Indigenous Guardian Program Spotlight - Ahousaht Stewardship Guardian Program

Ahousaht Guardians conducting sea lice surveys. Photo Credit: Danny O'Farrell

This spring the Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society (MHSS) re-invigorated their Indigenous Guardian program, hiring a program manager and two Guardians to conduct on-going monitoring and restoration activities throughout Ahousaht Hahoulthee (traditional territorial lands, waters, and resources) on behalf of the Ahousaht Hereditary Chiefs.

During the summer of 2021, the Ahousaht Stewardship Guardian Program undertook a variety of stewardship activities. From collaborating with Central West Coast Forest Society—who Guardian Program Manager, Danny O’Farrell, notes has been one of Ahousaht Guardian’s biggest supporters and instrumental in securing funding on numerous projects; monitoring the impact of sea lice on wild fish in collaboration with Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council (NTC) and Cedar Coast Field Station; to working with the Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society to survey the rebounding sea star population, Ahousaht Guardians have been incredibly busy.

Ahousaht Guardians have also been doing regular patrols of the territory, and collecting a newly instated voluntary stewardship fee from guides and tourists who use and benefit from Ahousaht traditional territory.

Byron [Charlie] counting salvaged fish
Byron [Charlie] counting the number of salvaged fish from an isolated pool along the Bedwell River due to increased drought conditions. Photo Credit: Danny O'Farrell.

Ahousaht Guardians have also taken on 4 river restoration projects this summer with incredible results. In restoring Anderson Creek, Ahousaht Guardians built new riffles, pools, and spawning platforms. Byron Charlie, in his first season as a Guardian, noted that even he was surprised by how well the restoration project had gone!

“I had no faith [at first] when we fixed that thing up. But from how it was to how things are now—it’s a million times better.”

Anderson Creek before restoration
Anderson Creek before restoration. Photo Credit: Danny O'Farrell

O’Farrell agreed that while the restoration task seemed insurmountable at first, the work quickly showed exciting results.

“The river [originally] looked like a bomb went off. We planned two weeks for the project, and it took 3-4 days. Two weeks later there’s already fish using the habitat we created.”

Anderson Creek after restoration
Anderson Creek after restoration. Photo Credit: Danny O'Farrell

As the Anderson Creek project was completed much faster than expected, Ahousaht Guardians were able to redirect remaining funds towards additional projects such as restoring Bedwell Creek, enabling Guardians to save and relocate 1,000 Coho fry from pools that had become disconnected from the rest of the river system—a highlight for everyone involved.

To learn more about the MHSS and the Ahousaht Stewardship Guardian Program check out their profile on the Indigenous Guardians Toolkit Map, the MHSS website, and Facebook.