The waters of the Pacific Coast are best known to Canadians today for their popular tourism destinations and the prominent, though troubled, fishing industry. But the Pacific coast of British Columbia is also home to ancient indigenous cultures. On his famous third voyage around the world in 1778, Captain James Cook became the first known European to reach the Pacific coast of present-day B. C. There he encountered the ancient communities of the "People of the Totem," who had been living on the coast and in the Queen Charlotte Islands for at least 8 000 years. The heavily forested and mountainous terrain led to the emergence of a sea-dependent culture and the people of the Pacific coast acquired sea-faring and fishing skills superior to those of the first European explorers. The Haida in particular had a reputation for undertaking long, perilous sea voyages.
The Pacific Marine Ecozone is home to abundant plant and wildlife, but also has one of the fastest growing human populations in North America. The ecozone extends from the southern tip of Vancouver Island to Dixon Entrance, north of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Ignoring international boundaries, it actually reaches as far north as Alaska and the Bering Sea and south to the coasts of the states of Washington and Oregon.