Banner Photo: Paddleboarders taking advantage of calm waters in the Sound.(Credit: Aroha Miller)

2020 Rating

2020 Rationale

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.

2017 Rating

2017 Rationale

Population growth in Squamish is outpacing the provincial average, and increasing development pressure on coastal areas highlights the need for a coordinated approach to track and manage growth. Potential cumulative impacts to the marine environment are largely unstudied.

The following is an excerpt from the full updated article. Download the full 2020 article for all content and references.

Tourism and Recreation: opportunities and challenges

Author:  Jennifer Chapman, Research Assistant, Ocean Watch, Ocean Wise Research Institute 
Reviewer: Bob Turner, Geoscientist and citizen scientist, Nex̱wlélex̱wem/Bowen Island, Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound

Excerpt from 2020 article

The Lonely Planet travel guide refers to Sḵwx̱wú7mesh/Squamish, at the tip of Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound, as “the perfect perennial playground.” In fact the whole Sea to Sky corridor supports year-round adventures. As the area offers a diverse range of activities from hiking and mountain biking, kayaking, craft beer tasting, eagle viewing and sports fishing, plus other seasonal attractions, the number of visitors to the area increases year after year.

Read the full article to see what else is happening.

Background Photo: Elfin Lakes (credit: Amber Dearden)

What’s been done since 2017?

The table below reports on progress made on recommended actions from the previous 2017 article, where identified. Many of these require ongoing action.

2017 Action Action Taken
Government Action and Policy
Develop and publish a map of sensitive habitat where boat anchoring is prohibited. The David Suzuki Foundation, in collaboration with Ocean Wise, and together with scientists, individuals and government agencies, developed the Atl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound Marine Conservation Assessment online map. This map features more than 140 layers of data, ranging from the biophysical (e.g., hydrology, oceanography) to cultural, ecological and human use (e.g., recreation, economic, proposed use) In addition, the Marine Reference Guide (MRG) is currently under construction. The MRG is an online interactive map that displays spatial data associated with the Sound’s marine environment and watersheds. This will support decision making, marine social planning and community education by allowing the visualization of how ecological and human values interact and overlap.
Develop thresholds or limits for certain activities or areas, along with associated management and regulatory tools. Shannon Basin is in the process of creating a recreation management plan.
Develop and promote regulations and guidelines for safe distances between boaters and other recreationists, wildlife, and sensitive habitats such as the small islets in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound. New regulations as of 2019 outline safe transit distances from cetaceans (more detail here):

  • Boats must stay 400 m away from orcas or killer whales in southern resident killer whale critical habitat.
  • Boats must stay 200 m away from killer whales in other B.C. waters.
  • Boats must stay 100 m from all other cetaceans (e.g., humpback whales, harbor porpoises) in B.C. waters.

What can you do?

A detailed overview of recommended actions relating to climate change is included in The path to zero carbon municipalities. In some cases, no progress was identified on previous recommended actions; these remain listed below. Additional actions marked as NEW also follow.

action-individual Individual and Organization Actions:

    • Encourage your local marina to achieve a Blue Flag designation. Blue Flag is a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education that sets standards for marinas using criteria for water quality, safety, environmental education and general environmental management.
    • Boaters can also fly the Blue Flag on their vessels by taking the Blue Flag Pledge of Conduct, available at the Gibsons Marina. 
    • Encourage your local municipality, regional district, or BC Park to achieve a Blue Flag designation for its beaches. A Blue Flag beach meets criteria for water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety and services. At present, no Howe Sound beaches have been designated. 
    • Protect marine mammals by adhering to guidelines. Report violations of the Be Whale Wise Guidelines in Canada to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 1-800-465-4336. 
    • If you fish, obtain a fishing license. Be informed of fishing regulations and the location of no-fish Rockfish Conservation Areas. Report poaching at: Department of Fisheries and Oceans: Observe, Record, Report (ORR) Line, 1-800-465-4336; Province of B.C.: Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP), 1-877-952-7277 
    • Organizations and societies can keep track of club membership and use of recreational infrastructure or resources to ensure the growth in demand is documented.  
    • Educate yourself on safe boating practices. If you operate a boat, be sure you obtain your B.C. Boat License. 

action-governmentGovernment Action and Policy:

    • Survey existing docks and foreshore structures and enforce related tenure restrictions. 
    • Identify and develop additional marine recreation sites and controlled/managed access points to help address increasing demand. 
    •  Develop and promote regulations and guidelines for safe distances between boaters and other recreationists, wildlife and sensitive habitats, such as the small islets in Howe Sound. 
    • Require sanitary waste pump-out facilities at more marinas and outstations. 
    • Ministry of Forests, when planning forested areas to cut, account for the viewscapes of boaters on the water in the Sound, and hikers on mountain trails or at the gondola, in addition to viewpoints along Highway 99. 
    • Increase monitoring and enforcement on the water in Howe Sound. 
    • Support and encourage volunteer enforcement options including marine and river steward programs. 
    • Develop coastal management policy, legislation and regulations to manage recreational use of Crown lands and the foreshore, and keep the benefits of recreation and tourism sustainable. 
    • NEW Demarcate boundaries where boat/vessel users can anchor to avoid sensitive habitat.
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