Foundational Pillars for the Future of Our Coast

A whale tail about to dip underwater in the waters off Kitasoo Xai'xais territory, BC's Central Coast.

We know that when we take care of our marine environment, it takes care of us. Reciprocity, respect, balance, interconnectedness and intergenerational knowledge: these are principles at the heart of our Nations’ cultures.

The Heiltsuk, Kitasoo Xai’xais, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv Nations are working closely together—along with other First Nations, and provincial and federal governments—to implement plans that help rebuild our coastal community economies, uphold our cultures, and protect our shared marine resources.

Much of this work has taken more than 15 years to develop. During this time, we have seen further declines in important species, habitats and economic opportunities. Restoring abundance to our coast is urgent, and we know it will take some years to achieve.

But we believe that each of these pillars working in tandem with each other will lead to healthy waters and communities on our coast. These pillars are:

1: Our harmonized and individual Nation Heiltsuk, Kitasoo Xai’Xais, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv Marine Use Plans — These plans lay out how our Nations will manage human activities to be in right relation to our marine environment, based on traditional values and the long-term needs of our community.

A Marine Use Plan maps opportunities for protection, management, and sustainable economic development. They combine traditional ecological knowledge with extensive community engagement and economic studies that look at the current and future job opportunities for each Nation. Our Guardian Watchmen monitoring programs, marine spill response plans, commercial and recreational fishing management policies, and our proposed marine protected areas are all driven by these Plans.

2: A Marine Protected Area Network — A Marine Protected Area Network is a set of defined locations for habitat and ecosystem protection, where fishing, forestry shipping traffic, and other activities harmful to that area are limited. These areas increase biodiversity and rebuild populations of important species. Our Nations are working to establish a Network of Marine Protected Areas for the Northern Shelf Bioregion, including protection in our territories, by 2025. This will ensure that critical places of biodiversity are protected, which in turn will enable the return of healthy fisheries and increase our resilience to climate change threats. This is one focus of the Oceans Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Bioregional Oceans Management (ORFA).

3: The Fisheries Resources Reconciliation Agreement — The FRRA works with the MPA Network to support both ecological and economic health. This agreement between Coastal First Nations and the Government of Canada has been established to ensure more sustainable fisheries management and community-based economic development, and provides three key benefits:

  • It ensures our laws and Indigenous knowledge are used in the co-governance of fisheries, and that they are acknowledged through collaborative research, monitoring, and setting limits for fisheries and enforcement.
  • It provides funding for Indigenous commercial fishing opportunities and community-based fisheries for each Nation. This includes a loan and grant program supporting seafood businesses or other fishing enterprises, and support for Nations to make investments in gear, vessels, licenses, operations, and infrastructure.
  • And, finally, the FRRA offers greater variety of and access to commercial fishing licenses and quota for Nations.

4: Planning for responsible shipping practices and enhanced marine safety — facilitated by the Oceans Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Bioregional Oceans Management (ORFA).

Protection of our habitats and species will help to ensure long-term economic stability, healthy communities, and the continuation of our cultures.

For more information about the FRRA read about recent successes or find out more about the Marine Protected Area network.

Heiltsuk Guardin holds a Dungeness crab on coastal waters.

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