Log booms harming kelp beds, community group says

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Sounder News

Monday, July 29 2013

Help The Kelp is concerned about the threats log booms pose to sensitive ecosystems such as bull kelp beds.

In mid-July, while using GPS units to map the existing bull kelp beds around Gabriola Island, volunteers noticed bull kelp was sparse in the waters directly across from the Harmac pulp mill whereas nearby, all through False Narrows, kelp canopies were healthy.

Liam Coleman from Help The Kelp inspects bull kelp caught in log booms off Gabriola. Photo courtesy Michele Fire-River Heart

The group also observed clusters of dead kelp caught amongst the log booms. Group member Michael Mehta said they believe log booms are cutting down the canopies, creating “zones of death.”

Michael has scuba dived under log booms near Valdes Island where he said “things are not pretty.”

If the floating portion of a kelp plant is removed, the entire plant dies.

The group starts replanting efforts to help densify existing beds in August and into the fall and winter. If log booms are plowing through the areas where they replant, those efforts could be all for nothing, said Michael.

Help The Kelp is advocating for protected areas where certain activities will not be able to take place – boat motors also mow down kelp beds.

As far as solutions to the log booming, Michael said the group would like to share their final maps with towing companies who could be travelling through sensitive ecosystems. 

He said they would also like to explore having companies pay for replanting efforts. 

“Since a lot of timber companies pay for reforestation of terrestrial trees perhaps a similar approach might work here for damaged kelp beds.”

Help The Kelp has mapped the kelp beds around three-quarters of Gabriola. 

To follow their progress, or to get involved, visit their blog, www.helpthekelp.blogspot.ca.