Toward a Marine Protected Areas Network

Sea Urchins in Central Coast waters.

Leaders of the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv Nations are committed to protecting culturally and ecologically important marine areas. After a century of intense commercial fishing and ineffective fisheries management, our coastal resources are depleted. Marine heatwaves and climate change exacerbate the decline of marine species, habitat and ecosystems.

Central Coast Nations continue to co-lead the planning process to establish a Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Network for the Northern Shelf Bioregion, along with federal government, BC government and 13 other First Nations. The future marine protected areas will restrict some activities, such as commercial and recreational fishing, aquaculture and forestry, in order to protect invaluable cultural and ecological values.

Building on more than eight years of applied and collaborative research, CCIRA and our research partners identified important “biological hotspots” throughout the Central Coast, which helped determine where protection should be strategically located in order to maximize biodiversity conservation. Combining science with Indigenous knowledge and understanding of key regions of cultural significance, these recommendations made substantial contributions to the design of the MPA Network.

Working with marine planners from each Nation, CCIRA created a rationale treatise describing why a MPA Network is one of the best approaches to reverse the significant declines of marine life in Central Coast territories, and to mitigate the negative cultural, social and economic impacts on coastal communities. The Nations have presented their rationale to the MPA Network partners and will use it as an education tool as the planning process continues.

The MPA Network will preserve marine biological diversity by reducing the impacts of threats, such as increased vessel traffic, expanded ports, and increased commercial and recreational fishing pressures. MPAs will also support the future of coastal fisheries by restoring depleted marine species to healthier population levels, being a source for species migration into non-protected areas, and by increasing ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change and other environmental changes.

MPAs will contribute to marine habitat and ecosystem recovery. Along with the integrated marine use planning and sustainable fisheries management already underway, the MPA Network will play an essential role in supporting Nations’ traditional marine management practices and cultural harvesting into the future.

Similar Posts