Thursday, September 16, 2021, 1:46 p.m. – Six months ago, The Weather Network took an in-depth look at the past, present and future outlook for Howe Sound. Our team explored how the history of mining pollution and the ongoing impacts of climate change affected the Strait’s ecosystems, and how several groups of local governments, environmental organizations and the Squamish First Nation were working together to better protect the area.
It is one of British Columbia’s most inspiring success stories. The Howe Sound region has grown from one of the most polluted regions in Canada to a vibrant waterway that is home to a wide variety of marine life. And now, the effort to ensure Howe Sound stays that way has taken another step forward as the cove has been officially named the 19th UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Canada.
Not so long ago, whales and porpoises virtually disappeared from Howe Sound after mining in the area polluted North America’s southernmost fjord. It took a collective effort by municipalities, the provincial government and the Squamish First Nation to clean up the water, but life is returning to the Strait as mitigation continues.
A tugboat passes a log on the shores of Howe Sound, below the iconic Shannon Falls. (Alex Ratson / Moment / Getty Images)
In December 2020, the Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative Society submitted an application to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a specialized United Nations agency in Paris, to establish Howe Sound as a biosphere . This nomination, now approved, designates Howe Sound as a place of global ecological significance.
The biosphere reserve, which is located on the lands of the Coast Salish peoples, covers 218,723 hectares, starting in West Vancouver, extending to near Whistler and as far west as the Sunshine Coast.
Major protected areas include five provincial parks in British Columbia and several marine refuges, including areas of endangered glassy sponge reefs. Although the announcement does not grant any legal authority, it is hoped that the recognition will help promote conservation and sustainable development in the region.
Miniature credit: Lijuan Guo Photography / Moment / Getty Images