population on the Island, theoretically the more resources will be needed and therefore more flights in to the Island will happen. Make sure the beach that the plane lands on is maintained and not turned into a paved runway. • Make sure an analysis is done to determine is the placement of new structures on the Island to accommodate tourism do not destroy the ecosystem.
  • Freedom Horse 5 months ago
    Sable Island's ecology is one of a kind. Several large bird colonies are resident, including the Arctic tern and Ipswich sparrow, which breeds ONLY on the island. Harbour and grey seals breed on the island's shores making it one of the world's largest seal breeding grounds and includes species found nowhere else on the planet. This sensitive ecology and delicate ecosystem must be protected by Parks Canada. As I stated earlier, a report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that 52 per cent of the world's animals have been driven to extinction since 1970 because of human activity. This talk of having overnight camping/visitation, along with the pollution, ocean traffic, and unethical activity that will inevitably come with it, saddens me. It's shameful that Parks Canada have hired consultants to turn Sable Island into a tourism business venture at the expense of it's long term survival. In 2011, control of Sable Island was transferred from the Canadian Coast Guard to Parks Canada. Parks Canada are now in control and should be the ethical protectors of Sable Island and NOT facilitate human interference for the sake tourism profits. In short, tourism and it's related effects threaten to destroy the unique ecology of Sable Island.
  • Ottawa Let's Talk 5 months ago
    - We believe the health of the ecosystem is the first priority!- The ecosystem seems to have lots of unique features that each need consideration, for example, the fragile dunes. For people visiting and those learning more about the island, there needs to first be a campaign to increase public awareness of the fragility of the ecosystem and ways that the island is kept safe. This could include a boardwalk to protect fragile dunes and vegetation or teaching about the wild horses to explain why they can’t be touched.- The pattern of migratory birds that visit the island could be disrupted by people visiting the island. But, getting to see these birds could interest many visitors! There would need to be careful measures taken to protect these species, especially during peak migration season.
  • Group - Friends of Sable Island - 322 5 months ago
    1. Firstly, the Island has survived and in many ways thrived with minimal interference from people. Do not change what has been working for years. Keep it as wild, natural and free as possible. Ensure the impacts of any changes are well-understood before disrupting this finely balanced ecosystem with its complicated interactions between species (e.g. seals-marram grass-horses). Educate all visitors to the Island (staff, researchers, tourists,…) on best practices for protecting it and closely monitor their activities to ensure understanding and adherence. Prioritize protection of the Island over an on-island visitor experience.2. Recognize that the horses are a major attractant that trigger people’s interest in the Island, leading them to want to learn more and ultimately care about protecting the Island.3. Maintain it as a National Park Reserve with a year-round protective human presence. Keep enough Parks Canada staff on the Island to adequately monitor the health of the ecosystem, detect unauthorized visitors, and monitor human behaviour. Evaluate the other programs and activities on the Island and their impacts to the ecosystem in terms of infrastructure, resource and energy requirements, and waste management. Minimize the overall human footprint and remediate contaminated sites to the extent possible and relative to their potential threat to the fresh water supply. Do not degrade the Island through development.4. Make it a priority to manage and protect the fresh groundwater system. It’s the fresh groundwater recharged by precipitation that sustains life on this sandbar. Identify the natural fluctuations in the freshwater aquifer system under the surface. Monitor changes in both water levels and water quality. Ensure the collection of monitoring data including precipitation.5. Develop a critical toxic waste storage, use, and disposal program. The soils on Sable Island are highly permeable and the underlying freshwater is vulnerable to contamination from careless activities on the surface. 6. Prioritize research and support for Species at Risk, including the Ipswich Sparrow, Roseate Tern and Sable Island Sweat Bee.7. A significant threat to Sable Island’s future is climate change. Investigate how Sable Island can become a “canary in the coal-mine” to teach and learn about ocean pollution and climate change. Specific components are its unique position relative to ocean and wind currents, and the great risk to its future from sea-level rise. Universities would be a natural partner in this work. For some ideas see: Maintain relationships with key stakeholders as a support network to facilitate work on and for the Island, and to expedite responses in times of need. This includes: other federal government departments who have infrastructure and assets on the Island; museums and universities who can provide researchers and expertise; and, interested philanthropic and non-profit groups which can provide willing volunteers and financial support.
