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What Is It Like Sailing In Átl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound And How Can We Protect These Marine Waters?

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

A follow-up to our previous post on Átl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound as a dedicated UNESCO World Heritage site and how we can be better marine stewards.

Sailing in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound can be a beautiful and enjoyable experience. The sound is a large fjord located in southwestern British Columbia, Canada, and is home to a variety of marine life, stunning landscapes, and sacred First Nations' cultural sites. There are several islands and islets in the sound, as well as many opportunities for recreational activities such as sailing, boating, and kayaking.

Our marine environment is facing a number of extreme threats. Climate change is causing rising ocean levels, increased acidification, rising water temperatures, and increased frequency of extreme weather events. Wastewater discharge, near-shore development, microplastic pollution and vessel traffic all negatively affect our coastal environment.

To protect the marine waters of Átl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound, there are a few things we can do as sailors:

  • Make sure that you respect First Nations’ traditional laws, rights and title.

Check on the Marine Stewardship Initiative, whose goal is to protect and restore ocean health in Átl'ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound, within the Squamish Nation's traditional territory.

The Howe Sound/Átl’?a7tsem Marine Reference Guide includes habitat and ecological survey data, ferry terminals, S?wxwú7mesh Nation place names, and story maps that dive into the history and cultural significance of the waterway.

By providing unbiased information to governments, businesses, educators and communities, the map’s creators hope to inform ecologically-sound decisions.

“Our goal is to protect the diverse ways of connecting with and valuing the region’s water by creating maps and resources that inform decision making and educating,” says project director Fiona Beaty.

  • Use environmentally-friendly products and dispose of waste properly (i.e. take it with you!): Choose cleaning and maintenance products that are biodegradable and non-toxic to marine life.

Marine biodiversity is threatened by wastewater discharge, microplastic pollution by disrupting habitats, damaging the health of marine life and disrupting ocean water chemistry. Increased input of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus through pollution or sewage discharge, combined with warming ocean temperatures, contributes to algae blooms that can create areas of oxygen-depleted water, making it difficult for marine life to survive.

  • Avoid disturbing wildlife: Respect the marine life and avoid disturbing it or damaging its habitat.

As much as it may seem like it, you are not alone out there on the water. These waters are home to millions of marine habitats which support an incredible number of marine life, including oysters, mussels, barnacles, sand dollars, herring, glass sponge reefs, eelgrass meadows, sea lions, orca and humpback whales!

  • Support conservation efforts: Consider supporting organizations that work to protect marine environments and promote sustainable practices.

By taking these points into consideration, you can help to protect the waters of Átl'ḵa7tsem and ensure that future generations can enjoy its culture, beauty and biodiversity.


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