Six Problems with Beach Fires in Metchosin

It would be nice if we all were careful, cleaned up after ourselves and were considerate of others and the environment. Unfortunately the annual spring and early summer problem of Fires on Metchosin beaches provides much evidence to the contrary.  Those of us who frequent the area have observed a deterioration in the situation in the last few years on Taylor and Weir’s beach. This spring with the stair access to Wittty’s lagoon cut off and the announcement on local media that beach fires are not allowed in other municipalities but it was still okay  to have them in Metchosin, the problem has reached a tipping point.

Ed Note: Metchosin Council finally banned all beach fires in a meeting in mid-June this year.


The above was just part of last weeks legacy on Taylor Beach:

A quick review of the internet points out that :
Many Pre-2005 pallets have been treated with Methyl Bromide prior to exporting (part of phytosanitary regulations before import/export shipping to reduce risk of importing wood diseases and pests from country to country). The Methyl Bromide treated pallets should be disposed of as hazardous waste since it is dangerous to both people and the environment.  Newer pallets are heat treated, but don’t rule out mildicides ( for fungal inhibition) applied to some pallets.


It saddens us to see people chopping or sawing up  large logs  or dragging them whole onto fires . These logs,  some well over 50 years old provide habitat for beach creatures and being moveable, can absorb wave energy and help to stabilize the backshore from increasing erosion.

Why do people continue to burn driftwood when there is clear evidence that it can produce toxic substances?

This from the EPA in the US:

  • Never burn household garbage or cardboard. Plastics, foam and the colored ink on magazines, boxes, and wrappers produce harmful chemicals when burned.
  • Never burn coated, painted, or pressure-treated wood because it releases toxic chemicals when burned.
  • Never burn ocean driftwood, plywood, particle board, or any wood with glue on or in it. They all release toxic chemicals when burned.
  • Never burn wet, rotted, diseased, or moldy wood.

” The driftwood found on B.C. beaches may seem like an economically attractive heat source. Driftwood, however, is laden with salt, and burning it releases sodium and chlorine ions. The potential exists for these chlorine ions to form chlorinated compounds such as dioxins and furans, which are suspected human carcinogens. They may also corrode your stove and venting system.”

3. THE “I’VE GOT TO HAVE MY OWN PIECE OF THE BEACH” PROBLEM:2015-03-23multiplefirepitsjpg


Why is it not okay to use someone’s old firepit instead of building a new one a few feet away, creating another mess?
Last week I counted 40 old and recent firepits from this season along a stretch of no more than 200 metres of Taylor Beach.






Probably before the end of summer I will get a picture of the melted broken bottles and aluminum beer cans left in fire-pits, but for now this will have to do. The hazard this poses for children and animals is unacceptable. Winter storms will distribute any material left like in mounds and pits  over the beach, posing an unsuspecting hazard.


gf-sandlance-july1320154In the photo below, the darkened sand area, a diameter of around 4 metres or 12 feet , is where there will be complete sterilization of the sand and death of any organisms living within it. Sand is not an inert environment to begin with. It can have a complex ecosystem of  bacteria and invertebrates which contribute to decomposition and nutrient cycling , as well as a habitat for forage fish.



Darkened sand shows area of influence of a beach fire.


Perhaps this is the biggest problem that threatens to have a huge impact on life in Metchosin. The continuity of dry brush and forest from the beaches to backyards is a real threat for wildfires. Fanned by winds, fires that escape or were not completely extinguished and left unattended could cause untold damage to residents and property in the district.

