Banner Photo Credit: Tracey Saxby
The British Columbia coast hosts a diverse human population and several distinct ecological regions, each with unique characteristics. Socio-economic conditions along much of the coast have changed significantly over the last few decades, and ecological systems are now facing emerging issues, such as climate change. This report touches on emerging threats, highlights a few unhealthy trends, and acknowledges areas of positive action and change. Here, we summarize reported-on trends, positive and negative, that are influencing the state of B.C.’s coastal ecosystems. Further, we share ideas for actions that we can all take to reverse the negative and bolster the positive. The bottom line is — we are all connected to the ocean.
Unhealthy status and trends
- Recovery from depletion is prolonged due to continued harvest of some fish species.
- The increasing volume of underwater noise is a clear threat to endangered marine mammals.
- Some contamination introduced in past decades still lingers and new pollutants pose emerging concerns.
- Economic indicators suggest that coastal areas of B.C. are less prosperous and have fewer employment opportunities than the provincial average. Household income in coastal areas is below the provincial median and unemployment is higher, except in the more populated south coast
- Income disparity is increasing throughout the province, emphasizing that not all citizens benefit from growth in GDP, or traditional economic prosperity.
- Commercial fishing quota prices and quota lease prices are increasing rapidly.
- Employment is falling in the seafood production sector.
Patterns that generate concern or uncertainty
- Changing weather patterns, warming seas, and rising seas mean changing conditions. Sea star recovery is spotty and uncertain. Coastal waterbird declines may be a warning sign that favourable conditions for these species are shifting.
- Humpbacks, no longer hunted, are returning to the Salish Sea to face new threats, such as ship-strike or entanglement.
- Biodiversity needs room to thrive without anthropogenic threat.
- Coastal developments, whether it be expansion of human population centres or commercial, industrial, and residential construction, are not equally dispersed along the coast. Neither are areas set aside to mitigate threats and to protect natural ecosystems. Costs — such as threats to the environment —, economic benefits, and clusters of marine protected areas are concentrated in some areas more than in others. Without integrated planning, can we know this is the healthiest arrangement?
- Limiting the study area for socio-economic indicators to truly coastal communities — those in close proximity to the marine environment — is not supported by publicly available census data.
Positive trends to encourage and foster
- Increasing focus on designating areas to protect species and habitats from threats, resulting in more Marine Protected Areas.
- Increasing co-management and collaboration among governments.
- Increasing awareness and recognition of First Nations’ rights and title and the importance of reconciliation.
- Increasing participation in citizen science, monitoring, stewardship, and conservation initiatives, as these activities increase individuals’ ecological knowledge, boost wellbeing, and foster a positive sense of place.
- Increasing seafood production — kept within ecologically sustainable limits.
- Increasing sustainable seafood choices and increasing access to those choices.
- Monitoring of plankton blooms, and other sea life, all along the coast.
- Ongoing monitoring of seabirds, marine mammals, sediments and mussels for contaminant levels and emerging threats.