Howe Sound showing recovery, Vancouver Aquarium report finds
Howe Sound showing recovery, Vancouver Aquarium report finds

Howe Sound showing recovery, Vancouver Aquarium report finds

After being deemed one of the most polluted areas of Howe Sound, aquatic life has started to return to the waters around the old Britannia Mine site. But despite ongoing remediation efforts at the site, metals continue to leach from unknown sources.

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute (CORI) said pollutants from the old Britannia Mine still linger in the area.

“Howe Sound is a rare gift; a wild place adjacent to a major city that, despite extensive industry, is beginning to flourish once again,” said Dr. Andrew Day, executive director of the Institute. “We must take steps to protect and rebuild it. Our new Ocean Watch report pulls together research focused on multiple aspects of ocean health in Howe Sound and provides crucial information to guide decisions as the area grows and changes.”

Other key findings include:

1. Cetacean counts are increasing. In 2015, the B.C. Cetaceans Sightings Network received 141 reports from 100 volunteer observers in Howe Sound. These are the highest numbers recorded since 2003, when efforts began in earnest.

2. Coastal development is on the rise. We see evidence in large residential and industrial development proposals, shoreline modifications, a population growth rate of 15% in the District of Squamish, and a nearly 40% increase in traffic along the sea-to-sky highway since 2010.

3. Despite being home to some of the most sensitive and unique habitats along the BC coast, including 16 recently located glass sponge reefs, less than one percent of the marine area of Howe Sound is in a designated Protected Area.

4. Most of the species and habitats we researched are in trouble. Nearly half are rated critical according to our snapshot criteria, while the other half are lacking data, show low abundance, require restoration, and remain unprotected.

CORI was established by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre to measure and monitor the health of coastal ecosystems, and to produce and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding about Canada’s west coast. Ocean Watch will do just that – the Howe Sound edition is the first in an annual series covering the B.C. coast. CORI’s seven reporting themes go beyond just biology; they touch on ecological, socioeconomic, cultural, and governance aspects of ecosystem health. The full report, with summaries and PDFs of each article, is available at

The Report includes an Action Plan highlighting steps to advance Howe Sound’s recovery. Chief Bill Williams of the Squamish Nation; Patricia Heintzman, Mayor of Squamish; Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy; and the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, were all present at the report launch last night to state their government’s commitments to the Action Plan. Minister LeBlanc also announced funding to address pollution in B.C. and the Arctic, as well as new measures regarding underwater noise and recovery of southern resident killer whales.


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