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 many First Nations are working together to develop a Marine Protected Area network in the Northern Shelf, which extends from the top of Vancouver Island (Quadra Island / Bute Inlet) and reaches north to the Canada – Alaska border.

The Northern Shelf is unique due to its diverse ocean ecosystems, which provide important habitat for a range of species. The Northern Shelf 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 Northern Shelf 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 and 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 millenia, 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 longstanding governance systems that include stewardship of marine resources for sustainable use.

The Northern Shelf Marine Protected Area Network planning process aims to build a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) 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 Northern Shelf and its future, to complete a network of MPAs for the Pacific Coast of Canada.

Who is Participating?

The marine protected area (MPA) network planning process for the Northern Shelf Bioregion is currently co-led by the Government of Canada, Province of British Columbia, and First Nations governments and organizations. Participants include:

Federal government agencies

Provincial government agencies

First Nations governments and organizations

The parties have agreed to work together to advance MPA network planning for this area, through their commitments to the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) plan, Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP), and/or the Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Bioregional Oceans Management and Protection. In addition, Canada and BC are working to engage other First Nations with interests in the Northern Shelf Bioregion, but who are not currently a party to the collaborative structures developed under the plans and agreements identified above.

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

Commercial and non-commercial recreation and tourism
Commercial fishing
Economic development
First Nations marine knowledge
Local government

Marine research institutes
Marine transportation and shipping
Non-renewable energy
Public recreation
Public recreation fishery
Recreational fishing service providers
Renewable energy
Seafood processing

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. The implementation of the PNCIMA plan will support and link to the MPA network planning process in the Northern Shelf.

In 2011, Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative, North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society  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. Although Protection Management Zones are not legally designated MPAs, it is anticipated that they will make an important contribution to MPA Network planning, 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 Northern Shelf. 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 Northern Shelf MPA network planning process is proceeding under an ad-hoc, trilateral governance structure comprising a MPA network Committee and a Marine Protected Areas Technical Team.

MPA Network Committee
The MPA Network Committee provides strategic oversight on the development of a network of marine protected areas for the Northern Shelf, providing direction to the Marine Protected Areas Technical Team where needed. Membership includes senior representatives from First nations, the Government of Canada, and the Province of British Columbia.

Marine Protected Areas Technical Team (MPATT)
Under the guidance of the Canada-British Columbia Marine Protected Area Network Strategy, the Marine Protected Areas Technical Team (MPATT) is responsible for collaboratively advancing technical work on the development of a network of MPAs for the Northern Shelf. The technical team is made up of a mix of policy advisors, natural and social scientists, GIS analysts, spatial analysts, marine planners and project managers.

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