New article published about stakeholder and public engagement to develop the MaPP marine plans

Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast: Engagement and communication with stakeholders and the public, is a new article published in the journal, Marine Policy, in July 2021.

The authors of the paper are Gord McGee, Josie Byington, John Bones, Sally Cargill, Megan Dickinson, Kelly Wozniak and Kylee Pawluk.

A key requirement for success in marine spatial planning is a meaningful stakeholder engagement process. During the planning phase of the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) initiative, the Partners (the B.C. provincial and 18 First Nations governments) employed, what was termed, an advisory approach to engagement. This advisory approach committed the Partners to engage meaningfully with stakeholders and the public, consider their feedback, work towards balanced solutions, and incorporate what was found to be agreeable. However, it did not require a consensus among participants in order for advice to be accepted or acted upon. Planning occurred over a three-year period in four sub-regions encompassing 102,000 square kilometers of coastal and marine waters on the North Pacific Coast of Canada. Engagement spanned more than 10 sectors of special interest and 22 coastal communities throughout the planning area and included interested members of the general public. Upon plan completion, there was broad stakeholder support for the final sub-regional plans and the Regional Action Framework. The purpose of this paper is to describe from the MaPP governance partners’ perspective, the components of the MaPP advisory-based stakeholder engagement policy and key lessons learned about the factors contributing to the success of its approach. The paper draws upon analysis of MaPP Partner discussions and reflections during and after the planning process, and includes the results of an internal evaluation of stakeholder engagement by independent consultants who surveyed the MaPP team, stakeholders, and the public.


North Coast Sub-region Marine Planning Advisory Committee and MaPP Team members (photo credit: Gilian Dusting)

A Family of Graduates

Nanwakolas Guardians Graduation 2021. Photo credit: Angela Davidson.

Nanwakolas Council Guardians Graduation 2021. (Photo credit: Angela Davidson)

Nanwakolas Council recently published an article describing the graduation of students from the Vancouver Island University Stewardship Technician Training Program. Since 2016, the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) has supported the Nanwakolas Guardian program to implement objectives and strategies in the NVI Marine Plan.

Collaboration Advances Cumulative Effects Management on North Coast

Warren Bolton, photo credit Quinton Ball

DEVELOPING LOCAL EXPERTISE: Warren Bolton, a Kitsumkalum band member, GIS technician, and drone operator, undertakes eelgrass survey work near Ridley Island on the North Coast. Bolton’s involvement with MaPP’s CE project dovetailed perfectly with formal studies in the sciences. Photo credit: Quinton Ball

Marine plan implementation on the North Coast is getting a boost thanks to collaboration between the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) and the North Coast Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) —a B.C. government initiative that was created to address First Nations’ environmental concerns around resource development.

In 2017, the two groups informally merged into one team to accomplish a shared goal: Technically build out and fully implement a cumulative effects framework to monitor, assess, and manage the impacts of industrial and non-industrial development on the North Coast. Cumulative effects are the changes in environmental, social, economic, health and cultural values as a result of the combined effect of present, past and reasonably foreseeable human actions or natural events (MaPP, 2016). The project team includes representation from North Coast First Nations (Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Haisla, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, and Metlakatla) and the Province of B.C.

A convergence of MaPP and ESI work on cumulative effects on the North Coast began in 2015. MaPP had already begun implementing its North Coast Marine Plan. Federal agencies (such as Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada) and provincial resource ministries (such as the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development) were responding to the need for cumulative effects monitoring and deeper involvement of First Nations in decisions about coastal development projects—particularly, liquefied natural gas. With so many of the same people involved in related discussions, it made sense to bring them together.

Maya Paul, Program Director of Cumulative Effects Strategic Initiatives for the North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society, co-manages the integrated MaPP and ESI North Coast Cumulative Effects Program. According to Paul, a key consideration for the North Coast Nations’ engagement in monitoring and assessment projects was their desire for the work to lead to decision-making and action. “North Coast First Nations knew cumulative effects were important but were approaching it independently. They knew they needed to work together, and with other governments, to achieve stronger and more meaningful outcomes.”

Team members are thoughtfully incorporating relevant learnings to support monitoring, assessment, and management of cumulative effects on core values of common importance. They’re currently focused on four values that were prioritised as a starting point: Aquatic Habitats (Estuaries, with a focus on the Skeena Estuary); Salmon; Food Security (with a focus on harvested foods); and Access to Resources (for social and cultural uses). Rebecca Martone, a provincial marine biologist on the North Coast Cumulative Effects project team, notes how important it is to assess interconnected indicators for the values they’re working on. “By developing and selecting indicators in parallel for habitats, key species, cultural values, and human wellbeing, we really start to understand the complexities in the methodologies required to assess cumulative effects, and how indicators can inform more than one value and thus create efficiencies for how those factors are considered in decision-making.”

Marine biodiversity photo credit Maya Paul

MARINE BIODIVERSITY IN THE NORTH COAST: Abalone, otherwise known as sea snails, are a species at risk of extinction and are just one of many marine species that rely on healthy kelp forests in the North Coast. Photo credit: Maya Paul

Continued effort and dedication of team members has resulted in steady progress on each of the values. For example, a North Coast data management system has been developed to enable project team members to contribute, house, aggregate, analyze, and visualise a wide range of regional monitoring data to support decision-making. In addition to identifying a suite of indicators for the Aquatic Habitats (Estuaries) and Food Security & Access to Resources values, the Project Team has developed protocols that will set the procedures and standards for conducting assessments of the condition of the value now and in the future. They’ve developed a suite of indicators and implemented a survey to gather insights from North Coast First Nations community members on the Food Security & Access to Resources values. Quinton Ball, a Terrace-based environmental scientist contracted by Kitsumkalum Nation, explains: “Good indicators should serve as meaningful metrics that can be used to measure and understand change and enable affordable collection of standardised data that are useful for a variety of purposes.” Adds Ball, “Good indicators reveal important changes before we notice them.”

A current condition assessment of the Skeena Estuary value and a cumulative effects assessment of Food Security & Access to Resources values were completed in early 2021, which led to the development of a suite of interim recommendations that the team has begun to implement this year. A field monitoring project, designed to support assessment of the Skeena estuary, is now into its fifth year. The field program has realized many accomplishments, including training and engaging First Nations technicians in the marine environment, leveraging and building capacity in First Nations’ stewardship offices and improving the effectiveness of monitoring by utilising local knowledge in the design of the program. This has resulted in the collection of four years of data to serve as a beginning baseline for assessments. The team has also framed the scope of the initial assessment of the salmon value and began work on it at the end of 2020.

Heather Johnston, with the Environmental Stewardship Initiative Branch of the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation, co-manages the integrated Cumulative Effects program. She feels the project’s value extends far beyond the North Coast region. “It’s part of implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, where First Nations have a real say in what’s going on in their traditional territories.”

Members of the North Coast Cumulative Effects Project team speak highly of each other’s qualifications and commitment to the work. “The level of professionalism and desire among agencies to collaborate—I just don’t think it’s been done at this level before,” says Ball. And Ball loves seeing new passions for science ignited among First Nations community members who get involved in monitoring work and then go on to explore science-related careers.

Development in NC photo credit Maya Paul

DEVELOPMENT IN THE NORTH COAST: Sustainable economic development in the North Coast is just one of the priorities being addressed through collaborative efforts between the Province of B.C. and several North Coast First Nations, through the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) and the North
Coast Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI). Photo credit: Maya Paul

MaPP Receives British Columbia Reconciliation Award

On April 26, 2021, the Marine Plan Partnership received the British Columbia Reconciliation Award.



