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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.
The next steps in the creation of a Marine Protected Area Network are underway for the Northern Shelf Bioregion. This is a collaboration between MaPP partners, comprised of 17 member First Nations and the Province of British Columbia, and the federal government.
The Marine Protected Area Technical Team (MPATT) – composed of Canada, First Nations and B.C. – is developing recommendations within a network action plan for marine areas to be set aside as part of a network for permanent protection on the north coast of British Columbia. The plan will identify proposed sites and recommend levels of protection.
The new MPA network will build on 114 existing protected areas in the region, as well as the zones recommended in MaPP sub-regional marine plans. The MaPP plans, announced in 2015, include a spatial component identifying: general and special management zones to support sustainable human uses; and protection management zones (PMZ) for the protection of marine biodiversity and First Nations cultural and traditional uses.
MPATT member Karen Topelko is a senior marine resource specialist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and has been involved in the MaPP initiative since 2014. MaPP went through a long process to identify zones for protection, she acknowledges, so there may be questions about why they’re not automatically adopted for the MPA Network.
That’s because planning for a marine protected area network takes a different approach than choosing individual areas based on local values or interests.
“When you systematically plan a network of protected areas, you want them to work together as a whole to achieve overarching goals,” Topelko explains. “The existing marine protected areas, along with the protected management zones in the MaPP region, were never selected to function together cohesively. Important network design criteria such as representation, size and spacing were not considered.”
Some of the criteria for network design include: selecting sites that will protect a range of habitat for diverse coastal species; including the same habitat type more than once to protect against the impacts of a changing climate and catastrophic events; and, including both big and small protected areas to provide for the long-term survival of species that use different areas for activities such as feeding, resting and breeding.
“MaPP identified important cultural and ecological areas for protection, as well as areas suitable for sustainable economic development,” Topelko notes. “These will interplay with the MPA network but the MaPP PMZs will not necessarily become marine protected areas in the network. Those that don’t will live on as PMZs.”
MaPP partners, together with local governments and stakeholders, will continue to implement the management direction described in their sub-regional plans. “We aren’t starting over. We’re building on the results of marine planning initiatives in the region that started with First Nations,” says John Bones, marine co-ordinator for Nanwakolas Council and MPATT member.
Important lessons learned from MaPP are helping guide the network planning process, according to MPATT member Sheila Creighton, oceans planner for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. “The MaPP process involved a series of steps that the MPA network process has been able to build on. These include forming the governance structures required for decision-making, compiling and analyzing data, and engaging stakeholders,” she says.
Creighton adds that the MPA network process also benefits from relationships built with communities and stakeholders. “Many of the same MaPP advisory committee members are involved in the MPA network planning process. They’re helping to verify new data and provide local perspectives and knowledge to inform a planning process with a different vision and set of goals.”
John Bones agrees, “The progress to date is a reflection of all three governments being willing to work collaboratively. First Nations are involved and participating vigorously in this network planning process because it’s happening in our territories and we want a big say in how it turns out.
“We wanted to have our zones considered and we’ve been successful in achieving that so far,” says Bones. “We’ve helped shape the MPA process.”
The network action plan, expected by March 2019, will go forward for decision by each of the governing parties. It’s anticipated to include a description of the network design approach, final network design, description of network sites, and results of risk and impact analyses.
For more information on the MPA network planning process, visit www.mpanetwork.ca
A very productive field orientation for MaPP North Vancouver Island implementation team members and guests occurred over three days in early October 2017 through parts of the traditional territories of the Mamalilikulla, K’omoks, Tlowitsis and Da’naxda’xw Awaetlala First Nations. Hosted by Chief Richard Sumner of the Mamalilikulla Nation and guided by guardians from the four First Nations, the group included staff from the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (MIRR), the Archaeology Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO), two archaeological consultants and an economic development consultant. The focus of the tour was to increase awareness of the role of guardians as well as some of the Aboriginal tourism and archaeological site protection challenges and opportunities in the territories.
During the orientation, participants saw, first-hand, the implementation of strategies developed in the NVI marine plan, like the shellfish aquaculture pilot project. The trip also allowed the team to discuss ideas on how to ensure First Nations inclusion in the management and protection of cultural sites/areas.
Coastal guardians describe themselves as the “eyes and ears of the land and sea” as they conduct patrols almost daily to assist in protection of ecosystems and cultural heritage resources within their traditional territories. They conduct ecological monitoring, promote compliance through their presence on the water and provide data to support enforcement activities. Guardians work with agencies and organizations such as BC Parks, Parks Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and local stewardship groups. Coastal guardians have an important and evolving role in implementing the NVI marine plan that currently includes collection of ecosystem and cultural heritage data.
Following a brief safety and logistics meeting at the Nanwakolas Council office in Campbell River, the group split up and travelled to two different departure points, Sayward and Telegraph Cove.
The first day of the trip focused on orientation to vulnerable and sensitive archaeological sites in the First Nation territories and an inspection of the Tlowitsis shellfish aquaculture pilot project.
