Council confirmed Bowen’s commitment to community co-operation in Howe Sound by agreeing to annual contributions funding the creation of a marine reference guide. This is the first action item in the Ocean Watch – Howe Sound Edition (oceanwatch.ca), launched by Ocean Wise’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute last February.
The Ocean Watch report focused on Howe Sound because of the recent revival of its marine ecosystems, and increasing regional development and population growth.
“In response to this population growth, Howe Sound residents will have to figure out how to balance recreational, economic, and cultural values with protecting and restoring the marine environment on which we all depend,” says Fiona Beaty, with the Coastal Ocean Research Institute.“Like the Ocean Watch report, the Howe Sound Marine Reference Guide will combine scientific, indigenous and local knowledge all together in one place. It is a great tool that will come in the form of an interactive map with data tailored towards marine planning, collaborative management, and stewardship.”
Beaty says that if a development proposal comes up, a municipality could go to the map and click on the various layers to find information on the significance of the area from various perspectives.
“Instead of having to conduct their own independent consultations and studies, local governments will be able to refer to this source,” she says. “Also, because this map will be open for public use, it will be a great tool for education. Typically, what’s out of sight is out of mind. With this map, anyone can click on an area of Howe Sound’s marine environment, find out what kind of life exists there, and interact with it in a dynamic visual way.”
The data collection will involve workshops, interviews, fieldwork and surveys. Some knowledge gathering has already occurred through the work of the Coastal Ocean Research Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation, who are making good headway on pulling information together on Howe Sound’s marine ecosystem. Media created by local advocates for Howe Sound including citizen scientists will also be included. This could mean a click on the Mannion Bay area of the map delivers footage from eelgrass beds there, connecting to a story about the area’s recovery.
Pulling together all the information and creating this resource is expected to take roughly three years with a budget of $200,000 per year. Local governments throughout the Sound will make annual contributions to the project of about 5-10% of the total, with their funding being used to leverage contributions from other sources. Bowen Island has volunteered a contribution of $1,742.80 per year.