The Office of the Lieutenant Governor and the BC Achievement Foundation Announce Inaugural Reconciliation Award Recipients

 The Office of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, in partnership with the BC Achievement Foundation, is honoured to announce the recipients of the inaugural British Columbia Reconciliation Award. The award recognizes nine extraordinary individuals and organizations who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, integrity, respect, and commitment to furthering Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the province of British Columbia, or inspired others to continue Reconciliation efforts.

Individual Recipients:

  • Dawn Drummond
  • Doris Paul
  • Corey Payette
  • Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
  • David Suzuki
  • Corporal Christopher Voller

Organization Recipients:

  • Carrier Sekani Family Services
  • Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast
  • xaȼqanaǂ ʔitkiniǂ (Many Ways of Doing the Same Thing) Research Team

“Being part of establishing the Reconciliation award program and serving on the inaugural selection committee has been heart-warming and empowering. Reviewing all the nominations has shown me the power of Reconciliation and how it can change people and community’s lives for the better.” said BC Achievement Foundation board member Kekinusuqs, Judith Sayers. “It shows we can live together and achieve great things if there are willing people working towards a vision of Reconciliation.” The BC Achievement Foundation has several established programs honouring excellence and inspiring achievement throughout British Columbia, including the Indigenous Business Award and the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art.

“The inaugural recipients of this award are shining examples of those in British Columbia who have demonstrated the many approaches to furthering Reconciliation through meaningful action. It is humbling and inspiring to read of their stories, their incredible impacts in their communities, and to learn from their perspectives on Reconciliation. I am deeply honoured to have the opportunity to partner with the BC Achievement Foundation and the selection committee to develop this award and to recognize these exemplary individuals,” says Austin, “Reconciliation must take root in our hearts, within families, between generations, and throughout our communities. I invite all British Columbia to join us in celebrating these champions, to learn from their stories, and to strive to build relationships with each other across cultures.”

The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, has chosen Reconciliation as one of the key priorities of her mandate. This commitment includes participation in promotion of public awareness of the ongoing journey of Reconciliation.

The British Columbia Reconciliation Award draws inspiration from the work of the Honourable Steven Point [Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl], 28th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and a founder of the Award. His hand-carved red cedar canoe, Shxwtitostel, currently on display at the BC Legislature buildings, was created as a symbol of reconciliation, with the understanding that “we are all in the same canoe” and must “paddle together” to move forward. In honour of this legacy, this year’s recipients will receive a print of a canoe paddle painted to commemorate the award by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Cole Speck.

The selection committee for the 2021 British Columbia Reconciliation Award, including representation from Indigenous Elders and leadership, is:

  • T’esóts’en, Patrick Kelly – Leq’á:mel First Nation
  • Nicole McLaren – Métis Nation
  • Chief Sophie Pierre – Ktunaxa Nation
  • Kekinusuqs, Judith Sayers – Hupacasath First Nation
  • T,lalisam, Kim van der Woerd – ’Namgis First Nation

Members of the selection committee, along with the Honourable Steven Point, led in the creation and design of the BC Reconciliation Award, ensuring the award was founded on the principles of Indigenous culture and knowledge.


New article about the Marine Plan Partnership

“The Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast – MaPP: A collaborative and co-led marine planning process in British Columbia” is an article published in the journal Marine Policy in June 2020.

The authors of the paper are Steve Diggon, John Bones, Charlie Short, Joanna Smith, Megan Dickinson, Kelly Wozniak, Karen Topelko and Kylee Pawluk.

Abstract: For more than a decade, marine spatial planning has been used around the world to advance objectives for conservation, economic development, and ecosystem-based management. Ecosystem-based management (EBM) in British Columbia began with the development of land use plans in the 1990s to address coastal and land use issues related to terrestrial land management. Managing marine resources is challenging on Canada’s Pacific coast because of multiple, overlapping jurisdictions, unceded indigenous territories, and lack of coordination amongst governments in the region and their agencies. The Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP) was formed in 2011 and was a co-led partnership between 18 First Nations’ and the Province of British Columbia governments. The purpose of the MaPP Initiative was to develop and implement marine plans for 102,000 square kilometers of coastal and offshore water in northern British Columbia. A co-led governance framework included the member First Nations and the Provincial government structured into multiple levels of decisions making, conflict resolution, and technical support. Integral to the planning process was broad and continual stakeholder engagement through multiple advisory committees as well as public engagement. The planning process made use of multiple information sources including traditional, scientific, and local knowledge and was completed in 3.5 years. The result was the development and signing into policy of four sub-regional marine plans (one for each of the four MaPP sub-regions: Haida Gwaii, North Coast, Central Coast, and North Vancouver Island) and a Regional Action Framework. The sub-regional plans delineate protection, special, and general management zones for multiple objectives and will inform future policy decisions for marine protected areas, tenures, resource management and coastal development through an EBM approach. The plans will inform permits for marine tenures including aquaculture, offshore renewable energy siting, contribute to Canada’s marine protected areas network, and improve coastal infrastructure. The Regional Action Framework highlights activities to occur across the entire region through five main activity areas (Regional Governance, Ecological Integrity and Human Well-being, Compliance and Enforcement, Cumulative Effects Assessment, and Zoning Recommendations). Funding for planning was through a public-private model that also supported the development of the plans and decision support tools (e.g. planning and mapping portal). Discussions regarding implementation began during the planning phase to ensure long-term commitment from the Partners and continuity to improve decision making and management within the MaPP area. The process design and methodology created by MaPP can be a model for planning in areas that involve multiple authorities, complex geographies and jurisdictional arrangements that can be scaled up for regional, cross border, and transboundary marine spatial planning.


Marine planning brought to life in new MaPP video

On, over, and under the waters of the North Pacific Coast, a new video from the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) takes you on a magnificent journey into the heart of its work. Travel along as coastal guardians gather data and monitor environmental conditions. Visit the towering kelp forests that support a wide array of biodiversity, including ecologically and culturally important species. Witness young people connecting with their marine heritage. Hear from First Nations and provincial leaders who are working together to protect, conserve, and manage this precious shared resource.

MaPP – The Benefits showcases the spectacular nature of the North Pacific Coast. It also demonstrates that the work conducted during MaPP’s first phase has created a strong foundation. Data collection, fact finding, habitat monitoring, stakeholder engagement, pilot projects, and contributions to other planning processes that are critical to successful future implementation have been established.

MaPP is now poised to move into its second phase of implementation with the goal of creating positive change in coastal communities and ocean health.

New video: Creating a Protected Area Network for the Northern Shelf Bioregion

A new video developed by the Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative tells the story of collaborative work between First Nations along the North Pacific Coast, and governments of Canada and BC, to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas in the Northern Shelf Bioregion (28 minutes).

To view, click: Creating a Protected Area Network for the Northern Shelf Bioregion

MaPP researchers narrow down ideal kelp aquaculture conditions

Tlowitsis Guardian Gina Thomas holds up one of the largest kelp fronds grown during MaPP’s kelp aquaculture pilot, in Port Neville, B.C., on May 27, 2019; it measured 2.5 metres long. Photo credit: Allison Byrne

Tlowitsis Guardian Gina Thomas holds up one of the largest kelp fronds grown during MaPP’s kelp aquaculture pilot, in Port Neville, B.C., on May 27, 2019; it measured 2.5 metres long. Photo credit: Allison Byrne

The brown, translucent fronds of sugar kelp that hover below the ocean’s surface throughout coastal B.C. and beyond are gaining interest as an aquaculture product.

