The Esquimalt Harbour Species and Habitat Monitoring Program was initiated in 2018. The Department of National Defence (DND) and Defence Construction Canada (DCC) retained Dillon to lead the development and execution of the program.
Early phases included the development of an Esquimalt Harbour Geodatabase to catalogue historical and ongoing surveys, and the development of the Esquimalt Harbour Species and Habitat Monitoring Planning Tool (EH MPT) and Guidance Document (GD).
The EH MPT and GD lay out the environmental assessment plan for the next ten years, targeting key species, habitats and ecosystems of interest. These include species at risk (e.g., Northern Abalone, Olympia Oyster, rockfish), species of ecological significance (e.g., forage fish, lingcod), and key habitats (e.g., eelgrass beds, kelp forests). Species were surveyed through traditional methods (e.g., dive and intertidal surveys), and innovative methods such as towed video and environmental DNA collection.
Extensive geodata collection occurred and has resulted in collaboration and knowledge sharing with First Nations and the Capital Regional District. This novel data collection program is being used by DND to better inform stewardship of the harbor and construction and development projects about valued ecosystem components within the harbour. The baseline data collected evaluate and monitor recovery of the harbour after recent remediation efforts, allow for proactive management of issues such as invasive species or key species recovery, and support ecosystem-based management.