Introducing the Northern Shelf Bioregion MPA Network

Photo by Karen and Ralf Meyer, Greenfire Productions

The Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia and 17 First Nations are working together to develop a marine protected area network in the Northern Shelf Bioregion (NSB), which extends from the top of Vancouver Island (Quadra Island / Bute Inlet) and reaches north to the Canada – Alaska border.

The NSB is unique due to its diverse ocean ecosystems, which provide important habitat for a range of species. The NSB is characterized by adjacent rugged coastal mountains and steep valleys reflecting glacial scouring processes, abundant offshore islands, rocky shorelines with few sand and gravel beaches, and extensive, deep fjords.

The NSB also contributes an abundance of marine resources to coastal economies and communities. A wide variety of year-round and seasonal activities occur in the marine offshore and coastal near-shore areas. In the near-shore, activities include traditional fishing and food gathering, aquaculture, ecotourism, as well as infrastructure associated with marine transportation, communications, and community uses.

Protection of the marine environment is of paramount importance for coastal residents. For centuries, the diversity of life supported by coastal and marine environments has allowed complex and culturally rich societies to develop. In particular, First Nations communities have a distinct cultural and spiritual heritage and present-day practices that are intricately linked to the marine environment. This reflects their long-standing governance systems that include stewardship of marine resources for sustainable use.

The NSB Marine Protected Area Network planning process aims to build a network of marine protected areas (MPA) that will help to ensure that future generations will inherit the beauty and productivity of our Pacific Ocean.

The success of conserving and protecting special marine areas is a shared responsibility. We look forward to hearing from all coastal residents that have an interest in the NSB and its future, to complete a network of MPAs for the Pacific Coast of Canada.

Who is participating?

Government of Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Parks Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada

Province of British Columbia

Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture

First Nations

Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative is providing a co-ordination, leadership and governance role to the NSB-MPA Network planning process (as directed by Gitga’at, Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Metlakatla, and Wuikinuxv First Nations, and Council of the Haida Nation)

Central Coast Indigenous Resources Alliance (as directed by Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv First Nations)

North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society (as directed by Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Haisla, Kitsumkalum, Kitselas, and Metlakatla First Nations)

Council of the Haida Nation (including Old Massett Village Council and Skidegate Band Council)

Nanwakolas Council (as directed by Mamalilikulla, Tlowitsis, Da’nakda’xw-Awaetlatla, Wei Wai Kum, Kwiakah and K’ómoks First Nations)

Representatives from all three levels of government are working together through the Marine Protected Area Technical Team (MPATT) to collaboratively advance technical work on the development of a network of marine protected areas for the NSB.

In addition to the governing partners, this process also relies on engagement with those who work, live, or have an interest in the Northern Shelf Bioregion and its future.

Multiple interests and marine uses will be considered carefully in the development of the NSB MPA Network:

Commercial fishing
Economic development
First Nations marine knowledge

Local government
Marine transportation and shipping
Non-renewable energy
Renewable energy
Seafood processing
Recreational fishing service providers
Commercial and non-commercial recreation and tourism

Working Together

Canada – British Columbia – First Nations Agreements

Photo by Jaka Visek

In 2008, the Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative (CFN-GBI) and North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society (NCSFNSS) entered in to a memorandum of understanding on collaborative oceans governance with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Province of British Columbia (2010) to start developing an integrated oceans management plan for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA). The PNCIMA plan was endorsed by all parties in early 2017. Priority actions under the PNCIMA plan include: 1) ensuring enduring governance and engagement processes will provide accountability regarding the plan’s implementation, and 2) advancing Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network planning in the Northern Shelf Bioregion (NSB). The implementation of the PNCIMA plan will support and link to the MPA Network planning process in the NSB.

In 2011, CFN-GBI, NCSFNSS and Nanwakolas Council entered into a separate governance arrangement with the Province of British Columbia and initiated the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP), resulting in four sub-regional marine plans and a regional action framework that all contain strategies related to establishing a network of MPAs in the MaPP region. In addition, the MaPP plans contain recommendations for protection management zones (PMZs). Although PMZs are not legally designated MPAs, it is anticipated that they will make an important contribution to the Canada-B.C. First Nations MPA Network planning process and are subject to further consultation and evaluation.

In 2012, DFO, CFN-GBI and NCSFNSS signed a letter of intent to collaborate on MPA Network implementation for the NSB. First Nations have significant cultural and economic interests in the marine environment and continue to be actively involved in marine planning and management initiatives, including marine protection.

Governance Structure for Network Planning

The governance structure for the NSB MPA Network planning process is still under development.

MPA Network of the Northern Shelf Bioregion is a collaborative partnership between the Government of Canada, the Province of BC and 17 member First Nations

MPA Network Government of Canada Province of BC Haida-Nation Coastal First Nations Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance Nanwakolas Counsil North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society