Protecting the Great Bear Sea for BC’s Economic Prosperity

The Great Bear Sea represents an area of over 100,000 square kilometres. Protecting this resouorce is vital to ensuring that coastal communities can continue to sustain themselves and thrive. Photo credit: Yvette Cordoza on Real Food Traveller

The Great Bear Sea will be home to a new network of marine protected areas (MPAs). This MPA network initiative represents a significant shift in marine management philosophy: Protecting the coast is not just an ecological imperative – it’s also about ensuring continued economic stability and growth. This project, covering 30% of the Sea from the top of Vancouver Island to the Canada-Alaska border, is a joint effort by 15 First Nations, British Columbia, and the federal government of Canada.

The Great Bear Sea

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 Great Bear Sea coast is one of the world’s richest and most productive ecosystems. This area, teeming with diverse life including salmon, bears, wolves, and whales, not only serves as a habitat for wildlife but is also home to Indigenous communities that have stewarded these lands and seas for over 14,000 years. 

The Great Bear Sea initiative is a response to the crisis in marine life populations, including wild Pacific salmon and eulachon, and the increase in marine traffic and exploitative industrial activities in the region that have led to this. Time and again, marine biologists have highlighted the crucial role of protected areas in aiding species recovery and improving genetic diversity, both essential for adapting to climate change and ensuring sustainable fisheries.

Changing Mindsets

Nathan Cullen, British Columbia’s Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, has called for a shift towards an “abundance mindset” for a sustainable planet. This new approach challenges the traditional scarcity mindset and promotes collaborative efforts for sustainability. It’s not about how much we can exploit from how little we have – it’s about recognizing how much we already have and working to maintain that so that we can continue to benefit from abundance.

This project is not just about recognizing Indigenous title or jurisdiction; it is about ensuring sustainable economies in thriving communities. The Great Bear Sea initiative proposes a model that empowers Indigenous communities to exercise their knowledge and values in the course of the project to ensure its success. These Indigenous communities still live and work by our coast. They understand better than most what needs to be done to protect it, and they can help BC and Canada set a new standard for coastal protection and sustainability.

The Great Bear Sea is one of the richest ocean environments in the world, being home to an abundance of marine mammals such as whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions, otters, and much more. Photo credit: Delstudio on Dreamstime

For thousands of years, the Great Bear Sea has provided coastal communities with an abundance of resources. Let’s ensure that we don’t burn out this economic engine, but rather continuously invest in it so that it is always tuned up and performing at its best. 

Learn more about the Great Bear Sea MPA Network by reading this slightly flawed Guardian article.