The Tlowitsis guardian boat left Sayward with four group members and stopped in Port Neville to view the shellfish aquaculture pilot project located there. The project is an experimental grow-out of blue mussels, scallops and oysters for two years to determine viability of the species for commercial development. The group inspected the trays and nets containing the young shellfish suspended along an array of nine buoys. The pilot project also includes data loggers that measure ocean salinity and temperature at the site and two other locations.
Next, the group visited a site to view petroglyphs and a midden in Port Neville and then travelled north, stopping to view priority archaeological sites including pictographs and village sites at different locations and learning about the Tlowitsis traditional way of life from its Nation’s Guardians.
Other field trip members departed from Telegraph Cove aboard the K’omoks and Mamalilikulla guardian boats and visited the Broughton Archipelago where Chief Sumner provided examples of archaeological sites of high sensitivity and vulnerability. Chief Sumner was very concerned about one site in particular and showed the group how a sign discouraging people from visiting the area is actually having the opposite effect. The Mamalilikulla Guardians have noted a number of tourists this past summer using the trail to a Mamalilikulla sacred site.
The two groups and the Da’naxda’xw Awaetlala Guardian boat carrying a consultant archaeologist met at Village Island and hiked to the site of Meem Quam Leese village. Chief Sumner described life at the village, abandoned in the 1960s, which is currently visited annually by about 800 kayakers. He discussed plans to replace the dock and clear brush from the village site to enhance the experience for tourists. The group members discussed options for protection of the site, such as educational signage and establishing a permanent guardian field station for the Mamalilikulla. The Chief pointed out several cinder block burial boxes on nearby islands that were installed to protect human remains. Over the past 50 years, the islands had been robbed of hundreds of burial boxes and human skulls.
The boats then travelled to Kalogwis and other sites in Tlowitsis traditional territory to view sensitive and vulnerable archaeological sites, including pictographs, village sites and middens.
The first day of the field trip concluded at Tsatsisnukwomi Village, or “New Vancouver,” where all members of the group were hosted to dinner and exchanged information about the work they do relative to the NVI MaPP area.
Day two of the field trip focused on Aboriginal tourism and economic development. It began with a tour of Tsatsisnukwomi Village, including visiting the big house, which contained regalia and artifacts on display. The guide described the dances and sequence of a potlatch. Guardians at the village provide similar tours and accommodation for visitors each summer.
The group travelled to Compton Island, in the Broughton Archipelago, where Chief Sumner provided his vision for tourism development there. Economic development consultant, Tony Wong, discussed his findings about economic development opportunities and constraints for the NVI sub-region. During the discussions, the new National Geographic ship, Venture, paused in front of the island to watch humpback whales and orcas, prime attractions of the area. An estimated 10,000 tourists visit the archipelago each year.
Next, the group visited Farewell Harbour Lodge, a luxury resort on Berry Island. The resort operates from spring through fall each year and caters mostly to international visitors who come to view grizzly bears on the mainland and whales on day trips from the lodge.
The group returned to Tsatsisnukwomi Village for a demonstration of the drone and mapping technology used by the guardians and the Nanwakolas GIS (geographic information system) technicians to monitor and map their territories.
A roundtable discussion was held with the guests, guardians and hosts to discuss highlights of the day, strategies for protection of archaeological sites, tourism development ideas and data gathering techniques.
The final day of the trip included a visit to Port Harvey, the site of a spill from a diesel tank on land in 2017, which was discovered by the Tlowitsis guardians on a routine patrol. The owner of the site met the group and described the clean-up process and discussed ideas for improved spill response. One of the NVI marine plan actions is the development of marine response plans.
The last archaeological site visited was near Sayward in K’omoks territory. Archaeologists attempted to locate a site that was marked on old maps that appears to have been impacted by subsequent development, and the K’omoks Guardians met with the owners of the property to inform them about the purpose of the visit.
Andy Witt, B.C. government MaPP co-lead for NVI, said, “It was a great opportunity to get out into the NVI MaPP area, to explore this amazing landscape and meet the people who live, work and play there. Having them share their passion and vision with us really helped to gain perspective on the responsibilities and opportunities that come with implementation of the plan.”
John Bones, Nanwakolas Council MaPP co-lead for NVI, added, “It was a trip to remember, not only for the incredible marine wildlife on display and the amazing weather conditions, but also for an appreciation of the passion that our guardians are putting into their work and their amazing knowledge and skill sets. We benefitted greatly from the presence of Chief Richard Sumner (Mamalilikualla), our hosts (Da’naxda’xw Awaetlala) and all the guardians from each of the Nations.”
Four First Nations are partnering with the Province of B.C. to implement MaPP on the Central Coast through a coordinated response to three aquatic invaders: European green crab, tunicates, and bryozoa.
Originating in northern Europe, green crab is billed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada as “one of the world’s 10 least wanted species.” They’re small (about 10 cm wide) but multiply rapidly, tolerate a wide range of salinities, and survive out of the water for up to two weeks. They disrupt ecosystems by voraciously consuming mussels and clams and decimating habitat for important species like Dungeness crab, wild salmon, and manila clams.
