Stewardship and Governance

After decades of environmental degradation due to industrial use, overfishing and development, the ecological value of Howe Sound is gaining recognition among regulators and policy-makers — as is the need to protect it.

A growing effort to establish and expand marine protected areas within Howe Sound has had some success, most notably in the 2016 expansion of the Halkett Bay Marine Park, which includes critical habitat for fragile glass sponge reefs. Recent court decisions have also defined the rights and title of Indigenous communities, which gives added legal weight to the Squamish Nation’s traditional role as stewards of the land as well as its plans — currently in development — for marine use planning throughout their traditional territories.

Yet Howe Sound lacks a clear leader in developing a comprehensive, region-wide plan to manage growth and protect its ecology. Despite understanding that such a strategy is needed, jurisdiction over the region continues to be fragmented, with various municipalities, First Nations, government bodies and special interest groups bringing competing interests to the table and, in some cases, opposing points of view. Resulting gaps in the framework have left large swaths of the marine environment unprotected and unmonitored and the region without a clear set of objectives to ensure responsible development, track environmental health, and mitigate increased pressure from population growth, climate change and recreational and industrial use.

Ocean Watch Rating Legend

Ratings are meant to provide the reader with a visual snapshot summary about the subject.  Subject ratings were assigned by the Coastal Ocean Research Institute based on application of the criteria to the information in each article.

1) The status is healthy according to available data, 2) the trend is positive if known, 3) some data are available, and/or 4) actions to address or mitigate are well underway and are known to be effective. Actions should be taken to maintain positive status and/or trend.

Status, trend, data, and/or actions provide contradictory or inconclusive information. Actions are needed to move into positive status and trend and avoid negative status and trend.

1) Impacts or issues are high risk or have resulted in a low or vulnerable status, 2) improvements are uncertain, minor, or slow, and/or 3) actions to address or mitigate are non-existent, vague, or have low effectiveness. Actions are needed to move into positive status and trend.

Not rated due to the nature of the article, or there are not enough data to produce an assessment.

Snapshot Assessment

Sense of Place and Wellbeing

Squamish Nation Stewardship

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As courts continue to define the rights and title of Indigenous people, the Squamish Nation has emerged as a powerful voice in determining land-use planning and development in Howe Sound. (Assessment is not appropriate due to the nature of the subject).

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Marine Protected Areas

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A recent expansion of Halkett Bay Marine Park is an example of a growing effort to protect marine areas, yet less than one percent of Howe Sound is protected under provincial legislation. Interest in improving protection status is high and efforts are ongoing.

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Comprehensive Planning

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Despite consensus that Howe Sound needs a comprehensive plan to direct stewardship and growth, efforts to establish such a strategy continue to be hampered by competing jurisdictions, a fragmented regulatory framework and the absence of agreement on the process and leadership. Howe Sound remains vulnerable without coordinated action.

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