Ensuring Marine Protection for the Central Coast — What’s Next?

Sea Lions jump from a rock on the Central Coast

Through our Marine Use Plans and Marine Plan Partnership, our Nations have developed a roadmap to ensure ecological protection and economic prosperity—now and for future generations.

After decades of hard work from Central Coast Nations’ stewardship departments, and with continual support from our elected and hereditary leadership and community members, we endorsed the Marine Protected Area Network Action Plan in February 2023.

The Network Action Plan was developed in collaboration with First Nations across Haida Gwaii, North Vancouver Island and the North Coast, the government of British Columbia, and the government of Canada. It uses local and Indigenous knowledge to identify areas that, once protected, will help rebuild fisheries, marine resources, and resilient and healthy ecosystems in our territories.

The Plan commits to implementing marine protection in our territories in a way that balances economic opportunities with our cultural practices and our inherent responsibility to be stewards over our territories.

A pod of orcas surface close to shore.

Deciding What Type of MPA Network to Implement

The Plan was an important step in meeting our Nations’ stewardship goals but the job is not yet finished. Now, we’re choosing the best method to implement this marine protection.

There are a range of Marine Protected Area (MPA) designations that each cater to specific purposes and involve different government agencies. Our Nations’ stewardship offices have prioritized finding an MPA that would offer high ecological and cultural protection for places in our territories, which we identified and refined after robust community and stakeholder engagement.

We want to ensure that any type of marine protection is flexible, allowing a variety of current uses for our Nations to continue, including fishing, harvesting, and marine-based jobs. We want to ensure that economic prosperity now will not jeopardize ecosystems or the ability of future generations to benefit culturally or economically from our territories.

Our Nations are now considering a National Marine Conservation Area Reserve (NMCAR). Looking at all types of Marine Protected Areas, an NMCAR aligns the most with our Nations’ stewardship objectives. The NMCAR would work alongside our own Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). This is similar to the NMCAR & Haida Heritage Site model, in which the Haida Nation chose to protect the southern end of Haida Gwaii.

Anemone underwater.

Why We’re Considering an NMCAR

Working alongside Parks Canada and the government of British Columbia, Central Coast Nations would co-govern its management, ensuring a Nation-led approach to sustaining our territories. Some features of an NMCAR include:

  • Multiple use zoning, which would allow for commercial fishing to continue in areas that Nations deem appropriate, but protect critical fish habitat identified using our local and Indigenous knowledge.
  • Not limiting traditional-use access in the NMCAR, empowering traditional fishing, and other food, social, and ceremonial activities to grow.
  • Not affecting any rights or title processes for Central Coast Nations.
  • Providing continual funding for Nations to grow their stewardship capacity and build local jobs.

The only activities that would never be allowed in a NMCAR are oil and gas extraction, bottom trawling, seabed mining, and ocean dumping.

While this option looks to be best for our Nations, we want to ensure that it is. A Nation-led NMCAR feasibility assessment aims to conclude in March 2024, and can move us closer to the protection we have been working towards for decades.

Find out more about the NMCAR Feasibility Assessment Process.

Featured Images: Douglas Neasloss

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