IBA Moore and Byers Islands and Banks
Bella Bella, British Columbia
Site Summary
BC106 Latitude
52.568° N
129.340° W
0 - 60 m
799.44 km²
coniferous forest (temperate), coastal sand dunes & beaches, inlets/coastal features (marine), coastal cliffs/rocky shores (marine), other
Land Use:
Not Utilized (Natural Area)
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Oil slicks
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Colonial Waterbirds/Seabird Concentrations, Nationally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status: Ecological Reserve (provincial)
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Site Description
The Moore and Byers Islands and Banks area lie along the east side of Hecate Strait midway up the mainland coast of British Columbia, between the north end of Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert. The site is approximately 100 kilometres northwest of the town of Bella Bella. The area includes all the islands, islets and reefs within the two clusters that lie from ten to eighteen kilometres off the west coast of Aristazabal Island. The northern and southern clusters of islands are separated by Wright Passage. Also within the site are the marine waters in a ten-kilometre radius around the island chain; this includes the shallow banks around the islands.

In general, these islands are low and gently undulating with a few steep portions along rocky perimeter areas. The shoreline of the large islands are convoluted and thus have many shallow bays and tidal channels. Many of the islands support forests dominated by Sitka Spruce, while the larger islands have grassy and herbaceous cover.

Seven species of seabirds breed in significant numbers on Moore and Byers Island. Of the 12 total islands that support seabirds in the site, the majority of the birds breed on seven islands. Surveys conducted in 1988 reported 30,040 pairs of Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels and 20,505 pairs of Leachs Storm-Petrels. These numbers represent 1% of the global Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel population and about 4% of the eastern Pacific Leach's Storm-Petrel population that is found in Canada. The surveys also recorded a total of 79 pairs of American Black Oystercatchers breeding on all 12 islands within the site. This represents 1.5% of the worlds population.

Three species of alcids nest on the islands in significant numbers. The most abundant of these is the Rhinoceros Auklet, with 91,640 pairs surveyed in 1988 (7% of the total world population). Counts of 22,730 Cassins Auklet pairs were recorded in the same year. The last alcid, Pigeon Guillemot, breeds in nationally significant numbers. In 1988, 604 birds or approximately 6% of the Canadian population were surveyed. Finally, 889 pairs of Glaucous-winged Gull breed here - this is over 3% of the national population.

Other birds recorded at the site include Peregrine Falcon (subspecies pealei, a nationally vulnerable bird), Bald Eagle, Tufted and Horned puffin, Sooty and Short-tailed shearwater, White-winged Scoter, Harlequin Duck, Marbled Murrelet, three species of cormorants, and a variety of shorebirds.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Black Oystercatcher 1988 - 2020 SU 85 - 158
Cassin's Auklet 1988 SU 45,460
Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel 1988 SU 60,080
Pigeon Guillemot 2018 SP 800
Pigeon Guillemot 1988 - 2020 SU 604 - 1,500
Rhinoceros Auklet 1988 SU 183,280
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
The main potential threats to these islands are from oil spills and other environmental contamination. The area is quite remote so disturbance from boaters is not a great concern. However, increased desire on the part of the adventure tourism industry to reach beyond the normal destinations could result in disturbance in the future.

Two British Columbia Ecological Reserves protect parts of the IBA. Ecological Reserve #23 encompasses South Moore Island, McKenney and Whitmore Islands, while reserve #103 protects Byers, Conroy, Harvey and Sinnett Islands. The boundaries of E.R. #103 includes some of the surrounding marine areas.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
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