MaPP partners in North Vancouver Island ran a pilot study to learn more about ideal growing conditions for the brown algae, which can be eaten and used in fertilizers, biofuels, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Their next step is to determine how big a sugar kelp aquaculture operation would need to be to make a profit, and to review these findings with Nanwakolas Council member First Nations whose traditional territories would be affected and who would need to be consulted on any future aquaculture operations.

“It’s easy to grow,” said Don Tillapaugh, the Marine Plant Pilot (TMPP) project manager. In December 2018, Tillapaugh and a team of researchers wrapped single lengths of rope with twine colonized with sugar kelp spores and suspended those ropes underwater in three coastal sites off northeast Vancouver Island: Port Neville, Clio Channel, and Havannah Channel. The spores looked like brown fuzz on the ropes, and by spring, small kelp fronds were visible, mainly between two and four metres below the sea’s surface at each site. By late May, the fronds had reached their peak weight. The kelp at Port Neville grew about twice as big as fronds grown in the two channel environments, and Tillapaugh said he suspects it’s because the Port Neville waters are more nutrient-dense, fed by nearby mud flats.

“It’s a potential economic driver for some of our coastal First Nations, and something sustainable,” said Gina Thomas, a senior member of the Tlowitsis Guardian program, and a researcher with TMPP. She said commercial farming of the kelp allows greater control over conditions, as opposed to harvesting wild kelp. And, she said she hopes the research will encourage bands in the area to pursue kelp aquaculture. “You don’t need a lot of money or equipment up front,” she said.

Challenges to commercial success, however, exist.

“Growing kelp is like growing cherries,” Tillapaugh said. “It all reaches its peak at the same time and has to be harvested within about one week.”

“It’s a huge risk,” he said, noting the kelp starts to degrade after being picked, and if it’s going to be available throughout the year, it needs to be dried or otherwise processed into a product with a shelf life. “Processing plants don’t exist right now,” he said. Other potential challenges include labour availability in remote locations, transportation, and variability in growth from year to year, he said.

Most concerning, there is no well-defined large market for kelp, Tillapaugh said. While niche markets exist, including high-end restaurants who order small amounts of fresh sugar kelp, Tillipaugh warned, “We need to make sure the market is there before people get into growing it.”

In that vein, the next step for this MaPP project is to research the feasibility of kelp aquaculture, including where it could be sold, in what form, at what price, and what the start-up costs of an operation might be.

In 2016, a MaPP-funded market analysis on shellfish and kelp aquaculture reported some favourable conditions for kelp aquaculture, including that global interest in aquaculture products was steadily growing; and that while several Asian countries are the largest producers and consumers of kelp and other seaweed products, B.C.’s reputation for pristine waters attracts interest in its aquaculture products. The report also suggested that niche marketing techniques, including First Nations branding of kelp products, could bump its selling price.

Although only one company, Canadian Kelp Resources, has been growing and selling kelp in coastal B.C. (since 1982), interest in kelp aquaculture and harvesting has recently surged.

“If you think about future food shortages, kelp may become a beneficial source of sustenance,” Thomas said.

The projected cost of the nine-month TMPP project was $33,000, however, Tillapaugh said the completed project cost less. The Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP) funded this research after identifying sugar kelp as a new potential sustainable aquaculture opportunity in the North Vancouver Island sub-region.

Sugar kelp grown at the Port Neville, B.C. test site grew twice as large as kelp grown in Clio and Havannah channels. This frond from Port Neville was weighed and photographed March 22, 2019. Photo credit: Don Tillapaugh

Sugar kelp grown at the Port Neville, B.C. test site grew twice as large as kelp grown in Clio and Havannah channels. This frond from Port Neville was weighed and photographed March 22, 2019. Photo credit: Don Tillapaugh

Five years into MaPP implementation: Expanded guardian watchmen programs are making a significant difference



Sandie Hankewich and Ernest Mason (Kitasoo/Xai’xais Fisheries Program) conducting Dungeness crab surveys. (Photo credit: Tristan Blaine, CCIRA)

For many years, guardian watchmen have been stewards for the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Wuikinuxv, and Nuxalk Nations on the Central Coast. And for the past five years, each Nation’s program has been able to accomplish more thanks to MaPP, which funds two positions in each Nation with a specific focus on monitoring key ecosystem-based management (EBM) indicators. Guardians are now collecting data in places and on a scale that no other agency does, and the impacts are changing the way species are managed and biodiversity is protected.

“Funding from MaPP has opened up a whole new set of work and grown our capacity,” says Diana Chan, who works with the Heiltsuk Nation. “These guardians monitor EBM indicators including kelp and Dungeness crab. We’re using the Dungeness crab surveys to inform our collaborative management discussions with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).”

“Our program is more robust because of MaPP funding,” agrees the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation’s Evan Loveless. “It takes time to build capacity and there are ongoing challenges of working in remote communities. But our partnership with MaPP means we have data from across the region that we can use for more strategic management. We’re planning better and we’re moving towards improved stewardship over our marine environment.”

The Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCIRA) supports the regional stewardship efforts of guardian watchmen programs within the four Central Coast Nations, and these programs are in turn part of broader regional network supported by the Coastal Stewardship Network. Tristan Blaine trains the MaPP-funded watchmen on how to collect data that informs ecosystem-based management.

“Having everyone collect data the same way means we have uniform information that can be used to make valid comparisons and communicate coast-wide trends,” he says. “This gives the data more power to be used for resource management decisions. And the watchmen are starting to appreciate the importance of their work; I’ve noticed a real shift in their sense of ownership of the territory and its resources.”

The data the watchmen collect are used to inform collaborative management with the provincial and federal governments. Kelp monitoring, for instance, is informing a MaPP regional kelp monitoring program. Observations of vessel traffic provide data for marine park management and use permits. Data collection assists with determining if forestry activities in the marine environment are in compliance with the conditions in the tenure agreement and Management Plan, and also helps identify hot zones for oil spills as well as for mitigation and response management. Ocean temperature and other oceanographic indicators are noted, offering insights on climate change and impacts on critical near-shore habitats such as kelp and eelgrass. Data gathering has also proved vital in protecting sacred cultural sites and good sources of food such as Pyropia (edible seaweed).

The Dungeness crab survey is one of the longest-running projects on the Central Coast. Alejandro Frid is CCIRA’s science co-ordinator and, in collaboration with Madeleine McGreer, analyzes the data watchmen collect.

“The data are being used to monitor EBM Indicators and to see if MaPP’s protection management zones are helping with conservation as well as defining where commercial and recreational fisheries are having an impact,” says Alejandro. “The Dungeness crab data were used extensively by our joint technical working group with DFO and resulted in closures to commercial fisheries intended to restore and preserve First Nations’ access to traditional foods. That’s been the most impactful study so far but we’re also on the way to applying the data collected in other areas.”

MaPP funding has also helped build bridges between the Nations and provincial agencies.

“MaPP has helped us build relationships with the Nations and we’ve gained a better understanding of the guardian watchmen programs, their concerns and focus,” says Natural Resources Officer Denise Blid. “We now have regular meetings and have worked together on a number of occasions. It’s a priority for our agency to continue to work together to strengthen these partnerships.”

