Banner Photo Credit: Jenn Burt

Sense of Place and Wellbeing


For generations, life in B.C.’s coastal communities has revolved around the rhythms and cycles of the sea. But increasingly, global shifts in population and economic prosperity are changing life for coastal residents, with profound impacts on health, wellbeing and livelihoods.

B.C.’s population continues to grow each year, with the vast majority of residents living near the sea. But uneven growth is changing the character of coastal cities and towns, with many northern communities shrinking – and losing access to services, jobs and community supports – while those in the south grapple with the pressures of increasing populations. At the same time, income disparity – the gap between the rich and the poor – is growing throughout the province with some coastal communities particularly affected as jobs in core industries like fishing and shellfish harvesting continue to decline.

Yet in the face of all this change, coastal peoples continue to find a sense of place and community through their connection with the natural world. Sustainably managed wild fisheries are recognized in some smaller communities as important pillars of society, with benefits that reach far beyond the economy. As fishing continues to evolve, it remains an important source of income for local residents, but more than that it provides a vehicle for cultural, intergenerational, and spiritual connection. Meanwhile, participation in conservation organizations is growing all along the coast, with citizen scientists dedicating thousands of hours toward monitoring the health of coastal ecosystems – and in the process building a robust culture of stewardship and connection to the environment and each other.

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

Population Profile

Coastal regions account for nearly three-quarters of British Columbia’s growing population, but uneven distribution impacts living standards on the coast. While some coastal communities are growing, others are shrinking, and yet many shoulder high rates of dependent populations — children and the elderly —compared to those of working age.

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Citizen Participation


Participation in volunteer conservation groups is growing throughout B.C., adding valuable human power to citizen science initiatives. In addition to providing crucial data used to monitor the health of coastal ecosystems, citizen science initiatives also create strong community ties that boost overall wellbeing for participants.

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Pacific Marine Life Surveys


What started as underwater observations by a local marine naturalist has turned into a growing taxonomy of nearshore species in the Pacific region. To date, information from nearly 5,000 dives in 1,200 locations has created a searchable database that has become a critical tool in monitoring the biodiversity of B.C.’s coast.

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FIshing and Sense of Place

The benefits of the fishing industry in coastal communities go far beyond the economy. Fishing, particularly in smaller communities, promotes strong cultural ties, intergenerational exchange and deeper community trust, however recent changes in the industry may be threatening these intangible benefits.

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Income Disparity and Wellbeing

Income inequality has been on the rise throughout Canada for decades, a troubling trend linked to poorer health and wellbeing outcomes. B.C. experiences a higher rate of income disparity than the national average, with some coastal communities particularly affected.

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