Tunicates (commonly known as sea squirts) and bryozoa (tiny aquatic invertebrate animals) are at least as pernicious. These filter-feeders live on almost any underwater surface, including plants, other animals, and marine structures. Growing in colonies, they can quickly overtake kelp and seagrass beds, plug water pipes, and sink marine structures. Once established in a new area, they’re very tough to get rid of.
Tristan Blaine is a professional diver and field technician who works for the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCIRA, which is comprised of the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, Nuxalk, and Wuikinuxv First Nations). He describes the challenge of “biofouling” from tunicates and bryozoa: “You clean them off [marine structures], and a month later they’ve totally regrown. The amount of work involved is pretty concerning.”
These problematic species have hitchhiked to oceans around the world, as larvae in ballast water on intercontinental shipping routes and on poorly cleaned boat hulls, fishing gear, aquaculture equipment, floating debris, and ocean currents.
In May 2017 as part of MaPP implementation, CCIRA began building on the Heiltsuk Nation’s work over the past decade to eradicate green crabs around Gale Creek—by expanding it to include the other Central Coast Nations. More than 10 people (Guardian Watchmen and other fieldworkers) from the four Nations are now monitoring these aquatic invaders, collecting critical baseline data on their presence, abundance, and damage to the ecosystem.
For green crabs, the monitors use traps specially designed to reduce bycatch, boating several times weekly to trap locations to record trap data and dispatch them (usually by freezing). Green crab have been found at 4 of 25 continuously sampled sites—but data suggest green crab are spreading more slowly than expected on the Central Coast. Is this because of Heiltsuk extirpation efforts—destroying hundreds annually—or because of deep, chilly conditions of the region’s many fjords?
“We don’t know yet,” says Blaine. “But I can guarantee that if more trapping effort were all that’s required to get rid of green crab, these Nations would have everyone in their communities helping.”
To look at tunicates and bryozoa, monitors suspend weighted plates 1.5 m below docks at Shearwater Marina—about 4 km east of Bella Bella and the hub of Central Coast marine traffic. “The goal is to sample areas with highest boat traffic, because that’s one of the ways they spread,” explains Blaine.
After five months, monitors retrieve plates, record data on the observed tunicates and bryozoa in CCIRA’s database, and send five randomly selected plates to researchers at Fisheries and Oceans Canada for detailed analysis.
The intent was to quickly train local stewardship technicians to do all baseline analysis, but it’s a very specialized process. There are only a few biologists in BC equipped to definitively identify these invasive species, using a microscope and working through complicated classification steps. Each of the 22 1-cm2 points on a plate can host several tunicate and bryozoa species, and analysis of five plates can take a couple of days to complete.
Data shared among Nations begs questions: If eradication of invasives isn’t realistic, can they be contained? Should regulations be strengthened and better enforced, and if so, how? How will climate change affect these introduced species?
Some answers may come from a related MaPP-funded study on climate change that began in January at the University of Victoria, says Sally Cargill. She’s a marine planning specialist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and is the provincial co-lead on implementation of the Central Coast marine plan.
“They’re looking at existing frameworks and tools for carrying out vulnerability and risk assessments that have been used around the world,” says Cargill, noting that risks include invasive species. “They’ll recommend assessments that could be applied to the MaPP areas.” The sub-regions could then decide to carry out detailed vulnerability and risk assessments in coming years—which could lead to actions such as additional monitoring, site restorations, education campaigns, and measures to protect aquaculture operations.
The Nations’ millennia-long connection to these ecosystems is integral to this work, says Blaine: “They rely on the surrounding resources to survive, and a big priority for these communities is to make informed choices about resource management.”
A research project of the Tlowitsis First Nation is helping determine whether the cold, pristine waters around North Vancouver Island will support commercial shellfish aquaculture.
“We started out with scallops the size of a quarter and now they’re the size of a baseball,” says Gina Thomas, a researcher for the Tlowitsis Shellfish Aquaculture Pilot (TSAP) project. Three shellfish species seeded in the spring and summer of 2017 are on track to reach market size in what’s considered a commercially-viable timeframe of two years. “I’m very excited at what we’re seeing,” said Thomas, a member of the Tlowitsis Nation whose traditional territories include the waterway where the shellfish are now suspended, which is off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.
Positive research results may spur local commercial shellfish aquaculture in or near that site, and Thomas said she’d love if some of the area’s First Nations could seize that opportunity, and help increase local food production.
“This project is cutting edge for anyone who wants to know if a local shellfish industry could take off,” Thomas said. “A lot of people are watching to see what happens.”
Clam gardens kept by First Nations were once abundant in beaches around the region, but in more recent decades, attempts to farm commercial shellfish around North Vancouver Island have generally failed.
“Cooler temperatures in these waters mean some shellfish species grow more slowly, but there’s very little data available,” said TSAP project manager, Don Tillapaugh, who brings 43 years of aquaculture experience to the project. “You really can’t do any economic planning without knowing the growth curve of the species you want to grow.”
Thomas and another member of the Tlowitsis Guardian program, Brandon Wilson, worked with Tillapaugh to arrange hundreds of Pacific scallop, blue mussel, and Pacific oyster seeds in trays and nets and suspend them from a longline they secured between two buoys.
