Active Pass

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Active Pass is the water body separating Galiano and Mayne Islands in the southwest portion of the Strait of Georgia. It is about 40 km south of Vancouver and 50 km north of Victoria. It is a tidally active body of water about 4.5 km long. The tidal mixing during the floods and ebbs creates a biologically rich feeding area for fish eating birds, mostly during the spring, fall and winter. In addition to birds, Orcas feed and travel occasionally through the pass, and a rich intertidal and subtidal fauna is present.

Key biodiversity
Active Pass is a significant wintering area for at least two species of waterbirds (Pacific Loon and Brandt's Cormorant), and a third during migration (Bonaparte's Gull). Although the overall population of Pacific Loons is poorly known, the 2,000 that regularly occur at the pass during winter compose the largest concentration in the Straits of Georgia, and represent about 2% of the estimated world population. In addition, about 4,000 wintering Brandt's Cormorants have been recorded here. Based on the most recent estimates, this may be as much as 5% of the world's Brandt's Cormorant population. During migration, Bonaparte's Gulls are present in large numbers with about 10,000 (4% of the estimated world's population; possibly as much as 14% of the Pacific flyway population) being present during fall migration, and about 4,000 being present during spring migration. Several pairs of Bald Eagles nest along the shores of the pass, and upwards of 100 eagles occasionally forage in the waters during the winter.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The significance of Active Pass is linked to the rich feeding area that is created by the ebb and flow of the tide through the channel. Threats to the birds utilizing this area are limited primarily to potential oil spills or oil discharges from ship, and possibly excessive disturbance from recreational boaters. Pacific Loons are especially vulnerable during their winter flightless period when they undergo wing moult. The pass is well known to bird watchers because of the accessibility afforded by the hourly passage of ferries between Vancouver and Victoria.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Active Pass. Downloaded from on 04/12/2022.