Momentum is also building between watchmen and BC Parks’ officials. Peter Woods is the agency’s area supervisor on the Central Coast.

“The guardian watchmen attended ranger training in 2018 and 2019 and we held a joint workshop last year that was a great success in building trust and followed that up with another in 2019 that has helped us forge an even stronger relationship,” says Woods. “We discussed joint patrol opportunities as well as future projects; collaboration has increased substantially between BC Parks and the four Central Coast Nations. That will result in strong protection and stewardship of our resources.”

“Every year, we can point to more tangible outcomes thanks to the MaPP-funded guardians,” says CCIRA’s program director, Aaron Heidt. “The programs are gaining capacity and professionalism. There’s growing awareness with provincial agencies and that’s leading to better co-ordination and improved working relationships. Over the long-term, I see these watchmen as playing a key role in who we go to for scientific data on the Central Coast and as the face of MaPP implementation as well as marine conservation and management.”


Alec Willie (Wuikinuxv watchman) amazed at the size of the crab inside the Indigenous crab closure areas. (Photo credit: Tristan Blaine, CCIRA)

Helping the Kelp


Kelp bed in the North Vancouver Island sub-region. Credit: Nanwakolas Council.

The giant and bull kelp plants that grace British Columbia’s waters are not only beautiful to look at; they are important indicators of the province’s coastal ecosystem health. First Nations Guardians are part of the vital and exciting work taking place to learn more about them.

“Some of the areas we are studying are incredibly biodiverse,” enthuses Markus Thompson. Thompson, a marine environmental practitioner based on Quadra Island, has been working over the 2018 season with First Nations Guardians, staff from Nanwakolas Council, the provincial government, and the Hakai Institute on the first phase of a study of kelp in the waters around Northern Vancouver Island. The project was initiated and supported by the Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast, or MaPP for short.

“Nutrient rich waters and strong currents along the northeastern coastline of Vancouver Island support a huge abundance of wildlife—whales, sea lions, and of course, kelp. But each First Nation territory also comes with unique challenges. Some territories have such an abundance of kelp that we have been unable to survey all of it,” says Thompson. “There’s a lot more to be done to ensure we have the right information to make sure we’re taking good care of these precious ecosystems.”

What’s the deal with kelp?

Thompson worked closely on this project with provincial government marine biologist Dr. Rebecca Martone. Martone, who works for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) describes her role this way: “My primary responsibility is supporting the implementation of the MaPP marine plans and the marine protected area network process.” The bigger picture, she explains, is supporting ways to “get good science into decision-making,” from an ecosystem-based management, or EBM, perspective.

Monitoring indicator species like kelp is an important part of planning and implementing an EBM framework, say both experts. “If you think about the objectives of EBM being effective ecosystem function and human well-being, healthy marine habitats support that,” explains Martone. “An EBM indicator program is about measuring the status of systems like marine habitats and the things that affect them, so we can manage them most effectively to meet those objectives.”


Rebecca Martone and Markus Thompson provided kelp monitoring training to Guardians. Credit: Nanawakolas Council.

Kelp, as it happens—both the giant and the bull species that grace most of British Columbia’s coastline—are excellent indicator species of marine habitat health. “If the kelp isn’t thriving, it’s likely that whatever is causing that is also affecting other parts of the ecosystem negatively. Moreover, kelp are the foundational species that support many other ecologically, culturally, and economically important species, so the loss of these habitats can have cascading effects. Understanding the status of the kelp is going to be very helpful in assessing the overall health of the region,” says Martone.

Trouble is, we don’t know what we don’t know

Aquatic plant harvesting is regulated by FLNRORD, which licenses the wild harvest and culture of aquatic species and commercial harvesting. Kelp is used commercially for everything from herbal remedies to cosmetics and fertilizer, and for medical purposes. First Nations harvest kelp on which herring have spawned, as well as for general consumption.

But the last time any studies were undertaken of these important species was in 2007, in one small part of the central coast. Scattered studies of small areas have been undertaken since the mid-1970s, but no comprehensive contemporary inventory of the coast as a whole exists.

Filling that information gap is important, says Thompson, for three reasons. Firstly, understanding the state of the species can, as we know, tell us a lot about the overall health of the marine environment on British Columbia’s coast. “Secondly, we have an opportunity to work closely with First Nations this time to undertake the monitoring and include their knowledge in the assessment of species health. Last but not least,” says Thompson, “there’s been a flurry of recent applications to harvest more kelp, but we don’t have up-to-date information on the health of the kelp stocks to inform decisions on those applications.”

The goals of the study are to bring up-to-date measurements of data like water temperature and salinity together with observations and analysis of both human activity and other

influences such as climate change, to assess impacts on and changes in the ecosystem over time. “For example,” says Thompson, “kelp productivity is generally most productive in cooler water, so as water temperature increases with climate change we may see a drop in kelp abundance. Another example is that we are seeing sea otters returning to the east coast of Vancouver Island. Sea otters eat sea urchins, which eat kelp, so that will have an impact as well.”


Guardians travel to kelp monitoring sites. Credit: Nanwakolas Council

Not least of all the study project, which began in 2018, will incorporate invaluable First Nations’ knowledge. “It’s a great fit,” says Martone. “It’s pretty challenging to monitor species that are mostly underwater, in remote locations with difficult access. Having people who know the territories inside out, who are competent in boats in these places and who understand how the tides work and the tough conditions is priceless.”

Western scientists, adds Martone, are only “beginning to understand” the value of traditional knowledge and experience. “These perspectives are not less valuable, simply different, to the way other science has looked at the issues.” Science, she says, is observational by nature, and about wanting to understand what’s happening. “So there’s a major connection to local knowledge and experienced local interpretation of what we are seeing.”

Working in partnership with First Nations

“Eelgrass was originally identified as the regional indicator species to study but in discussions with the First Nations, kelp came up as a priority as well,” notes Martone. “They told us that’s because they have been observing major declines in abundance, particularly on the north coast and around Vancouver Island. They are very concerned about the increased interest in harvesting kelp under the circumstances.”

Working with First Nations Guardians who have significant experience and knowledge of the environment and who are comfortable working in remote, challenging waterscapes, but who also don’t necessarily have a scientific qualification, demanded a partnership approach to the design of the study that was scientifically rigorous but practical and straightforward. “An important part of this work is building the capacity within the First Nations to undertake the monitoring work directly,” says Thompson. “So we designed the approach together in the best way to achieve that.”


Tier Two kelp surveys are conducted from kayaka. Credit: Markus Thompson

Getting out on—and into—the water

The team took a three-tier monitoring approach to the study project. “In tier one, we just wanted to know how much kelp there is, and where it is,” says Thompson. “The best way to do that was to go out in small boats with the Guardians, who know where to find the kelp, and a GPS system to map locations and extent of the kelp beds, and then spend a few minutes in each bed making notes about what you could see from the surface, the density, visible impacts, any other species in the beds like urchins or sea otters nearby.”

Based on the data gleaned from tier one, tier two surveys were done in a two-pronged approach: from kayaks and through drone aerial imagery. More detailed information about the extent, density and biomass of the kelp beds was gathered from this method of surface observation. Over hundreds of kilometres of coastline, the Guardians patiently counted kelp bulbs and strands in quadrants of one square metre at a time. At the same time, a start was made on gathering overhead images of the beds using drones. Tier three continued the work underwater, using scuba divers to observe what is happening below the surface.

