Introducing a New Network of Marine Protected Areas in BC

Leaders from 15 First Nations and the Governments of Canada and British Columbia have endorsed the plan for a new marine protected area network in BC that will boost economic development through the revitalization of fish stocks. Photo credit: Coastal First Nations on Facebook

At the fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5) in Vancouver, Canada made a historic announcement, unveiling a plan for marine protected areas in BC. 

This network of marine protected areas (MPAs) along Canada’s West Coast will stretch from Vancouver Island to the Alaskan border, representing a significant advancement in marine protection. This initiative, aimed at defending the British Columbia coast from threats like bottom dragging and poaching, is widely seen as a critical solution for the preservation and sustainability of BC’s coastal economy and health.  

The proposed MPA network in BC will be managed by local Nations and communities instead of bureaucrats in Ottawa. Photo Credit: The MPA Network

The network of marine protected areas in BC will cover nearly 30,500 square kilometres (30%) of the Northern Shelf Bioregion, often referred to as the Great Bear Sea. 62% of the 30,500 square kilometres consists of 115 already existing protected areas, with the remainder of the Network consisting of new protected areas. This MPA Network will create a wide variety of jobs, further contributing to the region’s prosperity. Crucially, the decision-makers behind this MPA project have acknowledged the need to address economic issues in tandem with environmental issues and have collaborated extensively with key players, including coastal communities, First Nations, and industry representatives.

“We can’t do it without Indigenous people,” federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray told the conference opening. Photo Credit: West Coast Now

At IMPAC5, Federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray called this new initiative a “blueprint” for marine protected areas. The success of the project in BC will likely inform how Canada proceeds with conservation and economic development efforts in the future. The wide-reaching impact of this project means that it must absolutely have the right leadership at the helm. The knowledge and experience of the people who actually live on the coast will be invaluable to ensuring the success of this initiative. Who better than people living on the coast to be at the helm?

The introduction of this new network of marine protected areas in BC is a crucial step towards preserving the rich biodiversity and ecological integrity of Canada’s coastal regions while ensuring that BC’s coast has sustainable fisheries for generations to come. This approach demonstrates a commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable development, incorporating the important contributions and leadership of Indigenous communities and local stakeholders.

Check out this West Coast Now article to learn more about the Great Beat Sea Marine Protected Area Network.