February 5, 2023, Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Territories / Vancouver, BC – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – British Columbia (CPAWS-BC) congratulates First Nations, federal and provincial partners on announcing the endorsement of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network Action Plan for the Great Bear Sea at the 5th International Marine Protected Area Congress on February 5, 2023.
“After years of supporting this important initiative, we’re thrilled to witness this announcement and critical milestone in the journey of the MPA network,” said Meaghen McCord, CPAWS-BC Executive Director, “endorsement of the Action Plan is the much-needed green light to now establish a network that includes new protected areas and stronger protection for some existing sites.”
The Great Bear Sea, also known as the Northern Shelf Bioregion, is a vast ocean area off the BC coast. The Great Bear Sea hugs the shores of the Great Bear Rainforest, starting at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, along the Central and North Coasts, and encompassing Haida Gwaii. This region is home to culturally and ecologically important wildlife, including humpback whales, sea otters, herring, salmon, and glass sponge reefs, and is central to the cultures and economies of communities who live there. The marine ecosystems along the coast have been protected and cared for by First Nations for millennia.
Previous delays in the establishment of the MPA Network have meant that overall ecological health and species population numbers have continued to decline. Federal and Indigenous governments were required to establish new fishing closures throughout the region to protect dwindling stocks, and climate change – resulting in devastating marine heatwaves – has exacerbated this.
Discussions and work to establish an MPA Network in this region have been underway for many years. Led by First Nations, in partnership with the Canadian and BC governments, this collaboration has created a conservation plan to protect the coastal ecosystems that communities depend on. Over the years, this plan has been shaped by frequent and detailed consultation with communities and stakeholders.
“Evidence clearly shows that Indigenous-led, strongly protected and effectively managed MPAs have many benefits for people, biodiversity and ecosystems,” says McCord.
Once completed, the MPA Network will cover around 30,000 km2. This Indigenous-led plan, which weaves Indigenous knowledge systems and western science, creates a pathway for future MPA network processes and is set to become a globally recognized initiative. CPAWS-BC congratulates First Nations for their leadership in the MPA Network process, as well as federal and provincial governments, and all stakeholders and communities involved to date. We look forward to continuing this work together, ensuring the health of these waters for generations to come.
CPAWS-BC Executive Director
For direct inquiries about the MPA Network, please contact:
Bessie Brown – Communications Manager, Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Sea Initiative
For all other inquires:
Skye Vallance, Communications Manager (Acting), CPAWS-BC
Marine Protected Area Network Partners Endorse Plan to Protect BC’s North Coast. Coastal First Nations, Feb 05. 2023. Press release: https://coastalfirstnations.ca/marine-protected-area-network-partners-endorse-plan-to-protect-bcs-north-coast/
Marine Protected Area Network partners endorse plan to protect British Columbia’s North Coast. Government of British Columbia, 05 Feb. 2023. Press release. https://news.gov.bc.ca/stories/marine-protected-area-network-partners-endorse-plan-to-protect-british-columbias-north-coast
Learn more about the Great Bear Sea at www.GreatBearSea.org