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Marine Planning

Transient orca - Tavish Campbell

Marine spatial plans (MSP) are a rapidly growing phenomenon around the world, and though not many know it, BC is at the forefront of best practice in MSP. Our laws need to keep pace.

Marine planning on the BC coast has a long history. First Nations and the government of BC have adopted numerous marine plans over the past few decades.

Most recently, between 2011 and 2015, the BC government and 17 First Nations worked together in the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) to create new marine spatial plans for the central and north coast, also known as the Great Bear Sea. This vast marine area is comparable in size to Iceland, stretching from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border.

The MaPP process is unique and precedent-setting, and should help ensure that our northern Pacific coast is managed sustainably. It is unique in terms of the area covered, the process used, and the results achieved.

The governments involved in MaPP consulted community members, scientists, industry, and environmental advocates on ecosystem-based management (EBM) for the entire sea. EBM differs from sector-based resource management by developing management strategies for entire ecosystems – and it treats humans as an integral part of those ecosystems. EBM’s goal is to maintain an ecosystem in a healthy, productive and resilient condition so that it can provide the goods and services humans want and need.

The plans developed through MaPP are innovative, explicit spatial plans that allocate marine space and define compatible uses and incompatible uses for each of the three zones: protection management, general management and special management.

The plans contain management directions for a wide range of marine uses and activities under provincial jurisdiction, including monitoring and enforcement; pollution; tenured developments such as docks, log storage areas and floating lodges; traditional and cultural resources; tourism and recreation; and the marine fisheries economy. The plans also reflect First Nations laws, values and traditions.

With full implementation using Canadian and Indigenous law, the MaPP plans will strengthen protection for the Great Bear Sea. MaPP also serves as a model for other ocean planning initiatives in BC. West Coast is working to give the plans legal traction for long lasting enforceable results. One of the ways to cement legal protection for MaPP’s carefully designed zones is by converting protection zones into marine protected areas (MPAs). Another way is by using the full spectrum of provincial laws for MaPP legalization, or  passing a new provincial law on marine and coastal management. And another way is to continue to revitalize Indigenous laws for marine protection, and work with First Nations to create bridging instruments between Indigenous and Canadian law.

The Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) Plan is a related initiative led by the federal government for the same geographic area. The plan was approved in February 2017. The federal Oceans Act requires the government to lead and facilitate the development and implementation of plans for the integrated management of all activities or measures in or affecting estuaries, coastal waters and marine waters that form part of Canada or in which Canada has sovereign rights under international law. The PNCIMA plan is an example of this integrated planning.

Photo: Tavish Campbell