Now, every two months, the three embark from Sayward, B.C. by boat to pull the shellfish up from the longline, count and measure them, and plot their growth on graphs.
Despite barnacle growth on one cohort of one species, growth of all three species is consistent and they are healthy, having eaten ocean plankton. Shellfish predators like starfish and flatworms have not harmed them, Thomas noted, and fouling – a slimy coating that could impede growth and require manual removal – has been minimal.
Whether the shellfish grow to market size is only one of many considerations. Further down the B.C. coast, where commercial shellfish aquaculture already flourishes, large-scale die offs have occurred, without explanation. Questions around transportation and labour availability in the relatively remote North Vancouver Island sites where shellfish might thrive are also of concern. Tillapaugh said the profit margin for most shellfish operations is slim.
“It’s essential to future success of the shellfish industry to support research projects,” Tillapaugh said.
The TSAP project also includes ongoing temperature and salinity measurements from underwater loggers that Tillapaugh, Thomas, and Wilson installed at three sites considered potentially viable for shellfish aquaculture. These measurements, which will be taken up until the end of the TSAP project in summer 2019, will provide additional insight into the suitability of Northern Vancouver Island’s waterways for shellfish aquaculture.
Tillapaugh was part of a research team from Vancouver Island University that produced a report for The Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP) in 2016 evaluating the potential of shellfish aquaculture in North Vancouver Island. That report recommended a monitoring program in select areas. After consultations with MaPP partners, as well as a commitment to the project from the Tlowitsis First Nation, the TSAP project was devised.
The cost of the two-year project is $68,000, which MaPP is funding.
At a meeting in early December 2017, members of the North Vancouver Island (NVI) Marine Plan Advisory Committee heard a good news story about the collaborative effort of 10 local organizations to remove 600 cubic yards of debris from Frederick Arm, near Stuart Island northwest of Campbell River.
Strathcona Regional District Area C Director Jim Abram explained that, several years ago, a floating restaurant and docks network tethered to the shoreline at Frederick Arm was abandoned by its owners. The structures fell apart, leaving piles of debris on the beach and in the water.
The Stuart Island Community Association had been monitoring the situation and decided to take action by contacting their regional director with a request that the debris be removed. Director Abram worked with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to confirm that the site was abandoned and constituted a trespass on Crown land. Rupert Gale of the Ritchie Foundation then stepped in to engage companies and organizations to donate their services for a collaborative cleanup effort. The cleanup was successfully conducted Oct. 10-12, 2017, with the roles played by the different companies and organizations outlined as follows:
- Project initiated by Director Abram of the Strathcona Regional Districtand Stuart Island Community Association
- Ritchie Foundation helped to managethe project and provided labour and general support
- C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Compliance and Enforcement Branch provided legal and government oversight and funding
- Seymour Pacific Developments provided equipment and labour
- Progressive Waste Solutions provided the waste containers
- Marine Link Transportation barged and offloaded the collected debris
- Campbell River Marine Terminal waived the terminal fee at the request of Director Abram
- Pacific Wood Waste trucked debris to the landfill and recycling centre
- Campbell River Waste Management Centre waived the landfill fee through the efforts of Director Abram and the Comox Valley Regional District
Director Abram said “I am extremely pleased at the level of support that we received from all parties. This avoided serious degradation to our marine environment that we are all working so hard to protect through the planning processes we are involved in. I have always operated as the regional director on the assumption that local government in collaboration with communities, business and other levels of government can accomplish just about anything at the lowest possible price with the absolute best result. This exercise is a perfect example of that philosophy working!”
John Bones, Nanwakolas Council co-lead for the MaPP NVI Plan, stated, “This project is a fantastic example of government, organizations and the private sector working together to benefit the marine environment. To me, it demonstrates the power of utilizing local knowledge and skills to address issues that might otherwise have been overlooked. I hope this inspires others to greater collaborative solutions to local marine environmental issues.”
Andy Witt, B.C. government MaPP co-lead for NVI, added, “Director Abram is to be commended for this successful operation. It demonstrates the power of collaboration and co-operation at a local level and the resources that can be marshalled by provincial and local governments, concerned citizens, and businesses. It also provides a useful ‘how to’ example for the future.”
Four representatives of the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) attended the international Resilience 2017 conference in Stockholm, held Aug. 20-23. In a panel discussion chaired by Meaghan Calcari-Campbell of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, they recounted the MaPP planning process in a session titled The Story of How Eighteen Governments Came Together with Marine Spatial Plans that Achieve Stewardship, Social, and Economic Goals.
John Bones, marine co-ordinator for the Nanwakolas Council, member of the MaPP Secretariat and co-chair of the North Vancouver Island planning team, spoke about how science, local knowledge and First Nations traditional knowledge were integrated to develop the marine plans.
President of the Nanwakolas Council and member of the MaPP Marine Working Group, Dallas Smith, addressed lessons learned from the planning process and the international relevance and inspiration of the co-led partnership to other countries and nations.
