An unleashed dog runs freely on White Rock’s beach Monday afternoon. B.C. conservation officers have begun issuing tickets instead of warnings for the infraction. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Conservation officers begin ticketing off-leash dog owners on White Rock’s beach

Officer vows more patrols of beach

Conservation officers have started to dole out tickets to dog owners who aren’t keeping their pets leashed on White Rock’s beach.

This past weekend, B.C. Conservation Officers issued five tickets to people with off-leash dogs on the White Rock foreshore.

“It was like a war zone out there with so many off-leash dogs,” conservation officer Alicia Stark told Peace Arch News Tuesday morning.

White Rock’s foreshore, which falls under provincial jurisdiction, is within the Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

Last year, the province amended a section in the WMA and installed signs at the beach to let the public know that off-leash dogs are prohibited, but leashed dogs are allowed.

“At the beginning there wasn’t great signage up, so we wanted to make sure that better signs went up before we started ticketing people. The signage now, that they have, is extremely clear and states that dogs need to be on leash,” Stark said.

Stark said conservation officers will be “amping up” patrols of the beach.

“Especially with what we saw last week, there was so many dogs off leash. It definitely showed us that we definitely need to be there more.”

RELATED: Leashed dogs allowed on White Rock’s beach

Stark encouraged the public to report off-leash dogs and other natural resource violations in the WMA to the 24-hour Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.

“We’re receiving lots of calls. The calls were daily, for the first while, but they slowed down a bit. We’re still receiving calls reporting off-leash sightings in these areas. So it’s showing us that we still need a presence down there.”

The purpose of a WMA is to manage important habitat for the benefit of regionally or internationally significant fish and wildlife species. According to information provided by the province, the Boundary Bay WMA is a “vital link” in the Pacific Flyway, supporting more than 1.5 million birds from three continents and 20 countries.

Provincial regulations state that dogs in the Boundary Bay WMA must be on a leash no longer than two metres. A violation ticket comes with a $115 fine.

“Water quality in Boundary Bay is a significant issue, particularly to Semiahmoo First Nation. Poor water quality in the bay has caused DFO to close the shellfish harvest,” South Coast Conservation Land Management Program co-ordinator Eric Balke wrote to Peace Arch News.

“However, Semiahmoo First Nation regards shellfish harvest in the bay as an extremely important activity for their community. Dog feces that are left in the foreshore and WMA contribute to water quality degradation in Boundary Bay.”

Environment Canada research scientist Sean Boyd studied the impact dogs have on migratory birds in the Parksville-Qualicum WMA. In his study, body fat API (abdominal profile index) of Brant geese during spring-staging on the beach declined from a high value in 1999 to zero in 2004.

In 2004, new regulations prohibited dogs from the beach for two months during spring migration, but the regulations were not fully adhered to until about 2006, Boyd told PAN via email.

“During the next few years Brant API increased back to the 1999 level and so did the number of goose-days, suggesting a correlation between the conservation measures and Brant migration ecology,” Boyd wrote. “There is no question that dogs off-leash on the (White Rock) beach disturb birds like gulls, herons, ducks and shorebirds… I’ve seen it lots of time. Very few Brant use the (White Rock) beaches during winter and/or spring now-a-days and one has to wonder if that is due to the fact that dogs have been allowed to run freely for years.”

RELATED: Dogs now allowed on White Rock’s promenade

This winter, there have been more dogs on the waterfront due to the City of White Rock’s controversial Dogs on the Promenade pilot project. The project allows leashed dogs on the promenade between Oct. 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020.

Last month, Kristjanson told PAN the city’s Dogs on the Promenade Task Force is gathering data to draft a recommendation to council.

The task force has until the end of April to make that recommendation, he added.

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