Banner Photo: Howe Sound sunset (Credit: Rich Duncan)


The beauty and accessibility of Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound continues to draw increasing numbers of visitors and residents alike. While this gives a significant boost to the local economy, it also results in a need for increased housing and infrastructure, and often creates competition for access to recreational resources.

To keep up with demand, a number of construction projects (residential, commercial and industrial) are taking place within communities around the Sound, some directly on shorelines. Provincial and regional parks generally saw increases in visitation since the last report, as did some tourist attractions. However, other attractions, specifically the Sea to Sky Gondola, encountered serious challenges due to vandalism. There was growth in the number of passengers and vehicles transported by BC Ferries, as well as continued use of water taxis.

While ferries are a key transport infrastructure, there are also other large vessels (greater than 20 m in length) using the waters. While large vessel traffic to the Port Mellon pulp and paper mill and Squamish Terminals has not increased, if the industrial development projects proposed for the Sound come to fruition, then an increase in large vessel movement is unavoidable.

However, there is a downside to this growth that cannot be ignored. Maintaining a healthy, sustainable economy is intrinsically linked to a healthy marine environment and actions are needed to successfully manage and balance this growth. Supporting the Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region Initiative, undertaking cumulative effect assessments, and integrating conservation tools, such as the Marine Reference Guide and the Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound marine conservation assessment map, into decision making, are all steps in the right direction to balance sustainable growth and ecological health.

Ocean Watch Rating Legend

Ratings are meant to provide the reader with a visual snapshot summary about the subject.  Subject ratings were assigned 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.

Development Ratings

Article & 2020 Rating Rationale

2017 Rating

2020 Rating

Coastal Development

With rapid growth occurring in the region, and subsequent development, sustainable management is key.

Large Vessel Traffic

The volume of large vessel traffic has not changed significantly. However, not all shipping traffic is represented. Risks from vessel traffic continue. Future development may increase vessel numbers. Efforts are being taken to decrease impacts on cetaceans.

Tourism and Recreation

Demands for activities and resources is high, creating pressure on ecosystems, and there is no sign of growth slowing. This growth requires sustainable management, and there is movement towards this, but more needs to be done.

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