  • University of Calgary Parks Canada Club - 6 5 months ago
    1. Our group would like to see the preservation and protection of all species on the island. 2. We think that limiting access to the island is the best idea because of the environmental impacts and disruption traveling to the island and frequent tourist groups could have. 3. Have controls in place to prevent invasive species. 4. Clear outlines for bringing waste/ trash to the island (how to dispose of it or not allowed to leave it on the island). Our group would all love to visit the island but we realize that it's in the best interest of the island not to and respect that.
  • UPEI Campus Club - 10 5 months ago
    1: Delicate dune system. 2: Wild animals (ie. Horses). 3: Native species (not the horses)What type of damages do the horses make on the dunes? When they previously tried to take the horses off Sable Island, how did that effect the ecosystem? A popular opinion amongst our group was to remove the horses from the Island, since they are not native and are negatively effecting the dune system. What are the actual native species of Sable Island? We don’t want visitors there all the time, we don’t to wreck the ecosystem. A questions about having staff on the island came up should there be staff on the island? Yes- for research purposes (No more than now). Do not bring back expansion and infrastructure on the island.
  • Halifax Support group for People Who Stutter - 4 5 months ago
    When our group thought of Sable Island we were mixed in our response: two members thought of the dune and the horse; one hadn't heard of it despite being born in Nova Scotia; and one didn't like that rich people can access more easily than the rest of us. Once described, all members agreed that enabling maintenance of the ecosystem is key.Over-population (by humans) of an island is a problem. the population of the animals there will take care of itself unless humans do something (bad) like intervening. i.e. leave well alone; let natural selection take its course. However, if a new invasive plant arrives, then this should be spotted and attended to immediately.All members agreed that maintaining the natural environment of Sable Island should be done very respectfully.
  • Aaron Carpenter 5 months ago
    Since 2013, PCA has maintained the status quo it inherited from the previous administrations and worked to meet the pre-existing (and now increasing) demand for visitation and usage, but done little (in my opinion and from my perspective) to look at the big picture for the future. Having reinforced the status quo over the last 5 years now has set the precedent for going forward with that high level of expectation form the public and the current operators (none of which have a sustainable on-island operation in my opinion). It is my opinion that the fundamental concepts of running the island as a National Park Reserve have yet to even be considered since establishment in 2013 (Sable was probably the quickest established park in the history of our national parks system and it shares practically nothing in common, logistically, with any other park in the system): what are the various benefits of having a human occupation, what are the costs (monetary, ecological, environmental) of that occupation by degree, and to what degree, then, should that occupation be executed?I, personally, am strongly FOR an ongoing human occupation of the island for reasons such as: sovereignty, ongoing data collection, observation of events, and linking the island to the public in ways that never were possible before, etc. I also strongly believe that PCA is the only government organization with the proper mandate to properly manage the Island (assuming they get it right) comprehensively and so were the right choice. But I believe that the way of human life as it is today on the island is not sustainable and will quickly have to become a thing of the past or we risk living at a double standard and doing more harm than good.Modern and comprehensive study is required on the impact of human operations on the local ecology of Sable Island. By human impact in this case I mean both how our on-island activities affect the island itself but also their effect on global climate change (which in turn has or will have a significant effect back onto the island). The horse population is also having a significant effect on the landscape of the island, one that will influence their collective (the horse’s and the island’s) ability to survive. It is one thing for PCA to say that the horses are a “naturalized species”, but they are still an invasive one brought there by humans and protected by humans and this needs far greater study than has been done to date.I don't think there has ever been a full/comprehensive horse and human exclusion zone study carried out but there are obvious examples around the island of what these areas could look like if left un-impacted and they are quite striking. I believe research of this kind is critical prior to making any concrete decisions about how to manage the park as a