On the eve of World Oceans Day on June 8, the Howe Sound / Átl’ka7tsem Marine Reference Guide project will launch two maps of the region.
The first is an interactive tool that lasted three years and has over 400 built-in layers.
In an interview, Gibsons-based project manager Fiona Beaty said the interactive map helps visualize how people, industry and marine life are using the area.
“It really helps lift the veil off the ocean’s surface,” Beaty said.
The primary use of the interactive map, she said, is for marine spatial planning and to help inform decision-making in areas that include ecological health, as well as economic, social and cultural values. It can also help identify conflicting uses, for example between sensitive habitat and industrial activity or tourism hotspot, in an effort to protect not only the environment, but also access and livelihoods.
Howe Sound is at a “tipping point,” Beaty said, after years of pressure from natural resource-based industries that have impacted her health.
“We are now at this new point where there is a different range of pressures that include climate change, but also an increase in tourism pressures, an increase in population pressure, [and] coastal development. So I hope this tool can help inform decisions, but also human behavior so that we can better manage these pressures, ”she said.
Beaty said the creators of the guide hope to inspire a sense of stewardship that will lead to community initiatives rather than relying on changes from government. The interactive map can also be used by educators to help students get a feel for the location.
Over the course of the project, the initiative evolved to include community workshops and youth engagement opportunities. One of these events involved young people from the Sḵwxwú7mesh Nation who studied the links between herrings in their territory, as well as the guide’s research team who carried out fieldwork on plankton and eelgrass to fill knowledge gaps. The place names and language of the Sḵwxwú7mesh nation are also incorporated into the map.
A second map shows a community network of all people and groups in the region, including stakeholders and rights holders, “like a visual directory,” Beaty said. “We use the map to show who is doing what, where.”
Beaty said the project has strong support from the community, with First Nations, governments, industries, conservationists and recreation.
“We have been very grateful for the desire of people to come together and collaborate, and to build relationships and build capacity to work together to protect ocean spaces and their access,” said Beaty. “There’s not always a full deal, of course, but it’s kind of part of the process. Kind of like delving into this diversity of perspectives on the importance of this place and helping people find a common vision of how we want to move forward.
The guide is led by the Sḵwxwú7mesh Nation and the Ocean Watch Action Committee made up of local and regional governments around Howe Sound.
It began to take shape in 2018, with help from members of the steering committee including Howe Sound / Atl’ka7tsem Biosphere Region Initiative, Ocean Wise, David Suzuki Foundation, University of Guelph, Sea to Sky Gondola, Sechelt Creek Contracting Ltd ., Squamish River Watershed Society, Squamish Nation, District of Squamish, Underwater Council of British Columbia, Sunshine Coast Conservation Association and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
MakeWay, formerly known as Tides Canada, hosts the guide on its shared platform.
Over the years, nearly half a million dollars was raised for the project, and the guide had an annual operating budget of $ 200,000, with funds from the Sḵwxwú7mesh Nation, local governments and others. organizations, including National Geographic, and in-kind support from David Suzuki. Foundation, Ocean Wise, Pacific Salmon Foundation, SeaChange Marine Conservation Society, and UBC.
On June 7 at 7 p.m., the virtual launch event will celebrate the completion of the project and thank community members for their help in making it a success. There will also be upcoming workshops to explore some of the themes of the map and how to use its information.
Find the guide and more information on www.howesoundguide.ca