What are pocket beaches?
Pocket beaches are small beaches, less than one kilometre long, that are formed between headlands in coves of rocky shorelines. They can be composed of a mix of boulders, pebbles, sand and mud and therefore have the attributes of a combination of shoreline types. Pocket beaches provide isolated habitats for a variety of plants and animals.
Where are pocket beaches found around Victoria?
Among the main urban harbours of Victoria, pocket beaches are found in the following locations:
- In Esquimalt Harbour, below Fort Rodd Hill, north of F and G jetties on DND land, at Patterson Point, at Limekiln Cove and Tovey Bay.
- In Victoria Harbour, at Lime Bay, which used to be a log storage site for a nearby saw mill, and adjacent to the Ocean Point Hotel.
- In the Gorge Waterway, north of the Point Ellice bridge, along the south shore of the Selkirk Water, and south of Aaron Point.
- In Portage Inlet, at various locations.
Many other pocket beaches existed in the past but were filled in for development, for example in the area of the graving docks on DND land.
How are pocket beaches formed / shaped?
Pocket beaches are formed when material from adjacent headlands and bluffs is eroded by wave action, and transported by waves and currents. Due to refraction, waves converge on headlands, causing erosion, and diverge in coves, causing deposition of sediment (see waves). The shape of pocket beaches is determined by the form of the surrounding bedrock. The forces of waves, currents and tides determine the type and amount of sediment deposited.
What lives in pocket beaches?
Pocket beaches support diverse habitats that vary from one location to another.
- In rocky areas, communities are similar to those of rocky shorelines, and include kelp, red algae, mussels, snails, limpets, sandpipers and oyster catchers.
- Sandy areas consist mostly of burrowing animals, as in sand/gravel shorelines, for example clams, cockles, worms, amphipods, as well as foraging birds.
- The subtidal zone (below the low tide line) may include sand/mud substrate that supports eelgrass. Kelp beds are common on harder substrates. Many types of fish and invertebrates live within these plant communities, and are preyed upon by river otters and harbour seals.
Why are pocket beaches important?
Pocket beaches provide variation in the landscape and contribute to biodiversity in the marine environment since they contain a variety of habitats. Since they are often not recognized as assets, they are particularly vulnerable to being lost to shoreline development.
What threatens pocket beaches?
Since pocket beaches are often anomalies in otherwise rocky shorelines, they are prone to being filled in to provide more area for development.
Hardening of the shoreline, with seawalls and other reinforcement, can reduce the amount of sediment available to replenish pocket beaches. In such a case, all the small sediment will eventually be washed out to sea. The sediment source of a particular pocket beach may not be readily apparent, since sediment can be transported along the shoreline for some distance.
Rising sea level as a consequence of climate change could wipe out many pocket beaches.
Sediment and pollution can enter the marine environment, from runoff in the watershed, causing damage to marine plants and animals. Types of pollution include: pesticides and fertilizers from farms and gardens; oils and heavy metals washed off roads by rainwater; soaps and hazardous chemicals disposed of in storm drains or household sinks/toilets.
How can I help protect pocket beaches?
For information on protecting pocket beaches, please visit our How Can I Help section.
Also see the Stewardship Centre for BC