Banner Photo Description: Quillback Rockfish, Sebastes maliger

About this Report

Introduction:

The coastal zone is a region of indefinite width that extends from the deep subtidal through the intertidal to the backshore. This zone contains some of the most ecologically valuable ecosystems in the world, such as estuaries, wetlands, and eelgrass meadows. Coastal ecosystems can support high species biodiversity and survival by providing refuge, foraging, and nursery habitats; stabilize physical landscapes through erosion mitigation and sediment trapping; support biogeochemical processes that are important in the functioning of nearshore processes; attenuate waves and storm events; and regulate climate through photosynthesizing oxygen and sequestering carbon dioxide. These valuable ecosystem services and functions provide clear benefits for the marine communities and humans who depend upon them for survival.

Coastal development, defined as the physical alteration of the shore zone through urban and industrial activity, yields economic, cultural, and social benefits to coastal communities through the provision of job security, increased access to the waterfront, and community enhancement. Approximately 75 percent of BC’s population is concentrated along the south-west coast in Metro Vancouver and the southern portion of Vancouver Island. Included in this coastal development are three of British Columbia’s largest commercial centres: the Port of Vancouver, Vancouver International Airport, and the Port of Prince Rupert. These economic hubs, in congruence with primary industries, such as forestry, fisheries, mining, and energy, all contribute to the province’s economic prosperity and cultural identity. They are also closely intertwined with, and dependent upon, coastal ecosystem integrity and stability, and are therefore vulnerable to changes that affect resources and ecosystem services.

Minimizing project-related habitat disturbance through appropriate project planning, assessment and design practices is a necessary first step in protecting habitat values in Canada’s marine waters. A number of federal, provincial, First Nations, and local government laws and policies govern aspects of marine habitat protection. Leading federal legislation is the Fisheries Act, which prohibits activities that “result in serious harm to fish that are part of or support a commercial, recreational, or Aboriginal fishery”. Federal fisheries legislation is currently under review, with new draft legislation expected to be introduced in fall 2017.

Within the limitations of existing federal policy, there is room for improvement in marine habitat protection, restoration, and compensation planning methods in British Columbia. Some basic suggestions include integrating ecosystem-based management into project design and management; standardizing documentation of habitat and ecosystem functions prior to, during, and following project development; increasing compliance to and standardization of monitoring and enforcement protocols; and paying attention to broad watershed, landscape, and ecosystem trends.

This guide provides project development, implementation, and monitoring recommendations for shore zone projects in British Columbia. While there is an emphasis on habitat restoration work, the principles outlined in the guide are appropriate for and applicable to many types of development projects that occur in the shore zone. First and foremost this guide advocates for adopting an integrated ecosystem-based approach to project design and management in order to minimize human impacts on shore zone processes and habitats. When compensation or restoration work is required, this guide provides recommendations for eelgrass and artificial rocky reef habitat restoration projects, and gives detailed habitat use information for suggested focal species for artificial rocky reef projects.