Signs of Abundance Tour – The information on this page compliments that which appears on the sign that has recently been erected near the mouth of the Trent River. To go to the map of all the signs in this series click here.

K’ómoks Important Bird and Biodiversity Area

The K’ómoks IBA, along the east-central coast of Vancouver Island near the city of Courtenay, is an extensive network of marine waters, estuaries, backshore areas and associated lowland valley bottoms. Inland lowlands are a mixture of agricultural areas and forested land. Forests are predominantly Coastal Douglas-fir and Western Hemlock while some dry Garry Oak/Douglas-fir forest occupies drier sites. An extensive estuary ecosystem extends from K’omoks Estuary through Baynes Sound to Deep Bay and Mapleguard Point, approximately 30 km to the southeast. Baynes Sound is a shallow coastal channel fringed by protected bays, open foreshore, tidal estuaries and inshore marshes. The shoreline includes wide expanses of mud and sand flats, low gradient deltas and sand and gravel beaches. This area is the most important intertidal area in B.C. for oyster and shellfish aquaculture. Further offshore, Lambert Channel and the marine waters surrounding Hornby Island have mostly rocky shores and rocky headlands, that provide extensive feeding and resting areas for waterbirds, especially during herring spawn in late-winter and early-spring.

The K’ómoks  IBA is an amalgamation of the former Comox Valley IBA, Baynes Sound IBA and Lambert Channel/Hornby Island Waters IBA. These three IBAs share common populations of waterbirds but were established as separate IBAs because they were nominated independently.

Forage Fish

When we think of spawning habitat for fish, we generally think of salmon spawning on gravel beds in rivers. However, many species of forage fish spawn directly on beaches. Forage fish are small fish that travel in schools such as surf smelt and herring. Have you ever seen surf smelt leaping at high tide?

On the very pebble/sand shorelines we like to walk along, surf smelt and Pacific sand lance deposit spawn near the log line. Herring eggs can also be found from mid-intertidal to deeper waters.

Forage fish species like surf smelt, Pacific sand lance (needle fish) and herring form the cornerstone of marine food webs. These small feeder fish are critical to the survival of fisheries and thousands of predators from fish, birds and marine mammals. Humpback whales, minke whales and harbour seals depend on forage fish for 75 per cent of their food.

From sand grains to salmon, it’s all connected!

A healthy spawning beach has an intact marine riparian buffer zone, overhanging shade vegetation, a supply of pebble and sand and clean water. These spawning areas are in a zone highly vulnerable to human activities.

Shade from overhanging marine riparian vegetation keeps summer surf smelt eggs moist.  Removing shoreline vegetation increases temperatures within the spawning gravel.  On hot summer days, these eggs can’t survive.

Hardening and altering shorelines degrades and destroys spawning habitat.  Seawalls block sediments from reaching the beach and wave scouring removes pebbles and sand. Boat ramps and breakwaters interrupt sediment flow along beaches until these areas become starved of fine sediments.

What can I do to help?


We are often looking for extra hands to help with stewardship projects – from planting to invasive removal to education.  To volunteer fill out our volunteer form we will contact you with dates and times our activities occur.


Donating to Project Watershed is an investment in the future. Your donation will go towards the restoration and protection of important habitats such as the Trent River Estuary.


Ramona de Graaf

Ramona de Graaf

A special thanks to Ramona De Graaf for the work she does to protect forage fish and her help in creating and editing the information on our estuary sign.

Terry Thormin

Terry Thormin

Gerry Fairbrother

Gerry Fairbrother

Kurt Perry