All three tiers were deployed in 2018, says Thompson, with divers for the tier three work supplied by the Hakai Institute and the A-Tlegay Fisheries Society.

Preliminary findings confirmed that the distribution and density of kelp across all of the regions substantially different, and a relationship exists between bull kelp stipe diameter and biomass, among other things. In 2019, the work will continue, again taking on all three tiers. The partners will continue working together to refine the approach and find ways to improve the field testing methods, as well as how the data obtained will feed into longer-term planning and ecosystem management, including harvesting controls.


Tier Three surveys are conducted underwater by divers. Credit: Ryan Millar

Putting power in the hands of the First Nations

An important element will be continuing to work with the Guardians to increase their capacity to undertake the monitoring work themselves, including training and qualifications in underwater work. “I think this is one of the biggest benefits of this work so far,” says Thompson. “It’s so important that the First Nations have access to this information to inform their decisions about taking care of their territories based on our collective knowledge and work.”

Thompson also notes, that requires commitment on the part of the non-First Nations partners to stay the course: “You can’t just parachute in and then stop,” he says firmly. “We have to commit to the relationship and seeing through the work, and that isn’t completed when these short-term studies are finished. That’s a long-term commitment.”

Fortunately, that seems to be the collective view. “Working with the Guardians has been such a gift for me,” says Martone. “Their knowledge is so critical to the work we do together. The fact they have invited me out on the water and shared their perspectives with me is incredibly rewarding. I hope they feel the same way!”

The long view

Gina Thomas, senior Tlowitsis Guardian, certainly does.” I think this work is going to be very helpful,” says Thomas. “It’s also been very helpful to connect directly with the decision-makers in the province. That’s been a really exciting part of this year’s experience.” Thomas says you also have to take a long-term view: that in the bigger picture, it is all about managing the kelp and the ecosystems for better health and the well-being of all concerned.

When you get out on the water with people from the government and other partners First Nations work with, says Thomas, and everyone sees what it is like in these beautiful, remote places, “we find we share the same passions and desires for good outcomes for them. We have the same information, we’re on the same page, and it makes it easy to make good decisions.”


Gina Thomas monitors kelp. Credit: Nanwakolas Council

New MaPP Study Offers Meta-View of Climate Impacts


MaPP’s new Regional Climate Change Assessment study offers a bird’s-eye view of current projections of how climate change will play out across MaPP sub-regions. This map – one of dozens in the report – shows locations of First Nations fishing infrastructure in relationship to regional variations (up to 72 cm by the end of this century) in sea-level rise under a “high” scenario of global emissions. Source: “Regional Climate Change Assessment: Projected Climate Changes, Impacts and Recommendations for Assessing Vulnerability and Risk across the Canadian North Pacific Coast.”


A recently completed MaPP study provides the clearest picture yet on how climate change is poised to affect communities and ecosystems.

Titled “Regional Climate Change Assessment: Projected Climate Changes, Impacts and Recommendations for Assessing Vulnerability and Risk across the Canadian North Pacific Coast,”  the study was completed in February 2018 by Charlotte Whitney and Tugce Conger, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions fellows and PhD candidates from the University of Victoria’s School of Environmental Studies and UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability.

To do it, Whitney and Conger systematically examined hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific publications and studies undertaken by government, private firms, and environmental non-government organizations. To get a sense of work in progress, they also interviewed other key researchers in B.C. about relevant, ongoing projects.

“I was surprised by how much work has been done, but just not always consistently across the region,” Whitney says of the process. “Pulling it all together like this showed there is a lot we can use to make better management decisions at multiple scales, and a lot of actions that can be really effective in supporting communities within the MaPP region in coming years.”

The resulting 135-page synthesis affirms that site-specific changes to ecosystems on the B.C. coast are already underway now, and will deepen in coming decades. Air and ocean surface temperatures will continue to rise, as will sea levels—averaging about 20 to 30 cm by 2100. Ocean water will become less salty, more acidic, and lower in dissolved oxygen. Winds, waves, storms, flooding, and extreme weather events are expected to become more intense. Snowmelt will keep happening earlier and faster, making for more intense freshets (the sudden rise of water level in a river due to melting snow or ice) and hotter, drier summers in some regions.

The researchers expect these phenomena to have far-reaching effects on the ecosystems, economies, and cultures of MaPP communities. For example, the geographic ranges of key species of salmon, herring, shellfish, and crustaceans may shift. Communities and critical marine infrastructure will be more vulnerable to sea-level rise and extreme weather events. Many cultural sites, valuable in their own right but also as proof of historical First Nations presence, will be more vulnerable to erosion and loss; though the vulnerability will vary across the sub-regions. Pollutants that have been stored in glacial ice for centuries will be released as glaciers melt, potentially impacting habitat.

One unique aspect of this study—and in line with its intent—is that it drills down into existing data to explore how climate change will play out over the coming decades at regional and sub-regional scales. For example, it indicates that the northeast coast of Graham Island, Haida Gwaii, is especially sensitive to sea-level rise, but that warmer and longer summers may also bring new opportunities in tourism. On the Central Coast, MaPP communities are less vulnerable to sea-level rise than other regions, but have a greater proportion of documented cultural sites at risk and can expect a major decline (32%-49% decline by 2050) in herring—a key source of food, income, and cultural practice.

The study’s appendices offer a treasure trove of practical information. For example, readers can look up key species in a table that lists the climate change factors they are vulnerable to and how they are likely to be affected. A set of colour-coded maps illustrates communities’ varying sensitivities, under different emissions scenarios, to factors such as changing salinity and sea-level rise.

Equally useful is the study’s highlighting of locally relevant but still unanswered climate-change questions—such as the impacts of ocean acidification, and the ways that warming waters, by harbouring new marine diseases and invasive species, will change marine ecosystems. These unanswered questions will help guide future climate change research.

During the research, Whitney and Conger invited feedback from key MaPP team members—like Rebecca Martone, a Victoria-based marine biologist with B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

“This study really helps us to put the puzzle pieces together in a way that hasn’t been done before,” enthuses Martone, who is on the MaPP technical team. “It helps us identify where we have more certainty in projected impacts, so we can prioritize actions to take, and where we need more information. And it really strengthens the scientific foundation for the work of MaPP.”

For John Bones, First Nations co-lead for MaPP implementation in the North Vancouver Island sub-region, the study offers strong motivation for proactive effort. “The most valuable insight from this study for First Nations communities … is probably that climate change impacts on ocean characteristics—like salinity and water temperature—are going to affect ocean-based cultures and traditions,” he reflects. “Each community needs to start developing an ‘action plan’ for both the threats and opportunities that might result.”

Whitney agrees, and emphasizes the wisdom of framing community conversations less in terms of vulnerabilities and more around communities’ adaptive capacity—“the latent potential of people and ecosystems to adapt”—and proactive planning. To that end, the researchers included recommendations for high-level planning principles and an appendix about adaptation measures that communities can start taking now.

“Building on initiatives that are already involving communities in planning, management, and capacity development—like the Guardian Watchmen program—would be really valuable,” adds Whitney. “It could turn this into a story about potential.”

As the MaPP team prepares to share study findings with MaPP communities, Whitney and Conger have gone on to complete a second, complementary literature review, which evaluates frameworks and tools for carrying out vulnerability and risk assessments for the MaPP region—work that will be undertaken next year.