So one shouldn’t complain unless they are prepared to do something about it. Here are my recommendations:
1. Have fires in designated locations only . Why not install a set of  metal container pits for the duration of the fire season, and all wood must be brought to the beach by the fire-maker.. ie no in-situ burning of driftwood (see reasons above)
2. The allowed season for fires must be regulated by conditions not by a  standard date like the start of a certain month.
3. Absolutely no burning of old habitat logs.
4. Absolutely no leaving of trash including bottles or cans in fires..( Pack it in pack it out. )
5. All fires to be extinguished by water. ( Everyone needs a bucket with them.)
6. Make very clear signage at the end of Taylor road… and if necessary for a few weekends have volunteers sit there and hand out information pamphlets on sustainability of the values of the beach.
7. Note that municipalities can regulate: from
8.. As a taxpayer I keep this in the back of my mind:  from the BC Forest Service website :
  • Q: Are people entitled to build fires on the beach?
    A: Yes, people have the right to build fires on the beach as long as they are in compliance with either their local government bylaws or the Wildfire Act & Regulations. If Campfires are restricted in this area, then a beach campfire fire is also prohibited.
  • Q: What are the rules that apply to having a campfire (a half a meter by a half a meter used for recreational or first nation’s ceremonial purposes)?
    A: A person may light, fuel or use a Campfire when:
     the person is not prohibited from doing so under another enactment;
     to do so is safe and is likely to continue to be safe;
     the person establishes a fuel break around the burn area;  while the fire is burning, the person ensures that
     the fuel break is maintained, and
     the fire is watched and patrolled by a person to prevent the escape of fire and the person is equipped with at least o one fire fighting hand tool, or o 8 litres of water in one or more containers;
     before leaving the area, the person ensures that the fire is extinguished.
  • Q: What are some safety guidelines when conducting a beach fire?
    A: Ensure that you comply with regulations and/or bylaws in your area regarding fire size and safety measures. Always check whether there are any bans or restrictions in effect, and pay close attention to wind conditions before lighting a fire. Keep fires at a reasonable distance from flammable materials and never leave them unattended. As hot coals can easily reignite: use water to extinguish the fire and ensure that it is cold to the touch before leaving it unattended.Q: If a fire is started illegally, who is liable for the suppression costs it if it escapes?
    A: If the fire is started within an organized area, costs are assumed by the fire department (local government) and area tax payers. If it is started outside of a fire department’s jurisdiction (crown land), the BC Forest Service responds and assumes costs. If the person who started the fire is caught and found to be in non-compliance with regulations, there are penalties that can be enforced, such as restorative justice, ticketing (fines), cost recovery, or criminal prosecution in serious cases.“Local governments have the power to set bylaws to control (back)yard burning, campfires and beach fires within their boundaries. A growing number of municipalities have passed their own bylaws that ban backyard burning and other kinds of burning. For more information on municipal burning bylaws, see Inventory of Air Quality Bylaws in British Columbia for Anti-Idling, Open Burning and Wood-Burning Appliances (PDF: 1017 KB/197 pages), and Review of Open Burning Bylaws on Vancouver Island (PDF: 150 KB/25 pages).”

Some other references :

BC Govt Regulations:

District of Metchosin Burning Regulations:

Metchosin FIre Department Burning regulations:

Colwood Burning Regulations:

Central Saanich Burning Regulations:

Saanich Beach Fire regulations:

Comox Valley Regional District:

Newport Beach Fire Problems


Herring Spawn Video from Denman Island

Why are BC residents so concerned about what might happen to their coastline from an increase in shipping and oil tankers?

We don’t have a scene like this video portrays in Metchosin, although we do get frenzy feeding by birds and mammals in the fall at Race Rocks but we do have forage fish which live on our beaches and provide year round food for the ecosystem.

Don’t miss this video from Denman Island :

Horses on Taylor Beach


The holes punched out by horses can be up to 25 cm. in depth.

The Metchosin Community has a considerable population of recreational horses. It is accepted that to criticize anything horse-related might not be politically correct in Metchosin.

The pictures included in this post represent an extreme example but they are useful in order to point out the potential environmental impact of this activity. Let alone making it gf-sandlance-july1320154difficult to walk on until the next high tide comes in to smooth it out, the real issue is what is happening to the habitat of the forage fish. Both Pacific Smelt and Sand lance inhabit intertidal zones on Taylor beach. When they spawn, these forage fish deposit eggs  just under the surface of the sand . They are vulnerabale to compaction and excessive drying out before they are carried out by the tide.  Given the lack of protection afforded the habitat of these fish and the over-harvesting in the herring fishery, these essential small fish of the food web are challenged enough already.



Horse hoof punctures in the sand right down in the area where sand lance are depositing their eggs in burrows.


Winter foraging seabirds still off Taylor Beach

On my daily walks on Taylor Beach since the fall, I have noticed that there has been a constant presence of the diving ducks off shore which rely on the forage fish from Taylor Beach.  It will be interesting to see when they depart to go to their nesting grounds, usually to the North on Inland lakes.
Today a common loon, several red-breasted mergansers, buffleheads and surf scoters are still scattered over the waterfront.

