Coastal Development and Livelihoods
B.C.’s coastal communities are often caught in a balancing act between economic prosperity and environmental stewardship. As more people flock to B.C.’s coast, development in housing stock, infrastructure and industry is increasing pressure on the natural world. Yet the impacts are not all negative. The economic boost from development is bringing much-need income to coastal communities – many of which have lower median incomes and higher unemployment than the provincial average – and improving economic outlooks and overall wellbeing.
Industries like fishing and seafood production, central to life on the coast, are also in the midst of massive change, with the number of jobs available in decline as commercial fisheries shrink to comply with sustainability targets. But easing pressure on the environment does not necessarily lead to economic hardship. Sustainably managed wild fisheries can provide a source of high-quality, stable employment, while jobs related to sport fishing continue to increase.
However, far from land, human development is affecting life under the water’s surface, as underwater noise from ship traffic, industrial activity and recreation increases in intensity. The noise from human activity can spread far and wide underwater, affecting the breeding, communication, and migration patterns of whales, dolphins and other marine animals. As more research is being done on the impact of underwater noise, policies and strategies are starting to emerge to lessen the sonic impact of human activity – and help us live in harmony with the natural world.
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.
Coastal Development and Livelihoods
Population & Major Projects
B.C.’s growing population is increasing development pressure along B.C.’s coastline, particularly in the province’s more densely populated south. This growth is highlighting the need for a cohesive system of tracking the cumulative effects of development – both positive and negative – in coastal communities.
Income & Employment
With few exceptions, incomes in coastal B.C. are lower than the provincial average, while the percentage of low-income residents and unemployment is higher. These indicators suggest large parts of coastal B.C. may be struggling economically, leading to possible negative effects on health and wellbeing.
Underwater noise from shipping, construction, recreation and shoreline development has been doubling in intensity every decade since the 1950s. This is having a marked impact on whales and other marine life as noise from ship traffic, recreation and industry impedes their ability to hunt, communicate, rest and breed.
Seafood industry jobs
Jobs related to seafood production have been on the decline in coastal communities since 1984, but these numbers don’t tell the entire story. Fewer registered fishing vessels and licences are associated with commercial fisheries today, but benefits such as greater diversity in catch, improved sustainability, and increasing opportunities for stable employment have emerged in exchange.