Rising sea level and increased storm surge can subject archeological sites to erosion or inundation. This map shows that some MaPP regions are more vulnerable to this than others. The North Vancouver Island sub-region, for example, has the highest proportion of its documented archeological sites at risk.
Source: “Regional Climate Change Assessment: Projected Climate Changes, Impacts and Recommendations for Assessing Vulnerability and Risk across the Canadian North Pacific Coast.”

Report Citation: Whitney, Charlotte, and Tugce Conger. 2019. “Northern Shelf Bioregion Climate Change Assessment: Projected Climate Changes, Sectoral Impacts, and Recommendations for Adaptation Strategies Across the Canadian North Pacific Coast.” MarXiv. May 3.

Read the report online here.

MaPP workshop presented during the 2018 B.C. Seafood Expo in Comox

Sally Cargill visits a booth promoting locally harvested sea urchin. (Photo credit: Andy Witt)

Sally Cargill visits a booth promoting locally harvested sea urchin. (Photo credit: Andy Witt)

On behalf of the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP), Dr. Myron Roth, Industry Specialist – Aquaculture & Seafood with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, moderated a workshop for 40 people, Aquaculture Resources for Commercialization. Held on June 11, the workshop was part of the B.C. Seafood Expo, a large seafood industry trade event, held in conjunction with the annual B.C. Seafood Festival in Comox on Vancouver Island.

Through the MaPP initiative, First Nations communities in the Haida Gwaii, North Coast, Central Coast and North Vancouver Island sub-regions are implementing marine plans, which include objectives and strategies for shellfish aquaculture and sustainable marine resource development. First Nations in other coastal areas of B.C. have been actively engaged in seafood economic opportunities through research, pilot and commercial projects. The goal of the workshop was to present an update on these various projects and to facilitate a broader discussion on financial and business resources currently available to First Nations communities for the development of business opportunities.

The workshop began with opening remarks and welcome by Chief Richard Hardy, K’ómoks First Nation/Pentlatch Seafoods.

Presentations kicked off with updates by representatives involved in shellfish aquaculture projects in the MaPP sub-regions. They were:

  1. Central Coast: Sally Cargill, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
  2. North Vancouver Island: Andy Witt, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
  3. Haida Gwaii: Barry Wijdeven, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
  4. North Coast: Brian Kingzett, Coastal Shellfish Corporation

“Through the implementation of the Central Coast Marine Plan, First Nation and provincial partners are establishing shellfish aquaculture pilot sites to better understand if and where there might be opportunities for sustainable economic development that supports community interests,” said Cargill. “The MaPP ARC workshop at the B.C. Seafood Expo was a great networking and learning opportunity for both of the MaPP partners.”

A series of presentations followed. The first, on business planning, lessons learned in the agri-business sector, the value of best practices, and case studies from top producer success stories, was presented by Trish Laugharne and Anne Skinner of the Sector Development Branch, Partnerships and Outreach, B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.

Next, Kelly Masson of the Pacific Integrated Commercial Initiatives Business Development Team, Castlemain Group, discussed aquaculture funding opportunities and how to harness them, using a funder’s perspective. Valuable insight on how to use business planning and feasibility assessments for developing eligible projects for funding and what funders look for in a successful application.

The session finished with a presentation by Lynn Lashuk and Rob Cunningham of BMO Bank of Montreal, who gave an overview of BMO’s Aboriginal Banking Services, basic requirements of their lending programs and an overview of branches and staff delivering their services.

The workshop concluded with a question and answer period.

“We discussed ways to open up capital funding for aquaculture projects that will unlock potential for coastal First Nations communities,” said Dr. Roth. “We also got updates on various projects and had a good discussion on financial and business resources for First Nations communities to develop opportunities in the seafood value chain.”

Part of this discussion highlighted the value of economic partnerships that have led to development of several successful aquaculture projects in B.C.

Expo delegates sampled local seafood. (Photo credit: Andy Witt)

Expo delegates sampled local seafood. (Photo credit: Andy Witt)

Another event held the same day was a workshop co-ordinated by Ministry of Jobs Trade & Tourism (JTT), Exploring International Markets for Indigenous Seafood, which focused on business opportunities for B.C. First Nations and making connections with international clients. As well, an evening reception allowed attendees to sample a wide variety of B.C. seafood dishes from shellfish and finfish producers prepared by B.C. chefs, along with the chance to mingle with the JTT International Buyers Delegation.

For more information, visit B.C. Seafood Expo ( and B.C. Seafood Festival (

The tradeshow featured representatives of international companies. (Photo credit: Andy Witt)

The tradeshow featured representatives of international companies. (Photo credit: Andy Witt)

Cultural and Archaeological Work in the North Vancouver Island Marine Plan

To Gina Thomas and Sean Connaughton, public education is an important tool to protect archaeological sites. (Photo credit: Barb Dinning)

To Gina Thomas and Sean Connaughton, public education is an important tool to protect archaeological sites. (Photo credit: Barb Dinning)

For two decades, Tlowitsis band member Gina Thomas has been combing the coast and forests of her nation’s vast territory on North Vancouver Island in search of cultural sites that mark her people’s rich heritage. One of her more recent finds triggered feelings of both excitement and frustration.

A cliff dwelling was discovered in Tlowitsis ancestral lands. Heavily protected on all sides by a deep trench, a rushing creek and raised earthen beds or ‘berms’, her ancestors had lived out of harm’s way high on tiers in the rock face.

“For me, personally, I would love to put a timeframe to sites like this…to understand how our people lived, their movement and the time period,” explains Thomas, a Tlowitsis Guardian since 2015. “When we put up signs to protect cultural sites like this, we say we’ve been in the area for thousands of years. But we don’t have an exact date and that’s frustrating for me.”

Also frustrating for Thomas, and others who live and work in the North Vancouver Island Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) sub-region, are the threats posed to these sites by human and environmental impacts.

“Back in 2001, during the land planning process, we found cultural sites were being disturbed, as the Elders had described,” says Scott Harris, resource planner for the Nanwakolas Council, which includes the Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlatla, K’ómoks, Kwiakah, Mamalilikulla, Tlowitsis, and Wei Wai Kum First Nations. “A decade later, when I began working on marine planning in the region, I was shocked to learn it was still happening.”

The protection of cultural, archaeological and heritage sites is a high priority for Nanwakolas member First Nations, as set out in their “Ha-ma-yas marine plan” for the MaPP region of North Vancouver Island. In 2016, the Nanwakolas Council began a significant two-year study through MaPP to define, identify, verify, and highlight potential protection measures for the rich, cultural and heritage resources within the members’ traditional territories.

As a first step, the existing literature was surveyed to find out what had been documented for more than 2,600 cultural sites in Nanwakolas member territories, many of which are formally registered in the Province of B.C.’s database. “This part of the Northwest coast is known ethnographically around the world – yet we know next to nothing about it archaeologically. Much of the initial research was done 50 to 60 years ago and no one’s really followed up since,” explains Dr. Sean P. Connaughton, an archaeologist with Inlailawatash, a Tsleil-Waututh-owned heritage firm that co-led the study. Inlailawatash submitted comprehensive reports for the study that would include a cultural and heritage assessment, a cultural heritage field program, as well as a vulnerability and sensitivity assessment.

