IBA Skincuttle Inlet Islands
Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
Site Summary
BC138 Latitude
52.361° N
131.197° W
0 - 30 m
155.83 km²
coniferous forest (boreal/alpine), open sea, coastal cliffs/rocky shores (marine)
Land Use:
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Introduced species, Oil slicks
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Colonial Waterbirds/Seabird Concentrations, Continentally Significant: Congregatory Species, Nationally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status: National Park
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Site Description
Skincuttle Inlet is located within Haida Gwaii, just to the east of Moresby Island and south of Burnaby Island. Within the inlet, a chain of islands extends in an easterly direction from the sheltered water at the south end of Burnaby Island to the open exposed waters of Hecate Strait. These low lying islands, which include Bolkus, Rock, Skincuttle, George, Jeffrey, East Copper, and other small unnamed islets, are characterized by rocky shorelines with occasional "pocket" beaches. They are forested with a typical mix of Sitka Spruce, Western Red-cedar, and Western Hemlock. At some locations there are extensive areas of young growth where windfalls have occurred. The ground cover on the larger islands is composed primarily of moss and bare litter, with scattered patches of elderberry, huckleberry and salmonberry being interspersed, and some areas of thick salal being present along the exposed shorelines.
Both Ancient Murrelets and Cassin's Auklets are present at this site in globally significant numbers. Surveys conducted in the mid-1980s yielded an estimate of 29,100 pairs of Ancient Murrelets (as much as 5.8% of the estimated global and 11% of the estimated national population), that nested primarily on George and Bolkus Islands. A more recent survey of George Island (1996) resulted in an even higher population estimate for the Ancient Murrelet colony. The Skincuttle Inlet Islands also supports 26,560 pairs of Cassin's Auklets (about 1.5% of the estimated global, and almost 2% of the estimated Canadian population) with the highest nesting concentrations occurring on East Copper Island.

Four additional species of birds are present in nationally significant numbers: Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels (at least 2.5% of the estimated national population); Leach's Storm-Petrels (at least 2.2% of the Canadian eastern Pacific population); Black Oystercatchers (about 2.6% of the national population); and Pigeon Guillemots (over 1% of the estimated national population). Other seabirds nesting in the area include Glaucous-winged Gulls (252 pairs), whose numbers approach that of national significance, and Rhinoceros Auklets. Bald Eagles nest on most of the islands and Peregrine Falcons (ssp. pealei) are recorded in the area. The waters of Skincuttle Inlet, particularly on the south side of the island chain and extending eastwards into Hecate Strait, is an area of particular importance to Ancient Murrelets as a staging area during the breeding season.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Ancient Murrelet 1985 - 1996 SU 58,200 - 70,300
Cassin's Auklet 1985 SU 53,120
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 greatest threat to the seabird colonies is the spread of introduced predators (raccoons) from nearby Moresby Island. As recently as 1960, two small islets near the head of the inlet (Sea Pigeon and Boulder Islands) supported small but thriving Ancient Murrelet colonies. By 1971, however, these colonies no longer existed, most likely due to depredation following the arrival of raccoons from the adjacent mainland shores of Moresby Island. By 1985 raccoons had become abundant on both islets. Additional threats to the nesting seabirds are from potential oil spills, and possible disturbance from boaters and other visitors to Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. The storm-petrel colonies on Rock and Skincuttle Islands are particularly sensitive to human intrusion.

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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