Rockfish, Paper, Scissors

“How might we design reefs and rituals for rockfish that increase habitat and bring local communities into a caring relationship with more-than-human life, in local coastal regions?”

It was the end of November, but it didn’t really matter – Rockfish live in Whytecliff park year round.

Using a research method called bodystorming, we dove deep into their habitat.

We felt the cold, the darkness, the quiet. We saw other species – seagulls, starfish, barnacles mussels.

We saw the structures, rock like slate, smooth faces with jagged edges, stacked over years and years, chance crevices creating perfect hiding spots for rockfish.

Can we really do better than natural reefs?

mussels growing on the dock pillars

Rockfish and…

mussel shell droppings

We took a trip to Porteau Cove, another Rockfish Conservation Area.

Who else is a part of the Rockfish ecosystem?

I wonder what a day in the life of a rockfish is like?


We learned through secondary research that rockfish require small crevices to rest and hide from predators. We saw this during our bodystorming – the jagged, toppled slate in Whytecliff park. In Howe Sound, previous logging booms rendered the ocean topography flat and featureless.

Being cautious of our tendencies towards human imposure, we thought about the best way to foster human care towards the Rockfish ecosystem, while maintaining distance – or intimacy without proximity.

Can we instead foster non-human rituals?

Ecosystems survive through interconnectivity.

Designing for only one species within a web of species negates the value of self-sufficient systems, and imposes new, human-made problems – even when we have the best intentions.


Seagulls are a visible and recognizable member of the Howe Sound ecosystem.

Rockfish benefit from this by feeding off the by-product, and using the shells that have fallen into the ocean as naturally-occurring reef structures.

The end of the dock at Porteau Cove is blocked off from human access and the seagulls have repurposed the unused area as a surface for shell-dropping.

The Sea-to-Sky Co-Habitat Dock is a cement, six-pillar structure inaccessible to and not intended for humans.

The structure affords porous pillars for mussels to grow on, a hard flat surface for seagulls to drop them onto, and an overlapping cement structure that supports natural mussel shell collection and reef growth.

Our intent was to foster the relationships already existing in the rockfish’s ecosystem, allowing the species to naturally flourish. Humans are able to see the dock from the existing visitor dock at Porteau Cove, but our relationship becomes one of reflection of our own contributions to supporting other-than-human life.

Project partner: Zara Huntley

This project was part of an ECUAD 2nd year design course, run by Amanda Huynh, Charlotte Falk, and Zack Camozzi.

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