Aquatic and terrestrial species

Fraser River habitat bench

In the Lower Mainland, we have a remarkable variety of aquatic and terrestrial species that live within our jurisdiction. A healthy environment relies on all levels of the ecosystem, from small plants and biofilm to robust fish populations and wildlife. Port operations and infrastructure development can cause habitat loss and degradation, introduce invasive species, and increase light and noise emissions, all of which can affect biodiversity and ecosystem productivity.

We manage potential impacts on species through project and environmental reviews, species at risk inventories and management plans, invasive species management, and our Land Use Plan.

Project and environmental reviews

We require permits for all new activities or developments on or in port lands or waters. Through our Project and Environmental Review process, we review permit applications and make a determination on the potential environmental impact, including impacts on biodiversity. We will not authorize or allow a proposed project to proceed if it is likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects. Should a project be approved, the permit will include environmental conditions designed to avoid or mitigate potential impacts.

For example, projects may require a habitat assessment and appropriate mitigation measures. Replanting vegetation is a common mitigation measure, and the replanted vegetation is monitored for a few years to ensure it survives.

Species at risk

Streambank lupine invasive species

A recent port authority study identified 32 federally-listed species at risk that are known or likely to be present in Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River, areas within our jurisdiction. Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, species at risk and designated critical habitat are legally protected from disturbance on federal lands.

To better protect species at risk and manage any port-related effects on these species and their habitats, we carried out field surveys and testing for the following species:

  • Pacific water shrew
  • Red-legged frog
  • Nooksack dace
  • Little brown bat
  • Oregon spotted frog
  • Western painted turtle

Within our jurisdiction, we also have federally protected areas of critical habitat for:

  • Streambank lupine
  • Pacific water shrew
  • Marbled murrelet
  • Southern resident killer whale

For certain species at risk, such as the southern resident killer whales, we are taking active measures to improve habitat through programs such as ECHO.

Learn more about how we are identifying managing impacts to local species, including the little brown bat and white sturgeon.

Invasive species

Globally invasive species are considered to be the most significant threat to biodiversity after habitat loss. The introduction of invasive species can overrun native plants, displace animals and negatively affect ecosystem productivity and biodiversity.

Invasive species enter port lands and waters through a number of pathways, including ballast water exchange and cargo shipments. Federal agencies, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Transport Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada play lead roles in monitoring and preventing the introduction of invasive species through the port.

The port authority is focused on curbing the introduction and spread of invasive plant species throughout our jurisdiction. We collaborate in regional discussions relating to invasive species management, and have created an invasive plant inventory, identified activities that could lead to the introduction or spread of land-based invasive plant species, and developed best management practices for mitigation and treatment of invasive plants.

Our land-based invasive plant inventory has identified high-risk invasive plants existing or likely to exist within our jurisdiction, including several types of knotweed, cordgrass, giant hogweed and purple loosestrife. Non-native species of Spartina, commonly known as cordgrass, currently threaten coastal resources in British Columbia. These ecosystem invaders outcompete native plants and convert intertidal areas to homogenous cordgrass meadows, reducing food sources for waterfowl, resting sites for migratory birds, and production areas for shellfish.

Annually, we manage and treat key invasive plants, such as knotweed, within our jurisdiction. Moving forward, we will be working with tenants on developing management plans for high-risk, land-based invasive plant species.