whole.Regardless of historical human impact (including the introduction of the horses), the island is what it is today and is meant to be (or should be) an ecological preserve going forward first and foremost, yet current human activities are still having obvious effects that will affect the island's ability to withstand the effects of even normal climatical influences, let alone those of climate change going forward. Visitation (with all its modern trappings of safety, reliability, and quality), usage, and the horse population are at all-time highs now, nowhere near comparable to historical levels. The modern occupation of Sable Island comes at a huge financial cost and any investment made in the near future for the future needs to be considered against the potential changes that are on the horizon.Suitability for devlopment:1. There are very few areas on the island today suitable for modern infrastructure development (even, I believe, for most of the so called “innovative” ideas I have heard discussed in my time on the project) and even in my few years working there I saw large scale changes that affected those areas such that infrastructure and our ability to maintain it in its current format either already is or soon likely will be compromised. 2. All human infrastructure on Sable Island today is long past it’s practical and sustainable life expectancy and so future human occupation of the island is at a turning point that will require either a significant investment in change or a significant retraction (which in itself is also a significant investment).Access:1. All modern human occupation of Sable is dependent on reliable access and, again, I have seen significant changes to the face of the landscape that affect access (both by air and by sea) in just a few years. Access by sea and air today, as historically, is reliant on extensive ground transportation over the barrier dunes. With modern satellite and LiDar imagery, it is obvious to see that the face of those dunes is changing dramatically and that human activity is playing at least some role.2. The areas used for fixed-wing air access were once considered a “lifeless plain” (being the bed of the dried up former Lake Wallace) and so suitable for this type of exploitation. But over the years that area has continued to change and grow (by the very process that closed up the original lagoon and made it into the lake in the first place, and the very process that make Sable an ever evolving landscape) in ways that are not fully understood while we are continuing to carry out extensive vehicular operations on them in order to maintain an outdated means of access that is largely in support of “visitation” and other various operations. Climate Change:1. A reverse concept also has to be considered: The impact of human activities taking place on Sable Island as they pertain to the global climate change issue. Current operations on Sable have a huge energy demand and footprint which really needs to be weighed against the value gained.2. Visitation by air charter and by cruise ship, in addition to their own fuel requirements just to get there and back again, require high levels of input by PCA ground staff to ensure their safe and reliable execution in their current format. For PCA to maintain this level of involvement in these types of visits, they in turn require large amounts of fuel and infrastructure and human resources to be delivered to and stored on the island in order to maintain the status quo.3. The same formula applies to all other island operations (from science to media), they all come at a cost to the global environment.4. There are currently about zero green initiatives in operation on Sable Island today and very little has been done to date to assess what a future net zero energy human occupation of the island would look like.
  • Kim 5 months ago
    There is tremendous value in preserving Sable's most unique and natural environment, including its landscape (dune systems) and all unique life forms inhabiting the island (plants, animals, including the horses, important grasses, species at risk). In whatever Park's decides - from research opportunities, to promoting the visitor experience, to facilitating historical and cultural and artistic activities, a priority objective should always be to do this in a manner that maintains the ecosystem's ecological integrity.
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    • Ed Doadt 5 months ago
      I absolutely and totally support this approach. This location - while well "known" - has a near-pristine ecosystem. Let's use this opportunity to preserve it!
  • Youth Panel_16 6 months ago
    -Preserve it for its uniqueness - appreciate the fragility of nature. -Introduce plants that increase plant richness?-If not damaging, do an excavation to learn more about the site, -The word ‘endemic’ needs explaining. -Maintain protection from oil spills.
  • Janmer 6 months ago
    Before one could answer this question responsibly one would have to know what staff believe are the threats to the ecosystem health.