Clam GardensBy Judith Williams. Transmontanus/New Star Books, 127 pp, $19, softcover. Basking SharksBy Scott Wallace and Brian Gisborne.Transmontanus/New Star Books, 92 pp, $19, softcover. Scarred by glacial ice, scorched by volcanic fire, and marked by a hundred different microclimates, the B.C. coast remains one of the wildest and most complex ecosystems on our planet. One of the least understood, too: even our iconic fish and long-time economic engine, the salmon, has yet to reveal all its secrets. As for the lowly clam and the enigmatic basking shark, they’ve largely gone uncelebrated—until now. These latest offerings from Straight columnist Terry Glavin’s Transmontanus imprint work together to paint an almost stereotypical portrait of Northwest Coast history: in Judith Williams’s Clam Gardens: Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada’s West Coast, First Nations people tread lightly while pioneering a sustainable shellfish harvest, and in Basking Sharks: The Slaughter of BC’s Gentle Giants, greedy European immigrants extirpate a rare and harmless species of charismatic megafauna. In both cases, however, the stereotypes ring true. Clam Gardens is perhaps the better and more significant of these slim volumes. Blending first-person observation and diligent research, Williams makes the case that the population of Desolation Sound and the Broughton Archipelago sustained itself largely through the cultivation of cockles, butter clams, and littlenecks, farming the foreshore in much the same way that Irish crofters might raise potatoes. Native elders and venerable settlers lead her to a variety of sites that have been cleared of stones to make ideal shellfish beds; 200 years after smallpox decimated B.C.’s Native communities, these sites are still markedly more productive than ordinary beaches. Williams’s research makes us reconsider the older stereotype of Natives as hardscrabble hunter-gatherers; the shellfish economy implies a high degree of settlement and sophistication, which in turn feeds into the ongoing issue of Native land claims: if clam gardens prove First Nations occupation of valuable waterfront, the effect on land-claim settlements will be significant. Basking Sharks is a shorter and sadder undertaking. In just 70 pages and a series of appendixes, Scott Wallace and Brian Gisborne outline the brief, brutal, and entirely one-sided war between the world’s second-largest fish and the federal Department of Fisheries. The basking shark, an immense filter feeder that’s more whale than Great White, was once abundant in these waters, but between bounty hunters and a Fisheries patrol boat outfitted with a razor-sharp battering ram, hundreds were killed following the Second World War. Only a handful have been seen in the past three decades. Like Clam Gardens, Basking Sharks is just the first chapter in what could well become a larger story. It would be interesting to know more about Native interactions with these gigantic fish, and whether their disappearance was due entirely to the slaughter or exacerbated by changes in the marine environment. Might the basking shark return? Wallace and Gisborne hold out little hope, but if it does, it will need to be husbanded as carefully as the rich clam farms of the precontact coast.