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 more than 2,000 runs of Pacific salmon, the key building block of the rainforest and sea; Pacific herring, an important forage species; eulachon, a small oily fish sustainably harvested for thousands of years by First Nations; as well as recovering populations of fin whales, Transient and Resident Killer Whales, humpback whales and sea otters. Land and sea are intertwined in this archipelago. The temperate rainforest is fed by ocean-derived nutrients and the ocean is nourished by thousands of rivers and streams.
Industrial shipping, fishing pressure, forest destruction, net pen salmon farms and climate change all threaten to destabilize this coastal ecosystem. Strong marine protection and Indigenous governance are needed to protect marine life from overexploitation and damage.
MARINE PROTECTION ON THE NORTH AND CENTRAL COAST
Seventeen First Nations and the provincial government are currently implementing the marine use plans developed through the Marine Planning Partnership for the Pacific (MaPP) initiative. This will establish ecosystem-based management and a system of zoning for integrated marine planning on the B.C. coast. First Nations and the provincial and federal government are also engaged in a new process of designing a network of Marine Protected Areas for the region, called the Northern Shelf Bioregion Marine Protected Areas Network (NSB MPA). A network is an alternative to protecting the entire region; the network of protected areas is designed to function better than the sum of the individual parts. The NSB MPA network will attempt to achieve conservation targets for a wide range of species and habitats and for First Nations cultural conservation priorities. First Nations are revitalizing traditional laws that govern resource management and their own stewardship capacity, working towards co-governance of the resources in their territories.
Pacific Wild supports marine plans that put ecosystem integrity and First Nations rights and title at the foundation of all resource use and economic development decisions. Right now, Canada’s Oceans Act, the primary tool used to establish MPAs, contains no minimum legal protection standards for MPAs – no requirement for no-take zones and no automatic restrictions on any exploitation. The Government of Canada has received recommendations for the adoption of strong standards from its National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards, but has yet to act.
MPAs are only one tool for protecting oceans: instituting better fisheries management, reducing fossil fuel emissions and other real action on climate change, restoring upland habitat, and preventing pollution (including underwater noise pollution) are further actions we must take to save ocean habitat.
Canada has the longest coastline in the world, and 95% of it is unprotected.
Learn More About The North & Central Coast & Haida Gwaii
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