(Map: Howe Sound/Átl’?a7tsem Marine Reference Guide)
For Beaty and her team, the project is three years in the making.
“It started when local governments in the area realized that they needed a tool to help them bridge the gap between their jurisdictions,” says Beaty. “A tool that was centralized and would strengthen their ability to manage and mitigate the many pressures that impact [the waterway].”
Some of these pressures include climate change, shipping, resource extraction, recreation and coastal development. All of which will impact the 650 different species living in the Howe Sound, including white-sided dolphins, humpbacks and glass sponges — a deep dwelling sponge known for its glass-like skeletal structure.
The project, however, soon became more than just a map: it became a catalyst for research and community engagement.
One such example is the data collected on eelgrass — a carbon-sequestering seagrass that also provides habitat to wildlife such as the dungeness crab. Eelgrass was categorized as critically endangered in 2017 by the Ocean Watch Report. However, due to surveys done in collaboration with Ocean Wise and Marine Conservation Society, eelgrass in Howe Sound was categorized as cautionary — one less than critical — in the 2020 report.
This data on eelgrass is also being used to inform Gibson’s Harbour Management Review and was shared with the Department of Fisheries and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
“In a nutshell, this is an example of research that’s directly informing action and fulfilling community needs and priorities to improve ocean health,” says research assistant Bridget John.