The marine environment of the Great Bear Rainforest has few parallels in the world when it comes to biodiversity, richness and abundance. It is home to all five Pacific salmon species, the key building block of the rainforest and adjacent sea; Pacific herring, an important forage species; eulachon, a small oily fish sustainably harvested for thousands of years by First Nations and used as a form of trading currency; fin whales, killer whales, and humpback whales; sea otters, a sentinel species and indicator of overall ecosystem health; as well as a vast array of invertebrate species that clamber for space on the sea floor and intertidal zone.
Industrial shipping, fishing pressure, net pen salmon farms and climate change all threaten to destabilize this coastal ecosystem. Marine plans and protected areas are needed to help stop overexploitation and damage of marine resources and ecosystems.
The Marine Planning Partnership
First Nations and the provincial government recently completed the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) initiative to establish a template for marine plans and protected areas on the B.C. coast. Pacific Wild staff brought more than two decades of direct field observations and local knowledge to the table as we represented conservation stakeholders on central coast advisory committee.
The Great Bear Sea Hydrophone Network and our remote cameras are gathering data about sea life and conditions that will be invaluable for future MaPP indicator monitoring, and we look forward to taking part in the upcoming implementation phase of MaPP.
While the completion of the MaPP plans was a milestone, much work remains to be done to protect the Great Bear Sea. The federal government has yet to come to the table, meaning that federally-regulated fisheries and shipping are not covered in the current plans.
What Kind Of Marine Plan Do We Need?
Pacific Wild supports marine plans that put sustainability and ecosystem integrity at the foundation of all resource use and economic development decisions. Marine management plans must be implemented to maintain a healthy marine environment, one that will continue to sustain the entire Great Bear Rainforest from sea to land. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are meant to be free from destructive forms of resource exploitation. A series of well-managed MPAs where human activity is limited, including no-take zones, or zones where no fish or seafood harvesting is permitted, would allow ecosystems to recover and maintain functionality. In addition, coast-wide planning efforts to minimize the negative impacts of fishing and tanker traffic are needed to bolster the effectiveness of these MPAs and contribute to the overall health of the Great Bear Sea.
MPAs Alone Are Not Enough
Although MPAs are necessary, they are not sufficient alone in achieving biodiversity, fisheries, or food security objectives. MPAs offer little to moderate protection from threats outside of their boundaries, such as ocean acidification, contamination by toxins and tanker noise. Furthermore, the exclusion of fishing pressure from an MPA simply displaces and concentrates that same amount of fishing pressure in an unprotected area elsewhere. Consequently, protection of species and ecosystems outside reserve boundaries must accompany MPA network design plans. Many novel and successful tools exist. For example, the trade in by-catch quota in B.C.’s groundfish fishery reduces by-catch, and, when combined with the overall reduction in fishing quotas, lessens overexploitation of the resource. Designated access rights, such as territorial user rights for fishing (TURFS,) help to reduce the "race to fish" mentality, while fishing co-operatives result in an increase in a fishery's landed value (price per pound) by limiting total landed biomass. These sustainable management tools not only enhance the long-term viability of a fishery, but also enhance the effectiveness of MPAs and marine planning in general.