The rugged and remote Esperanza and Nuchatlitz Inlets, including the finger inlets that branch off from them (Port Elize, Espinosa Inlet, Zeballos Inlet) were gouged out by glaciers during the last ice age, and are extremely remote and sparsely populated. Wind is extreme in this environment and, in combination with abundant salt-spray, limits tree growth. This coastline is known for it's ocean swells as the Pacific rolls in all the way from Japan, extensive outer reef systems, and long expanses of pristine beaches. Marine wildlife in the area includes killer whales, migrating gray whales, seals, porpoises and sea otters.
Muchalat, Tlupana and Tahsis Inlets are deep water channels which intertwine through the Bligh Island archipelago where water depths are much shallower. Water temperatures in the Sound are relatively warm in the summer due to localized solar heating and a slow exchange of inlet waters. Prevailing summer northwest winds, daytime sea breeze and the relatively brackish Vancouver Island coastal current tend to retard the estuarine outflow at its mouth.
The Nootka region has an extensive area of marine shoreline, reefs and islets providing habitat for BC’s recovering sea otter population. The waters off Nuchatlitz Nootka Island comprise the largest sea otter population in the world. Spring Island has important populations of sea otters moving out from adjacent Checkleset Bay Ecological Reserve. This habitat also features high capability shellfish aquaculture beaches and reaches. Nootka region contains a major gray whale migration route at 1.5 to 2.5 km offshore, and resident pods of orcas (16-170) also transit this area.
The estuaries of Burman, Leiner, Gold, Tahsis, Sucwoa, Conuma and Tlupana rivers are particularly important areas for wintering waterfowl. Escalante Point is an important marine mammal area, as are the seal haul-outs in Bligh Island Park and Savaedra Islands of the Spanish Pilot group.
The Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management has identified the following primary values for Special Management Zones within the Nootka Region:
- protection of populations and habitat of endangered/threatened species (e.g., sea otters)
- protection of coastal wildlife and fish habitats
- maintenance of visual quality, as visible from coastal areas
- maintenance of coastal and upland recreation values and opportunities
- protection of archaeological resources
Habitat issues for the inland areas of the Nootka region center around protection of old growth biodiversity, restoration of spawning stream habitat, maintenance of visual qualities associated with access corridors and recreation sites, and protection and development of recreation values/opportunities in association with lakes.