Charlie Short, executive director of Strategic Projects – Coast Area, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Province of B.C. described the components of the MaPP planning process.
Regional marine planning co-ordinator for Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative and member of the MaPP Secretariat, Steve Diggon, described the move from planning to implementation of the marine plans and the immediate benefits of the plans.
Audience members provided congratulatory comments about the achievements of MaPP and asked questions about how the planning team established the B.C.-First Nations partnership and how external partnerships were managed.
The theme of this fourth triennial meeting of academics, artists and practitioners was Resilience Frontiers for Global Sustainability. Resilience research is about developing the capacity to sustain development as both slow expected and rapid surprising changes occur in a system. This is accomplished through a diversity of development strategies supported by an understanding of the connections between the strategies.
Reflecting on his experiences at the conference, Steve Diggon said, “The resilience approach lays out seven principles of a resilient system (add link: http://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/research-videos/2016-05-22-how-to-apply-resilience-thinking.html ), such as the health of the ecosystem, governance processes, social structures and how they are linked together to respond to changes. In the implementation of the MaPP plans, our work on EBM indicators aligns well with resilience research, especially with our cutting-edge stakeholder, governance, and management processes. There are also opportunities for us to make some adjustments to how we measure ecosystem health.”
John Bones attended a session about Aboriginal involvement in applying resilience research. “I realized that MaPP accomplished ground-breaking work during the planning phase. Compared to other parts of the world that are attempting to start co-led processes, MaPP has already achieved it,” he said.
Charlie Short added, “The resilience field is quite evolved, forward thinking and has a unique ‘lingo’ amongst academics. Interestingly, MaPP has incorporated much of the resilience thinking core principles and foundations and these are inherent in the plans themselves. We just didn’t label it that way. It was refreshing to see the many other jurisdictions taking this approach and applying it to real world situations.”
Located just half an hour from Kitimat, Weewanie Hot Springs Park is a completely different world than most of us inhabit. Accessible only by water, it is a remote wilderness destination where Xbox and iPads know no purpose. It was also home to 17 Haisla youth for 10 days last summer as they participated in the Haisla Nation’s revived cultural camp. The focus of the camp, which was made possible by the Haisla Nation Council and funded in part by MaPP, was to teach participants about Haisla culture and to be respectful of Haisla resources.
MaPP’s North Coast Marine Plan encourages capacity building in First Nations and local communities. An important first step for greater participation in stewardship, monitoring and enforcement, and economic development activities is to teach youth the skills they need in order to participate effectively and contribute to sustainable development in their communities.
“We struggle with capacity building in the areas of self-governance and environmental stewardship; we don’t have enough people with those skills right now and there’s a need for more youth recruits,” said Mike Jacobs, the Haisla Nation’s fisheries manager and one of the camp’s organizers. “The camp was an immersive experience and exposed youth to Haisla culture through the traditional use of natural resources.”
Each day participants learned traditional practices such as canoeing, crab fishing and long lining for halibut. They processed fish and ate traditional foods. Daily hikes allowed for exploration including along hereditary trap lines. The community cultural coordinator with the Haisla Nation gave a language lesson while another guest taught cedar weaving.
Another camp highlight was a visit from Shelley Bolton and Terry Nyce from the Spirit of Kitlope dance group, who taught the youth traditional drumming songs and dances.
“Everyone made a drum to keep and all the youth took part in the singing,” said Shelley. “Some dove right into it, while others took a while to come out of their shells. By the end, though, they couldn’t get enough. Nowadays our lives are so full of technology. This camp showed the youth that they can enjoy themselves without TV. It was such a great experience and I hope more youth will embrace opportunities to connect with nature and our culture.”
“We don’t have the opportunities to pull crab traps or to be out on the land like we used to,” said Angie Maitland, an early child education coordinator with the Haisla Nation who was another of the camp’s organizers. “The camp changed that. All 17 participants want to go again and they made long-lasting friendships. Everyone grew from the experience, including staff.”
“It was a life-changing opportunity,” added Mike. “The youth didn’t know these resources were right on their doorstep. Familiarizing them with their territory is a high priority for the Haisla Nation Council. People have become disconnected from resource management. Our intent is to offer more camps and to broaden the age range. We want to reconnect youth in a way that will bring them happiness and prosperity.”
The Council of the Haida Nation and the Province of British Columbia established a new governance structure that will oversee the implementation of the CHN – BC Haida Gwaii Marine Plan Implementation Agreement (2016). The Marine Management Board is a senior-level joint decision-making body with roles and responsibilities that include providing direction to a joint Haida Gwaii Marine Implementation Technical Team, reviewing annual work plans and budgets, evaluating progress and addressing implementation challenges.
The Haida Gwaii Marine Management Board met for the first time in June 2017 at the CHN office in Skidegate, and will continue to meet on a quarterly basis. Stay tuned for more information on Haida Gwaii Marine Plan implementation on the MaPP Facebook page!
The Haida Gwaii Integrated Advisory Committee (IAC) met for the first time this June in Skidegate. The IAC was established by the Haida Gwaii Marine Steering Committee* to advise and inform planning and the implementation of plans on Haida Gwaii, with a focus on marine planning. The establishment of this committee is consistent with the approach being taken by MaPP across all sub-regions and region respecting stakeholder participation in marine plan implementation.
