Banner Photo: Sunset in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound. (Credit: Rich Duncan)

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.

Below are the health ratings for each article. The health rating for 2017 and 2020 are shown for comparison. A rationale is provided for the 2020 health ratings.

To learn more check out the 2020 Executive Summary or the Full 2020 Report.

Climate Change and Oceanography

Article & 2020 Rating Rationale

2017 Rating

2020 Rating

Climate Change NEW

Climate change is a global issue, not just specific to Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound. The problems facing the Sound are complex and multi-faceted. Globally, there is limited progress to reduce drivers of climate change.

Zero Carbon Communities NEW

Canada is one of the 10 countries responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Not enough is being done to reduce these emissions nationally, or globally. Transforming communities to zero carbon emissions is necessary.

Ocean Warming

Globally, record-breaking temperatures continue to occur, which directly impacts ocean temperatures. Ocean warming is causing ecosystem-wide changes. Data specific to Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound is limited.

Ocean Acidification NEW

Ocean acidification has direct impacts on marine species and habitats. A lack of data exists for Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound, although monitoring is being implemented to address this gap.

Shoreline Erosion/Sea Level Rise

Sea level rise and storm surges will continue to negatively impact shorelines in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound; however, the degree of impact will vary depending on location in the Sound.

Stream Flows

Large interannual variations are observed. A shift in timing of peak flows will have effects on other species.

Squamish Flood Planning

Significant progress has been made on the recommended actions from the 2017 report; however, there is still considerable work to be done, and that relies on funding and implementation continuing.

Species and Habitat

Article & 2020 Rating Rationale

2017 Rating

2020 Rating


No data is presented in this update; however, a pilot plankton study using the same sites as Stockner et al. (1977) was undertaken in summer/fall of 2019, as per recommendations from the 2017 report.

Forage Fish

There is a lack of monitoring and data on forage fish in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/ Howe Sound. Consequently, despite information from citizen scientists, gaps exist; thus, an analysis of trends and population status is not possible.

Sea Stars

For some sea star species, numbers remain low and wasting disease is still observed. However, other species appear relatively common, yet are still susceptible to wasting disease. The risk to these species is likely to increase because of climate change impacts.


There is a lack of comprehensive data or stock assessments for wild salmon species in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound. Status and trends are inconclusive for hatchery species.

Critical Fish Stocks (Previously Rockfish, Lingcod)

No increasing trends have been observed; however, there are some positive signs, such as sightings of schools of juvenile yellowtail rockfish. Improvements are minor or slow; enforcement of rules and laws needs improvement.

Marine Birds

Globally, considerable declines have been observed in marine bird populations due to impacts from climate change and habitat destruction. In the Sound, an Important Bird Area (IBA) was extended; however, the IBA offers no legal protection.


There is considerable annual variation in bald eagle counts, with counts in the last three years being similar to the last ten years, but lower compared to earlier periods.

Pinnipeds NEW

Better management has led to increased numbers since the 1970s, and monitoring continues. However, pressure from climate change will likely impact recovering numbers, and population estimates would benefit from more frequent monitoring.


An increase in large whale numbers and a decrease in small cetacean numbers has been reported. Much forward movement on actions has been taken.


Efforts to restore and transplant eelgrass are ongoing; however, more work is needed as not all transplants are successful.

Glass Sponges

Considerable advances in knowledge have been made; however, glass sponges remain vulnerable to mechanical damage and climate change.


Increases in the number of marine animals but decreases in marine plants and moss animals (bryozoa) have been noted. Ongoing monitoring is needed.

Squamish Estuary

Many positive actions are being taken to repair this critically important habitat; however, monitoring of these efforts is needed to measure their impacts.


Article & 2020 Rating Rationale

2017 Rating

2020 Rating

Sport Fishing

Pressure on fish stocks continues to increase from the rising popularity of sport fishing. There is a lack of monitoring to support stock management and enforcement of regulations.

Shrimp and Prawn Fishery

Stocks have been declining since 2015, resulting in fishery closures. Industry is trying to decrease bycatch mortality.

Clean Water

Article & 2020 Rating Rationale

2017 Rating

2020 Rating

Britannia Mine 

Some improvements have been seen following wastewater treatment; however,exceedances of water quality guidelines are still occurring.

Pulp Mill: Marine Effluent

Dioxin and furan contamination in sediment and benthic life is decreasing followingregulations but is still detected.

Wrecked, abandoned, and problem vessels

The passage of Bill C-64 has increased resources available for removal of vessels; however, this is a complex issue and further refining of legislation is necessary.

PollutionTracker NEW

Dioxin and furan concentrations are high, especially in mussels, when compared with other areas along the B.C. Coast. Metals continue to be detected in sediments, sometimes above sediment quality guidelines.

Plastics NEW

Plastics are ubiquitous in our oceans. However, within the Sound data for plastics and microplastics is lacking.


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.

Sense of Place

Article & 2020 Rating Rationale

2017 Rating

2020 Rating

Citizen Science

There are a large number of citizen science activities in the Sound.

Outdoor Learning

There are a large number of outdoor educational organizations and opportunities in the Sound, with an increasing emphasis on traditional knowledge.

Stewardship and Governance

Article & 2020 Rating Rationale

2017 Rating

2020 Rating

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