No estimate is available on the number of diving birds that winter along the waterfront around the southern end of Vancouver Island depending on forage fish for survival but the sum total would probably be considerable given what we are regularly seeing in this area off Taylor Beach. In our efforts as intervenors on behalf of Friends of Ecological reserves, we have been aware and questioned the importance of the over-wintering population of seabirds in the area which would be severely affected in the event of a catastrophic oil spill.   Unfortunately the level of environmental impact assessment by the pipeline and oil transport company in this area which is a few miles from the intended vessel traffic lane does not exist.

In our recent Round 2  intormation requests , we tried to get KM/ Trans Mountain to acknowledge the importance of modelling a spill of their toxic diluted bitumin off Victoria. They have refused to do so so far .

SInce Taylor beach is a spawning beach for two forage fish, Pacific Smelt and sand lance  which provide food for these marine birds, one might reflect on the way we humans use and abuse the beach, the habitat of the forage fish. Numerous randomly placed beach fires  and  horse traffic which punches up the beach  are concerns which should be addressed in Metchosin .


Liparidae ( snail fish) today on Taylor Beach

My dog led me to this very unusual fish washed up on the shore today, Nov. 12 -2014.  There was a brisk cold wind blowing from the North east, with a two-foot chop.

I am posting it here to try to get it identified.
Possibilities here on Fishbase


Note sucker on ventral side


very small eyes indicating it may be an abyssal species.


lateral view of unidentified fish species G. Fletcher photos


Length 24 cm.


Family Liparidae



Liparidae ventral view

A good suggestion has been made by Rick Harbo that it is a snail fish (Liparidae)
From Fishbase:

Deep fin  Classification :Osteichthyes | Actinopterygii | Actinopteri | Neopterygii | Teleostei | Osteoglossocephalai | Clupeocephala | Euteleosteomorpha | Neoteleostei | Eurypterygia | Ctenosquamata | Acanthomorphata | Euacanthomorphacea | Percomorphaceae | Percomorpharia | Perciformes | Cottoidei | Liparidae

Also From Fishbase:
“Liparidae – (Snailfishes)
Distribution: Arctic to Antarctic, Atlantic, and Pacific. Body elongate, scaleless (small prickles in some) and skin jellylike; dorsal fin (28-82 soft rays) and anal fin (24-76 soft rays) long, confluent, or nearly so with caudal fin; pelvic fin (disc) absent in species of Paraliparis and in the monotypic Nectoliparis; nostrils single or paired (usually in Liparis); vertebrae 38-86. Maximum length about 50 cm. Occur from tidepools to depths of over 7,000 m.”

Below: I took this image in late November of a red-breasted merganser female eating what may be one of these fish. I am not sure if she actually got it down whole!


Shiner Perch, Cymatogaster aggregata on the beach

This Shiner Perch, Cymatogaster aggregata was at the water’s edge on Taylor Beach this morning. Cause of death is unknown. They are often found along our coast in shallow waters, and eel-grass communities, and serve as important forage fish, especially as juveniles.

Classification from Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: April 2013
Cymatogaster aggregata Gibbons, 1854

Ammodytes hexapterus -Pacific Sand Lance spawning at Taylor Beach


Sand lance and ruler in centimetres


Sandbar at the North end of Taylor Beach

This morning with the extreme low tide, (tonight is the full moon)  the small sandbar off the north end of Taylor beach was exposed for a few hours. As the tide came back in, a crow and a glaucous winged-gull were patrolling the area and picking up sandlance as they emerged from the sand, flipped around a few times and then died.  In 15 minutes walking  back and forth along the 40 metre stretch of the sandbar, I picked up 15 of the dead sandlance, forage fish. Several that were still active were returned to the water where they died within a few minutes.  Perhaps this a solution–  having  direct predation as soon as they emerge from their sand burrows in order to prevent  fouling of the beach..

Species recognized by IRMNG:

Kingdom: Animalia +
Phylum: Chordata
Class : Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Ammodytidae
Genus: Ammodytes Linnaeus, 1758
Species: hexapterus