These islanders want to map Bowen's marine neighbourhood

They want to create the Bowen/Nexwlélexm Marine Conservation Atlas.

Last Saturday, at Bob Turner and Rosemary Knight’s home, around 30 islanders gathered to consider an idea: would a marine atlas about species in our local waters help us understand and care for Bowen’s shores? 

Grant Scott is chair of Conservancy Hornby Island, the guiding light and unstoppable force behind the Hornby Island Marine Conservation Atlas. He came to the meeting to offer advice. 

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The Hornby atlas displays elements of the marine ecosystems and environment surrounding the island and fosters public awareness. Published in 2017, it is sold at Hornby shops, is now in a second printing and has already recovered its production costs. 

These islanders want to map Bowen's marine neighbourhood_2
Grant Scott, chair of Conservancy Hornby Island, answers questions about pulling together the Hornby Island Marine Conservation Atlas. Hornby’s atlas is a potential model for a Bowen iteration. - Len Gilday

Coastal waters teem with many interdependent species –members of a marine web. A local marine atlas lays out key elements of the local web: the other living creatures in the neighbourhood. The Hornby Atlas has 13 chapters, each illustrated with maps, text and photos. Where do the herring spawn? Which beaches are favourite sea mammal haul outs? What is critical habitat for sea birds and shellfish? Where do the bottom fish and deep-water species hang out? The maps include information from scientific data, local knowledge provided by Hornby’s citizen scientists and K’ómoks elders. 

Hornby Island Marine Conservation Atlas
As an example of potential content for the Bowen marine atlas – this salmon migration map is part of the Hornby atlas. - Hornby Island Marine Conservation Atlas

Grant said that the mapmakers’ foundational principle was respect for the people who were here before us. For thousands of years, First Nations people visited Hornby Island by canoe and resided there from March to December. K’ómoks traditional territory, known as the “Land of Plenty,” covers an area of coastal British Columbia from Johnstone Strait in the north to a portion of the Salish Sea in the south, including what we call Hornby Island.

For generations, Hornby’s salmon, seal, octopus, herring, cod, deer, ducks, shellfish and berries drew people from throughout the Salish Sea. Using First Nations sources, the Hornby mapmakers were able to build one of the atlas maps based on Traditional Knowledge and prior practices. Where were the special places that First Nations used as campsites, winter villages and places of refuge? Where were the best beaches on Hornby for clam digging, sealing and hunting? Where are the middens? 

In considering a Bowen/Nexwlélexm Marine Conservation Atlas, what can the Squamish people bring to the map-making exercise? It will be layer upon layer of scientific data and local knowledge coming together.

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Anne Franc de Ferrierre, Adam Taylor, and Owen Plowman with some of the mapping tools used to make the Hornby Marine Atlas, which could serve as a model for Bowen’s iteration. - Len Gilday

In the past few years, after decades of industrial pollution, orca and humpback whales seem to be making a dramatic return to Howe Sound. Also on the rebound: dolphins and sea lions, herring and anchovy. Bob Turner of the Bowen Island Conservancy believes the time is right to celebrate the beginning of recovery with a Bowen/Nexwlélexm Marine Conservation Atlas.

By the end of Saturday’s meeting, priorities were being established and tasks divided. Our next steps: raise money for map making and printing; establish the base map; engage a cartographer and identify focus species. Most important: tap into Bowen’s citizen scientists and reach out to the Squamish First Nation for their input. 

Anybody wishing to be part of the Bowen/Nexwlélexm Marine Conservation Atlas project should get in touch with Bob Turner (, Len Gilday (, or Will Husby (

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