Central Coast Nations Aim to Create a National Marine Conservation Area Reserve

Humpback whales breach during feeding, somewhere along the Central Coast. close-up image of the cold-water reef discovered in the Central Coast.

The Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv Nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Parks Canada and the BC Government to undertake a feasibility assessment for a National Marine Conservation Area Reserve on the Central Coast. The study area for the feasibility assessment is about 14,000 square kilometres of inshore and offshore marine waters adjacent to the Great Bear Rainforest.

This dynamic marine environment is home for diverse and abundant marine species, including 6,000 invertebrate species, 400 fish species, 150 bird species and some of the largest kelp forests in the province. The region is also home to species that are important culturally and economically, including orcas, herring, and salmon, and provides habitat for threatened or endangered species, such as eulachon, abalone, marbled murrelet, and sea otters.

For millennia, the wellbeing of Central Coast Nations has been linked, inextricably, to the health of these areas. Sustainable management of abundant marine resources supported ancient civilizations and allowed rich and complex cultures and societies to develop. Archaeologists have dated the origins of village sites on the Central Coast to as far back as 14,000 years—making them some of the oldest continually occupied sites on the continent.

The feasibility assessment will use western science, Indigenous knowledge, and the results of consultations with stakeholders—including the fishing industry, non-government organizations and other Canadians to consider the social, cultural and environmental benefits and impacts of establishing a national marine conservation area reserve. The results of the assessment will inform future decisions regarding whether the proposal will continue, as well as proposed boundary and zoning considerations.

Based on a model of collaborative governance and management, enhanced marine protection would help to conserve biodiversity, manage fisheries sustainably, and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Furthermore, it would contribute to maintaining the culture, traditions, economies, and wellbeing of the Central Coast First Nations, who have long been stewards of these lands and waters.


“The Heiltsuk Nation supports this collaborative NMCAR feasibility assessment, we look forward to working towards co-developing an approach and process that is complementary to our Gvi’ilas. Our Gvi’ilas, the laws of our ancestors as the paramount principle to guide all resource use and environmental management. Gvi’ilas refers to our “power” or authority over all matters that affect our lives. It is a complex and comprehensive system of laws that embodies values, beliefs, teachings, principles, practices and consequences. Inherent in this is the understanding that all things are connected and that unity is important to maintain.” – Chief Marilyn Slett, Heiltsuk Nation

“The protection and sustainability of our marine environment is a priority for the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation. With today’s announcement and signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, we look forward to collaborating with Canada and British Columbia on the feasibility assessment for a national marine conservation area reserve, and learning how best to protect the marine environment and the ecological, social, cultural and economic values that it sustains.” – Chief Doug Neasloss, Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation

“Today’s announcement is an important milestone in reconciliation, co-management, and ecosystem protection on the Central Coast. Nuxalkmc have relied on the rich marine resources in our traditional territories for thousands of years, and as a Nation we are committed to protecting this important region for our future generations. The national marine conservation area reserve feasibility assessment has the potential to help conserve our shared resources and demonstrate true collaborative governance with Indigenous peoples.” – Chief Samuel Schooner, Nuxalk Nation

“True reconciliation requires strong collaboration and consistent relationship building. Guided by the principle of ńàńakila (to protect and/or keep an eye on) the Wuikinuxv Nation hopes to achieve a balanced approach to marine conservation in important areas and marine habitats along our coast. We believe that the tools provided within the National Marine Conservation Area Reserve framework can help to reach these objectives and allow for joint decision making. It is with these sentiments in mind that we sign this Memorandum of Understanding.” – Chief Danielle Shaw, Wuikinuxv Nation


Eleanor Schmitt, Heiltsuk Nation
250-957-2381 |

Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation Band Office
250-839-1255 |

Nuxalk Nation Band Office

Chief Danielle Shaw, Wuikinuxv Nation

Sea lions sun themselves on a rocky shoreline in the Central Coast.
Image credits: Humpback whales: Rosie Child; Sea lions: Douglas Neasloss

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