The primary responsibilities of the IAC include providing advice on Marine Protected Area Network planning for the Northern Shelf Bioregion** and implementation of the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan. The committee is also responsible for providing advice on implementing the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) plan as it relates to Haida Gwaii.
The IAC has 13 members with a range of backgrounds and expertise, including: conservation, marine transportation, commercial fishing, recreational fishing, marine tourism, marine sciences, and Haida marine knowledge. The committee will meet approximately twice a year.
* The Haida Gwaii Marine Steering Committee includes representatives of: CHN; Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; and Parks Canada (Gwaii Haanas). The Steering Committee provides strategic direction on marine planning and management initiatives on Haida Gwaii and ensures efforts are co-ordinated among various processes.
** The Northern Shelf Bioregion extends from the middle of Vancouver Island and reaches north to the Canada – Alaska border.
Allan Lidstone, Gord McGee and Danielle Shaw represented the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) at the International Marine Protected Areas Congress 2017 (IMPAC4) in La Serena-Coquimbo, Chile, held Sept. 4-8 and organized by the Government of Chile and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas.
The congress allowed international participants to discuss how the management of marine protected areas (MPAs) contributes to progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goal on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources.
The MaPP representatives, along with Christie Chute of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, took part in a panel discussion chaired by Meaghan Calcari-Campbell of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, titled Indigenous, Provincial, and Federal Governments Integrating Marine Spatial Plans and Marine Protected Areas in Canada. In a wide-ranging discussion, they addressed the benefits of the First Nations-B.C. partnership, the development of the marine plans, the features of the protection management zone designation, stakeholder engagement, integration of traditional knowledge and science, and what comes next as the MaPP partners implement the marine spatial plans, while at the same time working with the federal government to advance a MPA network on the B.C. coast. The audience posed questions about the role of Coastal Guardian Watchmen, how monitoring, compliance and enforcement activities were integrated with the three levels of government, and how Indigenous title and rights influence the planning process and align with legislative or policy tools used to create marine protection by the federal and provincial governments.
Gord McGee, Marine Planner with the Central Coast Indigenous Resources Alliance (CCIRA) and member of the MaPP Central Coast Technical Team, also gave a separate presentation, Marine Planning Partnership in the North Pacific: Meeting 2020 Targets in Canada. He focused on three elements of successful marine plan development: collaboration between the Nations, the provincial government and local governments; the integration of traditional knowledge with scientific and stakeholder local knowledge; and the ability to create solutions for difficult issues as a result of the collaborative and integrative nature of the process. The audience asked questions about the MaPP governance structure and decision-making process, the cost, the advisory stakeholder process and how to engage stakeholders meaningfully, and how the Nations assert authority over three jurisdictions in Canada (federal, provincial and municipal) during planning and how they continue to assert their title and rights.
Allan Lidstone, MaPP Marine Working Group member and Director of the Resource Management Objectives Branch within the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and Danielle Shaw, Stewardship Director with the Wuikinuxv First Nation, presented Marine Spatial Planning, MPAs and Collaborative Management in the North Pacific Coast of BC as part of a panel discussion, Meeting the 2020 Targets in Canada: challenges, successes, opportunities and lessons learnt in developing a national network of MPAs over the past 25 years.
Commenting on his experience at the congress, Lidstone said, “I was surprised by the extent of work in progress and completed to put MPAs in place around the globe. The diversity and number of partnerships to support this work was also noteworthy including the important role of private foundations in promoting and funding this work. Other highlights included the rapid advances in technology to support monitoring, compliance and enforcement and distribution of information. Many presenters recognized the critical need of community participation and support to ensure viable MPAs. I noted that many of the commonly identified key factors for success in planning MPAs were consistent with the planning approach we took in MaPP.”
He added, “It was exciting to share our experiences and learning from MaPP. Although there is a lot happening around the globe, I felt our work here in coastal British Columbia elicited a lot of interest both in our presentations and in one-on-one conversations with other participants. This interest reflects that MaPP is at the forefront of marine planning and has established many innovative and effective approaches for sustainable coastal and ocean management.”
McGee commented, “It’s amazing how much work is being done at all scales around the globe. MPAs are really important structures being used effectively far out in the middle of great oceans all the way down to the level of small mangroves or coves.” He felt it was important that the work of MaPP was shared at the conference because it is a strong example of collaborative planning with First Nations and the use of traditional ecological knowledge to drive planning processes along with science. In fact, there was an entire day devoted to Indigenous engagement and the planning process.
One presentation that stood out for McGee was a lecture by a native Hawaiian planner. McGee said, “The planner described how they had designed their planning process to merge with their Indigenous world view, and he sang a song that spoke about each of the different parts of their ocean, the birds, the marine mammals, shellfish and how important each is to their way of life. He went on to describe how they were collaboratively building their marine planning process itself in a radically different way from a traditional western scientific approach. People were really touched by his presentation. It was obvious that the connection to their environment was so important to them on different levels.”
