Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Photos by Barb Dinning


Please find below the answers to a number of commonly asked questions that we hope you will find helpful.
Additionally, please check our “Get Involved” section on our website at for updates and new information.

If you have specific questions about MPAs in your region, you can reach us by email at and one of the Governance Partners will get back to you.

General Questions

What is a marine protected areas network and why do we need it in the Northern Shelf?

The west coast of Canada is a uniquely beautiful and special place where people and marine life co-exist within a vast landscape of rocky shorelines, kelp forests, deep fjords, open ocean, and intricate archipelagoes. However, the Northern Shelf Bioregion is facing multiple threats, including climate change and human activities such as shipping, fishing, and log handling.

Marine protected areas and marine protected area networks can help us to reduce or prevent potential threats and can work in complement with other management approaches.

A Marine Protected Area is “A clearly defined geographical space recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.”

A Marine Protected Area Network is “A collection of individual marine protected areas that operates cooperatively and synergistically, at various spatial scales, and with a range of protection levels, in order to fulfill ecological aims more effectively and comprehensively than individual sites could alone.”

How much of the Northern Shelf Bioregion will be protected through the network?

The proposed MPA Network includes 30,493 km2 (or about 30%) of the Northern Shelf Bioregion. More than half of this proposed area (about 62%) is comprised of existing MPAs, with the rest made up of new areas.

What levels of protection are planned for the MPA Network?

Between 20% and 50% of the proposed MPA Network is recommended to be targeted as high protection, meaning that activities such as commercial and recreational fishing, aquaculture, and industrial activities would not be acceptable, whereas the remaining areas of the MPA Network would allow for a selected mix of human uses while still meeting conservation objectives.

Who was involved in developing the Network Action Plan?

Oceans management in Canada is complex and requires a concerted effort by all governments to work together. Building on the precedents set by existing collaborative governance experiences and the strong relationships established through these initiatives, the MPA Network was collaboratively planned by the following:

First Nations Governments

  • Central Coast: Kitasoo Xai’xais, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv First Nations, supported by the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCIRA)
  • North Coast: Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Kitsumkalum, Kitselas, Haisla, and Metlakatla First Nations
  • Haida Gwaii: Council of the Haida Nation
  • North Vancouver Island: Mamalilikulla, Tlowitsis, and Wei Wai Kum First Nations, as represented by the Nanwakolas Council, and Kwiakah First Nation

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 Water, Land and Resource Stewardship*
  • Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy

* Lead federal/provincial agency for planning phase

Engagement Feedback and Input

How were stakeholder recommendations provided throughout the planning process incorporated into the Network Action Plan?

Considerable input was received from stakeholders on a first draft of the network design which was shared with stakeholder advisory groups in early 2019. A stakeholder advisory workshop was held in February 2020, which provided an opportunity for stakeholders to share and summarize their input on a first draft of the network design to the planning partners. This input was considered through 2020 and partners provided a new draft network design to stakeholders in February 2021. Input on this scenario was facilitated through a series of stakeholder workshops in March and April of 2021, and during the public engagement period in the Fall of 2022.

While much of this input has been incorporated into the Network Action Plan, some of the stakeholder input provided details that can only be considered or assessed during site designation. Spatial input has been organized, recorded, and saved to ensure that it is available to support MPA site establishment.

How will public recommendations be incorporated?

The public were invited to provide input from September – November 2022 on the draft Network Action Plan via an online survey, webinars, and in-person open houses. Much of the input the partners received during public engagement will be useful to inform MPA site designation processes. Planning partners will develop packages for each proposed site that includes site specific feedback and broader network advice. This input can be used during site designation processes to inform site refinement, future stakeholder and public engagement, and MPA site implementation.

In spring 2023, a “What We Heard” report will be shared publicly. The report will be inclusive of stakeholder submissions in 2019-2021.

I gave specific information about a site. How will that information be used?

Specific technical information or site-specific information has been organized, recorded, and saved and will be assessed and considered at appropriate stages during site establishment.

How is input from First Nations being incorporated?

The Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia have engaged with First Nations across the region throughout the planning process and will continue to consult with First Nations on their interests through network implementation and site designation processes. Feedback from early engagement has informed the development of the Network Action Plan, including network design. First Nations’ input has also been organized, recorded, and saved to ensure that it is available for consideration during MPA site establishment.

