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Parliamentary breakthrough for Canada’s first deep sea national marine conservation area


B.C.’s revered Gwaii Haanas waters a step closer to protection

OTTAWA – After two decades of discussion, CPAWS welcomes the long-awaited legislation expected to be introduced in the House of Commons today by Environment Minister Jim Prentice to finalize Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve. This 3,000 km2 rich ecological area is nestled off the shores of B.C.’s much-revered Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, on Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands).

“This is an important day. The spectacular Gwaii Haanas islands were protected years ago. But sadly, protecting its ocean took much longer. CPAWS has long advocated for the conservation of the waters of Gwaii Haanas because they are so rich ecologically. The life inhabiting these waters is spectacular, from giant blue whales and Steller sea lions, to small delicate corals and diverse seabirds. We consider this area Canada’s “Galapagos of the North”, says Sabine Jessen, CPAWS national oceans program manager.

“We congratulate the Haida for their vision to conserve the waters of Gwaii Haanas and Haida Chief Guujaaw for persevering in the long years of discussions and study by the federal government,” says Jessen. “The Haida recognize the connection between their land and sea – each depends on the other. Today’s legislation will help to protect the long term health of these spectacular island ecosystems.”

The move today to introduce an order-in-council into Parliament will require the consent of all parties to ensure that the NMCA is finalized before this session adjourns for the summer.

“We strongly urge all parties to agree to pass the order-in-council before the House rises in June. It’s time to finally protect the waters of Gwaii Haanas. The risks to our oceans are growing as climate change advances. For our fisheries to thrive for coming generations, we need to speed up Canada’s marine conservation planning. This is a welcome step in that direction by Minister Prentice,” says Jessen.

“CPAWS will be closely following the development of a management plan for the Gwaii Haanas NMCA after it is designated to ensure that habitat and species conservation are top priorities,” adds Jessen.

Currently, less than one percent of Canada’s waters are protected, compared to nearly 10 percent of our public lands. CPAWS’ vision is that Canada will protect at least half of its public land and water.

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Contact: Sabine Jessen, CPAWS National Oceans Program Manager, 604-657-2813

For more information on Gwaii Haanas, visit www.cpawsbc.org/node/182

About CPAWS, visit www.cpaws.org