Project Healthy Harbour

Community education and engagement is a key component of the Healthy Harbour project, with the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre positioned to engage thousands of residents and visitors each year.

Established in September 2019, Project Healthy Harbour is a four-year partnership between the Town of Gibsons and the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre.

The project vision is “A healthy and vibrant harbour” and together, the organizations are actively working to:

  1. Advance the goals and objectives set out by Council for the Gibsons Harbour area; and
  2. Transform the Gibsons Harbour area into a world-class example of innovative, eco-asset management.

Laid out as a phased, multi-organizational, collaborative initiative, Project Healthy Harbour aims to understand, monitor, develop, conserve and restore the critical nearshore marine environment of the Town of Gibsons, and to do so in a way that balances the environmental, social and economic needs of the harbour.

See September 2019 Staff Report on Initiation of Project Healthy Harbour here.

Phase 1
Eelgrass provides food, shelter and protection from predators for many juvenile fish and shellfish of ecological, commercial and recreational importance.

Initiated in fall 2019, the first phase of Project Healthy Harbour focused on updating the 2013 Gibsons eelgrass survey. Work included general site assessment, delineating the eelgrass beds, assessing biophysical conditions, quantifying plant density and characteristics, documenting mooring buoys and marine debris, and cataloging observed marine species.

The information gathered enabled the team to establish a baseline to support decision-making and evaluate future results, create educational videos, and quantify data to support grant applications and restoration work.

See Report “Marine Biophysical Survey: Eelgrass Biology Mapping & Marine Debris” November 2019 here.

View February 2020 Presentation to Council on Phase 1 results here.

Phase 2

During 2020, work on Project Healthy Harbour has continued, with additional evidence-gathering completed. Goals for the ongoing “Education and Monitoring” component of the project include:

  • Establish long-term monitoring transect (habitat measurement line) at Armours Beach to monitor eelgrass health
  • Begin work on a Harbour User Guide aimed at visitors and residents
  • Create Healthy Harbour Display at Marine Education Centre
  • Develop Canadian Association for Underwater Science (CAUS) diving program. As at October 2020, certification has been achieved and the NSMEC is investigating the funding and insurance required to train divers to help with citizen science.

View September 2020 Presentation to Council on current objectives and achievements here.

In December 15 2020, Graham Starsage presented a virtual report to Council on the Healthy Harbour Project. The report focused on information gained via an eelgrass bed assessment conducted earlier in the year, which found a vibrant and healthy eelgrass habitat in the east Armours Beach region, but more debris closer to the Gibsons Landing marine facility.

Additionally, Mr. Starsage presented several recommendations for continuing to protect and restore the eelgrass beds. These included:

  1. Support Town Planning staff
  2. Apply for funding
  3. Create harbour guide communications
  4. Implement conservation zones
  5. Continue restoration activities

Some ideas also included installing a series of conservation signage buoys, prohibiting motorized vessel use inside the conservation areas unless prior approval by the Town of Gibsons is obtained, and prohibiting permanent mooring and temporary anchoring in the conservation areas within the Town of Gibsons’ Recreational Water Lease.

View the 2020 Healthy Harbour Report here.

View the Healthy Harbour December 2020 Presentation here. 

For 2021, staff from the NSMEC are meeting with the Town’s Planning Department and preparing a workplan for Council’s consideration, which will outline the work to be completed this year. The workplan is expected to be presented to Council in March 2021, before planned work proceeds.

Next Steps
  • Expand baseline monitoring areas
  • Pursue joint partnerships and grants for marine clean-ups and restoration
  • Restore eelgrass in fragmented areas
  • Build local capacity and resilience for restoration, monitoring and education
  • Provide policy recommendations that support the Town’s best management practices of the harbour
  • Seek funding for sustainable and eco-friendly infrastructure to effectively manage moorage in the recreational water lease
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of regulatory and restoration activities
  • Explore funding for the development of deeper harbour management projects, including mooring management, visitor education, eco-tourism and community engagement
Additional Resources

Read the Ocean Watch Howe Sound Edition 2020 – Executive Summary here.
Read the Ocean Watch Howe Sound Edition 2020 – Full Report here.