McGee feels same way about his work at home. “In MaPP, there are people, communities, and Nations who are so deeply rooted to this coast for thousands of years, and as a result we are working towards creating meaningful ways of stewarding together, among governments, across cultures in ways that, after being at IMPAC4, I think are globally significant.”
For further information, visit the IMPAC4 website and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) summary of meeting.
Steve Diggon, regional marine planning coordinator for Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative, was a panel speaker at the 2nd International Conference on Marine Maritime Spatial Planning in Paris, France from March 15-17, 2017. Steve joined other experts from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America to share their practical experience of marine spatial planning.
Steve said, “The audience had heard about MaPP and was very interested in learning more about the process. This was an important opportunity to take the MaPP initiative and achievements to the international community and create understanding. My presentation focused on the successful integration of bottom-up and top-down planning during the development of the MaPP marine plans. I described how the key to our success was the collaboration between First Nations and the provincial government as well as robust engagement of stakeholders and local governments in developing comprehensive marine plans that included spatial and aspatial components. I emphasized the value of working together and the importance of developing good relationships that continue into the plan implementation phase.”
The conference was also a valuable learning opportunity for Steve. “It was especially interesting to hear about the complexity of marine spatial planning processes in the Baltic States with the number of international borders and security issues. The MaPP process did not have to deal with those considerations,” he said.
Steve added, “Overall, by attending the meeting, hearing all the presentations and talking with experts and practitioners from around the world, I got a lot of validation that the MaPP process is solid and on-track.”
The main objective of the conference, which was hosted by UNESCO and the European Commission, was to review the status of marine spatial planning – one decade after the first International MSP Conference – and to identify a path forward that addressed multiple global challenges from 2017 onwards.
The outcome of the Conference is the Joint Roadmap to accelerate Maritime/Marine Spatial Planning processes worldwide. The roadmap was presented to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Goals 14 held in New York from June 5-9, 2017.
The Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP) has picked 14 pilot regional indicators that, taken together over the long-term, will provide insights into the health of B.C.’s North Pacific Coast and help guide implementation of coastal management recommendations in MaPP sub-regional plans.
Hundreds of potential ecological, economic and human well-being indicators were initially identified by experts at Uuma Consulting and planning team members of the four MaPP sub-regions: Haida Gwaii, the North Coast, the Central Coast and North Vancouver Island.
To select the pilot indicators, MaPP partners and the Coastal Oceans Research Institute (CORI) took feedback from sub-regional workshops and focused on indicators considered high-priority within each sub-region and which made sense to track at a regional scale. As indicators can be expensive and time-consuming to monitor, the team chose indicators that would each provide unique insights without incurring excessive costs.
“It was challenging to narrow the list down,” said MaPP regional projects coordinator, Romney McPhie. “There are many things that are valuable to track, but collectively we came up with a short list that all sub-regions agreed upon to start the monitoring process.”
Eelgrass, the ribbon-like seagrass in estuaries throughout the region, was one of the indicators selected. MaPP personnel will track data on eelgrass distribution and biomass regularly during the 20-year implementation period of the MaPP plans.
“Eelgrass is one of the most ecologically important habitats. It’s also quite sensitive to pollution, sedimentation, sea level rise and even boats anchoring in it,” said Karin Bodtker a manager with CORI, the independent research institute based at the Vancouver Aquarium, that helped refine the list of indicators with MaPP.
“This plant provides habitat for about 80 per cent of marine species of commercial interest,” Bodtker explained. “Juvenile salmon, for example, use eelgrass habitat to find food, hide from predators and as a highway in their migration out to the ocean.” Eelgrass also captures and stores carbon.
Understanding eelgrass losses or gains, alongside changes to other indicators like ocean acidity, will help MaPP understand the state of the marine environment and how it is changing over time. “The information collected will support sustainable decision-making along the coast,” said McPhie.
Indicators are to be monitored from the middle of Vancouver Island through to the Alaskan border. They fall under seven themes: marine species and habitats; climate change and oceanography; water cleanliness; sense of place and wellbeing; seafood; coastal development and livelihoods; and stewardship and governance. These indicators reflect the MaPP commitment to ecosystem-based management, which prioritizes ecological integrity, human wellbeing and collaborative governance. In keeping with an adaptive approach, certain indicators may be changed if compelling reasons to do so arise, McPhie said.
In addition to the pilot regional indicators, sub-regions will have their own unique indicators for which they gather data. The Central Coast, for example, is monitoring crab and Haida Gwaii is monitoring the spread of invasive species, such as tunicates.
With regional indicators chosen, data collection is now underway. An analyst at CORI is assembling existing data on many indicators and identifying sampling gaps.
“This program couldn’t happen without many other organizations that are collecting data: governments, private organizations, the coastal guardian watchmen and the regional monitoring system of the Coastal First Nations, for example,” McPhie said. “We’re ensuring we have reliable data through our collaboration with CORI, as well as through data access agreements we hope to secure with other governments and organizations.”
MaPP partners are also now developing data management tools and public reporting strategies.
