Habitat enhancement

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As part of our approach to environmental stewardship and sustainability, we have been proactively enhancing local habitat for more than 20 years.

Since 1991, our team has been creating, restoring and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat – including salt water marshes, intertidal marshes and eelgrass beds – to help maintain a balance between a healthy environment and future development that may be required for port operations.

Habitat Enhancement Program

The Habitat Enhancement Program is a Vancouver Fraser Port Authority initiative focused on creating, restoring and enhancing the viability and sustainability of fish and wildlife habitat. It was formalized through a 2012 Working Agreement with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The program is a proactive measure intended to provide a balance between a healthy environment and future development projects that may be required for port operations. There are a number of current and ongoing projects around the Lower Mainland.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has overseen the successful completion of habitat enhancement projects in DeltaSurrey, and Vancouver.

Learn about our proposed habitat enhancement projects.

Learn more about our ongoing field studies as part of the environmental and technical work for habitat enhancement projects.

June 2018 – Field Studies Notification [PDF]
May 2018 – Field Studies Notification [PDF]
April 2018 – Field Studies Notification [PDF]
March 2018 – Field Studies Notification [PDF]
October 2017 – Field Studies Notification [PDF]
August 2017 – Field Studies Notification [PDF]
June 2017 – Field Studies Notification [PDF]
October 2015 – Field Studies Information Sheet [PDF]
September 2015 – Field Studies Information Sheet [PDF]
August 2015 – Field Studies Information Sheet [PDF]

Types of habitat

Tidal marsh

A tidal marsh is found along coasts and estuaries where fresh water meets salt water. Tidal marshes provide important habitat to support juvenile salmon rearing, waterfowl, migrating birds and other fish and wildlife.


Saltmarsh is a type of intertidal marsh found in coastal areas, where ocean tides flood and drain marshland. Saltmarsh species – including eelgrass, pickleweed (sea asparagus) and dune grass – provide an important source of primary production, nutrients and organic matter for a food web that many different species of fish, birds and other wildlife rely on.

Eelgrass beds

Eelgrass is a perennial flowering plant that forms underwater beds, which support a variety of species including fish, waterfowl and invertebrates. In particular, eelgrass provides shelter for juvenile salmon, Pacific herring, Dungeness crab, migrating Brant geese, clams, shrimp and starfish. Eelgrass beds also support critical ecological functions including nutrient cycling, storm protection, and exporting organic matter.

Marine refuge areas

Caissons are hollow concrete structures used to build marine terminals and docks. By adding strategically placed holes in the caissons, we can create refuge areas and habitat for marine life. We call these “caisson refugia”, and they allow fish, crabs, shrimp, amphipods, sea stars and other marine organisms to seek refuge from predators and occasional rough waters. For instance, caisson refugia was used to offset expansion of the Deltaport container terminal.

Habitat benches

Habitat benches are wide, underwater benches that are built at different elevations, creating the necessary conditions for a variety of vegetation to grow. These benches colonize naturally, and the resulting vegetation has numerous benefits, including supporting shelter and food for fish. Habitat benches are currently located at Roberts Bank and in Burrard Inlet, along with an artificial reef near Cates Park in North Vancouver.


In addition to working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, we engage with all levels of government, regulators, First Nations and adjacent communities to tailor habitat enhancement projects to individual environments. For years, we have also collaborated with environmental organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited and the Pacific Salmon Foundation, to enhance local habitat.