In some cases, further discussions with First Nations are required to clarify next steps during the site designation phase. References to this have been included in relevant site profiles.

Who do I talk to for more information in the future?

For more information, please visit


What role does the MPA Network play in the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia’s commitments to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples?

Reconciliation is an ongoing process with Indigenous peoples and the federal and provincial governments are working cooperatively with Indigenous governments to establish and maintain a mutually respectful framework for working together. Reconciliation is the responsibility of all Canadians for a healthier and more prosperous future, while rectifying the wrongs of the past.

While the partners work together within the context of reconciliation, conservation is the highest priority of the MPA Network.

To support reconciliation through MPA Network development, the partners collaboratively developed the Network Action Plan through a government to government, Nation to Nation process. Additionally, partner First Nations identified cultural conservation priorities in their territories, which have been built into the MPA Network. 

What will take priority in areas where Indigenous rights to harvest and traditional use conflict with environmental conservation priorities?

The current legislative framework already protects Indigenous harvest and traditional uses, including practices for food, social, and ceremonial (FSC) purposes. For example, after requirements for conservation, Indigenous FSC requirements and treaty obligations have priority. These will continue in accordance with the law.  

Where there are potential interactions between conservation objectives and FSC practices, these will be discussed through bilateral consultation between the Crown and Indigenous governments during implementation.  

Implementation/ Site Designation

How will the sites be protected?

A combination of federal, provincial, and Indigenous protected area designation and governance tools are recommended in the Network Action Plan for establishing the MPA Network:

Federal Designations

  • Marine Protected Areas (Oceans Act)
  • National Marine Conservation Area Reserve (Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act)
  • Marine National Wildlife Area (Canada Wildlife Act)
  • Marine Refuge (Fisheries Act)

Provincial Designations

  • Class A Park (Protected Areas of B.C. Act)
  • Conservancy (Protected Areas of B.C. Act)
  • Ecological Reserve (Ecological Reserve Act)
  • Protected area of conservation study area (Environment and Land Use Act)
  • Reserves, Withdrawals and Notations (Land Act)
  • Wildlife Management Area (Wildlife Act)

Indigenous Designations

  • In Canada, the term Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) was introduced by the Indigenous Circle of Experts in 2018 to refer to a range of protected and conserved area approaches used by Indigenous Peoples. The governments of Canada and B.C. are working with Indigenous groups to explore new ways of working together to advance the recognition of Indigenous rights and self-determination. IPCAs have strong potential to contribute to Network goals.
Will I have an opportunity to provide input during the implementation of a specific site?

Yes, there will be opportunities for continued engagement on each site, as appropriate to the requirements of the designation tool identified for site establishment. Engagement will be led by the department, organization and/or Nation that is leading the specific site establishment process.

The network partners will provide information about contacts and process details to the public and stakeholders at relevant stages, as site implementation processes get underway.

What are the remaining steps to establish MPAs in the NSB?

Using the guidance provided in the Network Action Plan, individual site designation processes will be initiated by relevant governments in respect of the proposed tool for the site. Generally, the establishment of MPAs will include some or all of the following steps: site identification; feasibility assessments; refinement/completion of overview and assessment reports (which consider the ecological/biophysical, social, cultural and economic aspects of the area); collaboration and consultation with First Nations; consultation and engagement with stakeholders and the public; designing management measures; reaching implementation agreements; and, finally, enacting the legal tools to formally designate the MPA.

At the outset of each establishment process, the steps required and the opportunities for public and stakeholder engagement will be clarified by the department, organization, and/or First Nation leading the site-specific establishment process. It is anticipated these processes will be conducted under collaborative partnerships between the Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia, and First Nations.

When will we see MPAs in the NSB?

Half of the proposed MPA Network is already in place, as it is comprised of existing sites for which no new protections are proposed. A further 12% of existing sites have proposed enhanced protections which are recommended to be in place by 2025. The proposed new sites comprise the remaining 38% of the network design and are recommended to be established by 2025 or 2030, depending on the site.

Can things still change, or will the Network Action Plan be implemented as is?