Guardians inspect middens to verify and update data about sensitive cultural sites. (Photo credit: Scott Harris)

Guardians inspect middens to verify and update data about sensitive cultural sites. (Photo credit: Scott Harris)

In the summer of 2016, Connaughton, guardians, and other First Nation representatives took to the field to verify the accuracy of the literature. What they found did not match up. “Most of the registered sites were not recorded accurately, and the size and significance of the sites in the recorded documentation were also inaccurate,” Connaughton reports.

First Nations need accurate site measurements and other data to better protect cultural sites and to explore cultural tourism opportunities, explains Thomas, who took part in the field survey. “It allows us to advise where development can happen and to inform local kayak operators and tourists where they may or may not visit.”

In June 2017, the Nanwakolas Guardians Cultural Heritage Field Program helped train participants to assess the vulnerability of specific cultural sites in protection management zones (PMZs) and special management zones (SMZs) identified in the MaPP North Vancouver Island plan.

What they found was alarming. Cedar burial boxes were smashed open, burial blankets removed, and bones or skulls placed disrespectfully. In an ancestral village, kayakers had set up camp in ancient house depressions on white shell middens – important sites where First Nations lived and often interred their dead. A culturally significant pictograph was found at risk due to weathering. Fish weirs, clam gardens and canoe skids were exposed to impacts from climate change and marine-based activities.

Protection of these sites is important for many reasons; of particular significance, is the way in which they connect current generations more deeply to the past with their ancestors. I can’t stress enough how personally we take it when we find a burial cave ransacked,” says Thomas. I believe that most people would feel as we do, if they found their ancestors’ resting places disturbed or damaged.”

Recommendations for site protection were made at a joint meeting of Guardian and Stewardship program representatives and the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) on Harbledown Island in October 2017.

Education in the form of site signage and community outreach, as well as on-the-water monitoring by guardians are included in a three-tiered strategy developed by the MaPP plan partners – Nanwakolas and the Province of B.C. – to protect and manage these cultural sites. Connaughton points to the daily conversations guardians have with people on the water about their ancestral places. “As knowledge holders, education is one of the biggest tools the Nations have.”

“Education is working,” Thomas agrees. “People want a story. That’s why they come and visit.”

Due to the number and density of First Nations cultural and archaeological sites, the strategy also calls an area-based management approach – to offer long-term efficiency over individual site-by-site protection. Discussion is underway with the Province and Nanwakolas on development of a pilot project to test the strategy in a high traffic area of the Broughton Archipelago. This would include strong participation by First Nations guardians on the water.

“As a First Nations people, we want to protect our archaeological sites. The status quo used to be that we were left out – I’m really excited that times are changing,” says Thomas.

Harris says it’s encouraging to see First Nations and the Province work together on cultural issues important to the communities. MaPP has been a great step in helping get this work done.”

Pictographs are vulnerable to weathering. (Photo credit: Barb Dinning)

Pictographs are vulnerable to weathering. (Photo credit: Barb Dinning)

Deep-sea expedition sheds light on need for marine protection


The Canadian Coast Guard research vessel Vector exploring the Central Coast. Photo credit: Oceana Canada/Evermaven

The fjords of B.C.’s Central Coast are home to an astounding abundance of marine life including fragile deep-sea corals and sponges and the rockfish they provide habitat for. While First Nations Elders have long spoken of this profusion of life, traditional Indigenous knowledge is now backed up by scientific data gathered during an expedition aboard the Canadian Coast Guard research vessel Vector. Scientists visited Kynoch Inlet, Seaforth Channel and Fitz Hugh Sound in March 2018 as part of a collaborative survey between Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Oceana Canada, Ocean Networks Canada, the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCIRA), and the Heiltsuk and Kitasoo/Xais’Xais First Nations. The Marine Plan Partnership’s (MaPP) Central Coast Marine Plan includes objectives and strategies for identifying and closing information gaps – and there is much to learn about marine life far below the water’s surface.

“The plan was essential to our expedition,” said Oceana Canada’s Science Director Dr. Robert Rangeley. “We were building on existing knowledge and we referred to the Central Coast Marine Plan frequently. There was a lot of back and forth between the partners about where to explore and the Central Coast marine plan was used in those discussions.”

The expedition used a camera capable of filming at depths of more than 2,000 metres—much deeper than previous studies had access to.


Footage taken from the seafloor was captured using Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s submersible drop-camera called BOOTS. This drop-camera has an array of sub-sea scientific and navigational instruments, including high-resolution cameras, flood lights and sensors. Photo credit: Oceana Canada/Evermaven

“We were able to find high densities of vulnerable species such as corals and sponges in habitats never explored,” said DFO’s Program Head for Deep Sea Ecology, Tammy Norgard. “We’ll be using these findings to refine our modelling to determine locations for these species.”


Robert Rangeley, Oceana Canada’s science director, and a youth from Klemtu talk about what they are seeing on the seafloor, streamed to the boat live from the submersible drop-camera. Photo credit: Oceana Canada/Evermaven

Marine Planning Co-ordinator for the Kitasoo/Xai’Xais Nation Barry Edgar acted as the community liaison in Klemtu. “People were fascinated to watch the live video feed and surprised to see all the life at those depths,” he said. “It confirmed a lot of knowledge that has been passed down and we also learned a lot. It was great to have this happen in our community.”

“Before this expedition, the deepest we’d been able to do video work was 200 metres,” added CCIRA Field Technician Tristan Blaine. “Our Elders have talked about these areas, but there was no scientific knowledge. The data we’ve collected has changed the way we see these fjords and provides vital information needed for protecting them.”


From left: Lily Burke, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Tristan Blaine, CCIRA, and Desiree Lawson, Heiltsuk First Nation guardian watchman, identify and log marine life they are seeing during the expedition. Photo credit: Oceana Canada/Evermaven

“The information collected will feed directly into the process of planning a network of marine protected areas in the Northern Shelf Bioregion, with a goal of protecting high value areas including unique habitats and species,” said Sally Cargill, a marine planning specialist with the provincial government and Central Coast co-lead for MaPP. “Deep sea corals and sponges were found within protection management zones. The new information also provides further rationale for MaPP’s protection management zones and may inform future management direction in those areas.”

All the partners were enthusiastic about the expedition’s community engagement component that was led by Maia Hoeberechts with Ocean Networks Canada.

“Ocean Networks Canada supplied the satellite dome and transmitted the underwater video feed to communities along the Central Coast and elsewhere,” said Maia. “This was broadcast to the schools in Bella Bella and Klemtu. We also made sure community members from youth to Elders had an opportunity to visit the research vessel and take part in the expedition. Our goal was to help provide data that helps communities, governments and industry to make informed decisions about our future.”


As part of the expedition’s community engagement initiatives, First Nations youth were welcomed aboard the Vector. Here Brock and Vernon examine a rockfish that lives in the region’s depths. Photo credit: Oceana Canada/Evermaven



The expedition was a collaboration of several partners. Clockwise from top (12 o’clock): Kim Wallace, DFO; James Pegg, DFO; Caroline McNicoll, DFO; Jennifer Whyte, Oceana Canada; Alexandra Vance, Oceana Canada; Maia Hoeberechts, Ocean Networks Canada; Robert Rangeley, Oceana Canada; Tammy Norgard, DFO; Alexandra Cousteau, Oceana; Joshua See, Evermaven; Caitlin McManus, Evermaven; Lily Burke, DFO; and Tristan Blaine, CCIRA. Photo credit: Oceana Canada/Evermaven

MaPP representatives attend the fifth International Marine Conservation Congress


Members of the panel discussing the transition from MaPP marine planning to implementation of the plans were, left to right, Kristin Worsley, Steve Diggon, Danielle Shaw, Russ Jones, and Meaghan Calcari-Campbell. (Photo credit: Caroline Butler)

In a panel presentation at the fifth International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5) in Kuching, Sarawak, held June 24-29, 2018, delegates from the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) discussed the transition from marine planning to implementation of the MaPP marine plans. Moderated by Meaghan Calcari-Campbell of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the discussion covered key steps in the planning process, implementation achievements and learning to date, and insights on how the team is overcoming challenges. The presentation was part of a symposium that focused on achievements in governance, marine zoning and protection, stewardship and monitoring, and sustainable economic development.

