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Howe Sound recovering, but a lot more efforts need to be put in

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Conservation efforts are paying off at Howe Sound as a new report has suggested that the area is showing sounds of recovery, but while progress is seen the 364-page report by Vancouver Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute calls for actions to ensure that the recovery continues.

The report notes that there is definitely good news as Howe Sound recovery is evident through a number of signals. More and more cetaceans are being spotted last year compared to the sightings in the early 2000s. The report notes that there has been marked increase in cetacean count. Back 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.

Culturally as where there has been an increase in appreciation for Howe Sound like never before. Citizen science has helped a great deal and with community involvement, more and more people are coming forward and attending education camps and kids are engaging in recreational use of the area.

The report also delves into a number of other topics including water quality, how the Sound is used for recreation and citizen science, First Nations history of the region, commercial and sport fisheries, stewardship efforts, and development pressures.

While there are positives, the report points out that there have been stark losses as well with once abundant eulachon, a small oily fish that was a staple of the Squamish Nation people and a “superfood” for whales now completely gone. Humpback whales have been lost as well due to local whaling activities. Further, Sturgeon that once lived near the streams and fed the sound are gone as well.

The report points out that this area is home to some of the most sensitive and unique habitats along the BC coast, including 16 recently located glass sponge reefs; however, less than one per cent of Howe Sound’s fragile ecosystems are protected from further harm.

Authors of the report also point out the most of the species and habitats that were part of the research are in trouble with nearly half rated critical according to our snapshot criteria, while the other half are lacking data, show low abundance, require restoration, and remain unprotected.

Dr. Andrew Day, executive director of the Institute said: “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.”

As far as infrastructure and coastal development in the area is concerned, they are on the rise notes the report with 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.

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