The partners anticipate that the network footprint, activities of concern, and zone-based conservation objectives will be updated based on further analysis during site designation processes, in consideration of new information and analyses, and feedback received from consultation and engagement. In areas where further work is required to reach agreement planning approaches will continue to be advanced and new sites may be considered.

Additionally, as part of future implementation, the Governance Partners will work together to develop an approach to monitoring the effectiveness of the MPA Network in achieving stated goals and objectives.

Why are you closing all these areas?

The Network Action Plan does not result in the automatic closure of any new areas; it is a plan to inform the implementation of future protected areas in a coordinated manner. There is still much work ahead to designate new network sites; these designation processes will consider the recommendations provided in the Network Action Plan as well as new information and analyses and feedback from consultation and engagement before any decisions regarding closures or other management measures are made.

The MPA Network will only be effective if it is enforced. How will monitoring and compliance work over such a large area?

Compliance with MPA regulations and associated measures (e.g., management plans) will be critical for the MPA Network to achieve its conservation goals. Long-term resources in terms of staffing, funding, capital assets, tools and technology, and training may be required for effective enforcement.

In addition, monitoring enforcement effort, complexity of boundaries and potential management measures, and other factors that influence compliance, such as of the level of public awareness and support, should be an important element of the network monitoring program. 


What is the role of Indigenous, provincial, and federal governments in implementing MPAs?

As governing partners, each brings a wealth of information and knowledge about the various elements of the marine environment. Each partner operates within their jurisdiction and/or authorities, while working together to advance technical information and greater local knowledge.

The governance model currently in development for network implementation will involve collaborative governance and management agreements between the Government of Canada, the Province of B.C., and any participating First Nation for all MPA sites within a Nation’s territory that contribute to the MPA Network.

Impact and Benefits

When will I know how I might be impacted by a site?

The site designation phase will begin following the endorsement of the Network Action Plan in February 2023. MPA site designation is a multi-year process. Identifying regulations and/or management measures that could impact human activities will occur during site establishment and will include opportunities for further public engagement.

Can I still use these areas?

The Network Action Plan does not result in the automatic closure of any new areas; it is a plan to inform the implementation of future protected areas in a coordinated manner. Potential restrictions will be determined through site designation processes and subsequent management planning and informed by the type of legal tool(s) used to establish each site.

How much will it cost me and my family?

The proposed MPA Network was designed to achieve conservation benefits for the region, while considering potential effects on marine sectors. One of the design guidelines for the process is to maximize positive and minimize negative ecological, cultural, social and economic impacts in MPA Network design and to distribute impacts as equitably as possible across communities and users.

The MPA Network has identified activities that could impact the zone-level conservation objectives; however, specific costs associated with the MPA Network have not yet been calculated. Possible prohibitions and management measures will be considered later, during site designation and management planning processes. Site-level analysis of socio-economic impacts will be undertaken during these later steps.

What analyses will be undertaken to better understand the impacts and benefits of the MPA Network?

While site-level analysis of socio-economic impacts will be undertaken as required by the relevant establishment processes, the cumulative socio-economic impacts across the MPA Network (i.e., the total costs and benefits of multiple protected areas) have also been identified as a concern. Assessing these impacts requires information on site management, which will become available over time. It is recommended that, where feasible, cumulative impacts be considered during site-level establishment processes.

How will the MPA Network contribute to Canada’s marine conservation target of 25% by 2025 and 30% by 2030?

Regardless of its potential contribution to national marine conservation targets, we must still take action to address threats to the biodiversity and productive ecosystems of the Northern Shelf Bioregion. The MPA Network is an important tool for the protection, recovery, and enhanced resilience of functional ecosystems.

Won’t the MPA Network drive more activity into other areas and impact those areas negatively? What is a community supposed to do if they can no longer fish in their usual areas? What support will be offered to them?

Identifying regulations and/or management measures that could impact human activities will occur during site establishment and will include opportunities for further public engagement. The advice of community residents on their use of marine areas will help decision-makers understand the trade-offs involved in mitigating the impacts of human activities.

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

Partner First Nations

Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Haisla, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Metlakatla, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo Xai’xais, Nuxalk, Wuikinuxv, Mamalilikulla, Kwiakah, Tlowitsis, and Wei Wai Kum First Nations; and the Council of the Haida Nation.