Photo by Jaka Visek

Data & Tools

Significant effort has been made to compile ecological, cultural and other human-use data from existing spatial databases and new data sets recommended and sourced. These data sets have been verified and refined in consultation with independent experts, stakeholders and/or community engagement, where possible.

About 180 layers of geospatial information are publicly available through the MPA network SeaSketch Portal.


The decision support tool Marxan will be used to help identify:

  • Areas of high conservation value
  • Areas of high economic importance
  • Potential sites to fill in gaps amongst existing MPAs

The outputs of Marxan analyses will be used to support engagement with First Nations, stakeholders and local governments to help inform iterative network design.

Learn more about Marxan here.



SeaSketch is a marine spatial planning tool designed for collaborative planning. The SeaSketch portal, customized for this process, has hundreds of geospatial data layers including administrative boundaries, species, habitats and marine uses.

The portal will support collaborative work and discussion related to designing the network of MPAs for the Northern Shelf. It will also be used to engage stakeholders by providing an opportunity to view data, review draft and final network designs and support informed feedback. This tool is being used in many places around the world to inform marine planning processes.

Visit the Northern Shelf MPA network SeaSketch Portal


Canada-British Columbia Marine Protected Area Network Strategy
The governments of Canada and British Columbia are pleased to present the Canada – British Columbia Marine Protected Area Network Strategy. This Strategy is a vital part of our commitment to build a legacy of marine protected area (MPA) networks that will safeguard communities and complement more traditional management tools, making it more likely that future generations will inherit the beauty and productivity of our Pacific Ocean.

Download PDF

National Framework for Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas
The National Framework for Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas (National Framework) provides strategic direction for the design of a national network of marine protected areas (MPAs) that will be composed of a number of bioregional networks. This is an important step towards meeting Canada’s domestic and international commitments to establish a national network of marine protected areas by 2012.

Download PDF

Traditional Knowledge
Photo by Heather Ramsay

First Nations Knowledge

First Nations knowledge is a term used to describe a body of knowledge held by First Nation people about their cultural and physical landscapes and that has been passed from one generation to the next through oral or written traditions.

Similar concepts are also alternatively described by the terms traditional knowledge, traditional ecological (or environmental) knowledge (TEK), Indigenous knowledge or local knowledge.

First Nations have used marine resources for a wide variety of purposes for thousands of years. Traditional activities include the management, harvesting (including seasonal and rotational harvest), preparation, consumption and exchange of marine resources, which occur year-round. First Nations advise that their marine governance and resource management systems include such things as harvest technologies, spatial and social restrictions, seasonal avoidance, selective harvesting, stock management and transplantation, and habitat management and enhancement, and that these systems controlled harvest levels and allowed for the sustainable use of a broad variety of marine resources for millennia. In addition, First Nations knowledge of natural features, animal behaviour and ocean conditions is often used and it is an important source of information for documenting changes in marine environments over time. As environmental conditions, marine populations and human pressures on resources shift and change, the adaptive and timeless knowledge held by First Nations becomes perhaps even more critical.

While extensive oceanographic and ecological mapping exists for many areas on the Pacific coast, there is less information – mapped or written – that captures the detailed and intergenerational knowledge of First Nations. Some information does exist in historical accounts; however, these accounts are far from complete and provide only a glimpse into the extensive and varied reliance of First Nations on marine resources. First Nations participation in the MPA network planning process ensures that this knowledge is included in network design and implementation.

Legislative and Other Tools

Government of Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

  •  a “marine protected area” established under the Oceans Act S.C. 1996, c. 31;

Parks Canada

  • a “national marine conservation area” or “NMCA” established under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act S.C. 2002, c. 18 and includes an NMCA reserve where there are unresolved Aboriginal rights claims that have been accepted for negotiation by the Government of Canada;
  • a “national park” with marine components established under the Canada National Parks Act S.C. 2000, c. 32 and includes a national park reserve where there are unresolved Aboriginal rights claims that have been accepted for negotiation by the Government of Canada;

Environment and Climate Change Canada

  •  a “protected marine area” (known as a marine National Wildlife Area) or “wildlife area” (known as a National Wildlife Area) established under the Canada Wildlife Act R.S.C. 1985, c.W-9;
  • a “migratory bird sanctuary” established in the marine environment under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 S.C. 1994, c.22.
Government of Canada

Government of British Columbia

Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy

  • a “park”, “recreation area”, or “conservancy” established in a marine environment under the Park Act [RSBC 1996] c. 344 or the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act [SBC 2000] c. 17;
  • an “ecological reserve” established in a marine environment under the Ecological Reserve Act [RSBC 1996] c. 103 or the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act [SBC 2000] c. 17;
  • a “protected area” or “conservation study area” established in a marine environment under the Environment and Land Use Act [RSBC 1996] c. 117;

Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development

  • a “land reserve” or “notation of interest” established over Crown land and water in a marine environment under the Land Act [RSBC 1996] c. 245;
  • a “wildlife management area” established in the marine environment under the Wildlife Act [RSBC 1996] c. 488

First Nations

  • Indigenous Community Conserved Areas, Indigenous Protected Areas and other Nation-specific legislated and other tools.
Government of British Columbia

MPA Network of the Northern Shelf Bioregion is a collaborative partnership between the Government of Canada, the Province of BC and many 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

Signatory First Nations

Gitxaala Nation, Metlakatla First Nation, Gitga’at First Nation, Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation, Heiltsuk Nation, Nuxalk First Nation, Wuikinuxv First Nation, Mamalilikulla Nation, Tlowitsis Nation, Da'naxda'xw Awetlala First Nation, Wei Wai Kum First Nation, and K'ómoks First Nation