Kristin Worsley, manager, Marine and Coastal Resources, B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, reflected that, “This conference was a great opportunity to share the early learning we’ve had in implementing the MaPP plans and to learn about what others are doing around the world. Marine spatial planning is often touted as a useful tool for addressing a range of issues and interests. But there aren’t that many opportunities to talk with other practitioners about how to do it.”

Russ Jones, consultant to the Haida Oceans Technical Team, Council of the Haida Nation, said, “Our panel discussion emphasized enabling conditions for MaPP and the importance of governance arrangements between First Nations in northern British Columbia to co-operative planning and ongoing implementation. Governance structures such as sub-regional implementation teams are established through government-to-government agreements with the Province of British Columbia and continue to balance the bottom up approach to planning required by First Nations with the need for ongoing leadership and co-ordination. Discussions delved into the concrete outcomes of MaPP as well as recent work with the federal government that are contributing incrementally to enhanced marine protection and sustainable economic development in the Northern Shelf Bioregion. Our story resonated with communities and planners elsewhere who are striving for a stronger community voice in marine planning and management.”

Other panel presenters were Steve Diggon, regional marine planning co-ordinator for Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative and Danielle Shaw, Stewardship Director with the Wuikinuxv Nation.

During the question and answer section of the session, the panel members fielded questions on strategies to ensure consistency between and among the plans at different scales, how MaPP is monitoring human well-being indicators, whether zoning is a traditional tool used by First Nations, and how decision-making between governments works. They also responded to queries about ways to resolve conflicting uses in overlapping First Nation traditional territories, and on the impacts of ocean noise and which level of government is responsible for regulating noise.

At a separate session, Caroline Butler, Gitxaala Fisheries Program, presented Cultural Conservation Priorities: A methodology for integrating Indigenous values into marine protected area network design.

Butler commented, “The community-based planning process and this methodology for integrating data were of significant interest to marine planners in a number of other countries. Planners throughout the world are seeking effective and efficient ways to attend to local values and practices – often under very tight timelines. This conference was a great opportunity to share our experiences and learn about other processes. The marine planning governance structures and methodologies that were developed through MaPP and continued in the Marine Protected Area Network for British Columbia’s Northern Shelf region are quite progressive when presented in a global context.”

The IMCC5 was co-ordinated by the Society for Conservation Biology. More information can be found at


IMCC5 logo

First Nations Students in the North Coast Help Rehabilitate a Lost Creek, Learn to Fish, and Jar Salmon

Two students and three staff from ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo School blow eagle down to bless a new smokehouse.

Two students and three staff from ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo School blow eagle down to bless a new smokehouse. The smokehouse is used to preserve food such as eulachon, a traditionally important fish. In the background, two media arts students record the event, and a once-dry creek bed teems with water.

In the midst of cultural revitalization program for First Nations students near Terrace, B.C., a dry, trash-ridden creek bed was transformed into a stream of fresh mountain run-off. As part of the program funded in part by the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP), students from ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo School in Kitsumkalum, B.C., cleared garbage from the creek bed next to their school and led a traditional blessing of a nearby new smokehouse.

Immediately following the blessing, a surge of water came down from the mountains, recalled school principal Colleen Austin. She said water filled the creek that empties into the Skeena River, one of B.C.’s major salmon migration routes.

“It wasn’t even a trickle” said Austin. “It was an absolutely incredible rush of water.”

There had never been significant water in ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo Creek in the 14 years she’s been at the school, Austin said. People used to hang out in the forest next to it, she said, and the rocky bed was strewn with litter.

“We believe, and we’ve always maintained, that when we respect the land, the water, the air, the trees, and everything around us, that we will be blessed,” said Austin, when asked how she explained the creek’s revival. Austin, whose Tsimshian name is ‘Wii Goot, which means Big Heart, said the creek continued to run with water for several months, and despite being dry in October 2018, she believes the creek is likely to run again, and one day may be viable enough for salmon to spawn up it, as they traditionally did before the area became polluted.

Sixty students from the school, ranging from kindergartners to Grade 12, participated in the Youth Cultural Revitalization Program, a $10,000 project funded by MaPP. The students’ backgrounds included Tsimshian, Nisga’a, Haida, and several other First Nations ancestries. The program was divided into four seasonal units, and included lessons on environmental stewardship and Sm’algyax, a critically endangered Tsimshian language. The school’s language co-ordinator, Mique’l Dangeli, who is fluent in Sm’algyax, led the programming, with others, including Nisga’a elder Larry Derrick, and John Blumhagen, a Tsimshian education assistant at the school.

The first unit of study in the summer of 2017 focused on salmon, including the decline of local species with environmental changes, how to ensure the return of salmon, as well as its cultural significance. Students fished for salmon on the Skeena River, and cleaned, filleted, and jarred the fish.

The second unit of study, in October 2017, was centred on the school’s recently built smokehouse, where food is traditionally preserved. The students cleared debris from the woods around the smokehouse and from the adjacent then-dry creek bed. They learned how to lead a blessing of the smokehouse, including with singing, dancing, and traditional uses of cedar branches, eagle down, and fire. About 90 members of the school’s larger community, including parents, grandparents, teachers, and local residents joined the event.

“It was pouring rain the day before and up until the blessing. The rain completely stopped and the sun was shining for actual blessing. Then it poured again afterwards,” Austin said, laughing. When the water began rushing over the rocks that day, the adults in attendance were all in shock and disbelief, Austin said, adding some are still in disbelief. “And obviously we were thrilled.”

The third unit, in January and February of 2018, focused on Tsimshian and Nisga’a astronomy, including reading the relationship between ocean tides and the position of the moon to predict a season’s bounty.

And, in March of 2018, students dip-netted in the Skeena River for eulachon, oily smelt that are about the length of one’s hand and traditionally vital to coastal First Nations. Eulachon populations have declined coast-wide, and are listed as a species of ‘special concern’. While the students were not successful catching them, they received some as a gift and learned how to smoke the fish in the school’s smokehouse.

“The students loved being part of this project,” Austin said, noting that it helped build mentorship between students of different ages, build skills, and it connected students to their elders. She said students who may have run ATVs over the forest or thrown litter on the ground, are now working with elders to pick tea and berries, clean fish, and properly dispose of fish remains.

“They wanted more,” Austin said of the students in the program, who comprised most of the student body of ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo School.

MaPP receives H.B. Nicholls Award

In this video John Bones (Secretariat and Nanwakolas Council) accepted the H.B. Nicholls Award given to the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) by the Coastal Zone Canada Association (CZCA) at its conference in St. John’s in July 2018. The award recognized MaPP for the unique partnership between the Government of British Columbia and 17 First Nations for marine spatial planning and implementation of the marine plans. Bones accepted the award from Peter Zuzek, President of CZCA, on behalf of the MaPP partners.