Although the Pacific Maritime ecozone is rich in wild fauna, flora, and ecosystems, much of the south is heavily stressed by population growth, urban development, and the forestry and pulp and paper industries.
Three-quarters of British Columbians, or about 2.5 million people, live here. Most are concentrated in the Georgia Basin, the area embracing the large urban centres of the Lower Mainland and Victoria. The population has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few decades, largely as a result of immigration. For instance, the population of the Gulf Islands rose by an astonishing 58% between 1971 and 1985. Rapid urbanization makes protecting wildlife habitats and prime agricultural land particularly challenging.
For well over a century, logging and related forest industries have been the economic mainstay of many communities in this ecozone. They have also changed the landscape dramatically. In the past 120 years, over 2 million hectares of the temperate coastal rainforest were clear-cut. Between 1920 and 1992, while the area logged each year doubled in the rest of Canada, it tripled in the Pacific Maritime.
The commercial fishing industry is another major player in the ecozone. Both native and aquaculture stocks of salmon are especially prized. Most Sockeye, Pink, and Chum Salmon stocks have increased since the 1960s. However, Chinook and Coho Salmon stocks are low due to overfishing, habitat damage, and natural factors. Contamination by organochlorine compounds released from pulp mills sometimes interferes with the harvesting of shellfish, as the toxins tend to accumulate in their tissues.
Since the days when the native Haida people routinely plied their dugout canoes along the west coast, the area has been an important marine transportation route. Boat traffic now includes huge cargo ships, fishing vessels, ferries, and all kinds of recreational craft. A fast-growing industry here is water-based tourism, offering everything from sea kayaks to multi-level tour boats for visitors eager to whale-watch or drink in the wondrous landscape.