“By the end of 2019 we expect a comprehensive report with regional data for all the pilot indicators and how those data relate to MaPP strategies. Analysis of the data will tell us if our strategies are working and if we need to change our strategies because of ecosystem changes,” McPhie said.
“The purpose of indicator monitoring is to lead to better decision making. The Province can use the data to set or affirm priorities, allocate resources and inform policy and decision making,” said Kristin Worsley, manager of B.C.’s marine and coastal resources section and member of MaPP’s secretariat.
Steve Diggon, regional marine planning coordinator for Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative said, “Provincial decision-makers and First Nations will have evidence to inform their views on and decisions about issuing tenures for coastal activities.”
Integral to the MaPP planning process and the current implementation phase, has been the participation of many different individuals, groups and organizations connected in one way or another to the region’s rich marine environment. Otherwise known as stakeholders, this diverse mix of voices added much-valued input and authenticity to the creation of the North Vancouver Island (NVI) Marine Plan. Stakeholder advice and feedback was collected through the NVI Marine Plan Advisory Committee, (MPAC), whose members represented a broad range of marine sectors and interests. Stakeholders continue to make an impact, as seen in three recent MPAC meetings about implementation plans for the NVI sub-region.
There are many interpretations of the term stakeholder, how to meaningfully engage stakeholders and what makes their input so valuable.
Jim Abram, electoral area director for Discovery Islands-Mainland Inlets and local government representative for the Strathcona Regional District, typically views the term stakeholder as “very limiting” as it “usually applies to a specific interest”. However, he believes the input from the NVI marine advisory committee members has played an integral role in shaping the plan by continually bringing forward ideas and views that wouldn’t be known or considered otherwise. “Our local knowledge is invaluable. It is usually accepted, but sometimes not. If it isn’t, a reason is always given. The exchange is respectful and well-discussed.”
Jim McIsaac, coordinator for the B.C. Commercial Fishing Caucus, believes stakeholders diversify the knowledge base that leads to better decision-making and approaches to moving forward. “By having them engaged and bringing their knowledge to decisions, it strengthens all decisions made.” In terms of MaPP, “It creates more durable solutions for communities — creating that space where ecosystems and communities can co-exist, where well-being, economy and culture can co-exist with the environment, productivity and other species.”
Marine coordinator for the Nanwakolas Council and co-chair of the NVI planning team John Bones says stakeholder support has been critical to MaPP’s success. “We’re very pleased at being able to collaboratively develop a plan between the provincial government and our First Nations members. The value of having stakeholders at the table is that it gives everyone the opportunity to understand the plan and issues, and the First Nations perspective. Each First Nations community has different sectors of expertise and knowledge that’s extremely beneficial in making implementation activities relevant and rigorous.”
From a B.C. government perspective, Andy Witt, manager, Coastal and Aquatic Habitat and provincial co-lead for the NVI Marine Plan, agrees. “When you look at the development of a plan and its ultimate purpose, you cannot set a vision or determine objectives without engaging the people who are going to be part of that vision and are integral to implementing your objectives.”
“Having such a diverse group in the same room broadens everyone’s horizons, scopes and thoughts on other issues that are beyond their sectors’ primary focus,” says Barb Dinning, technical planner with MaPP for the NVI sub-region.
Dan Edwards, representative of the Commercial Fishing Caucus, believes that meaningfully engaging a range of viewpoints is essential. “That spectrum ranges from simply asking advice or consultation, to actually sitting down and building a plan together and sharing your experiences and interests and having a consensus framework for decision-making that would ultimately respect those interests.” For Edwards, meaningful engagement offers a critical way to protect his interests and the interests of those he represents.
Rick Snowdon, a local tourism business operator and board member of the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association (a whale-watching industry group), sums everything up. “A stakeholder in a process like this is anyone with a unique point of view on the future needs of the region. ‘Engaging with stakeholders’ really means attempting to capture the diversity of needs and activities and incorporate those needs into a plan that’s inclusive and respectful of everyone.”
Raised on a gillnetter in a fisher family, Howard Humchitt spent most of his childhood on the water learning how to harvest Heiltsuk Nation marine resources. “It’s a way of life for us,” he explains. “For many parents who own boats, their kids get their sea legs early. They get a feel for the ocean under their feet before they’re even walking.”
For families who don’t own boats or lack the resources to get out on the water, Howard says the Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards (SEAS) initiative fills a gap. As a SEAS Outdoors Club mentor in Heiltsuk territory, he says the program helps prepare First Nations youth to become the next generation of stewards in their communities.
“The SEAS outdoor program has given me a huge opportunity to pass on the knowledge that I’ve been taught by my father, uncles and brothers to others,” he says. “We help kids to get out and be a part of the land and a part of the ocean.”
First started in 2009, SEAS is active in the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv First Nations communities of the Central Coast of British Columbia. Classroom and outdoor activities are designed to cultivate a deeper understanding of traditional cultural beliefs and marine values.
“It keeps our kids in touch with who we are as a people,” Howard affirms. “We’ve always been a part of the ocean. It’s a mainstay of our diet.”
In line with the goals of the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP), the SEAS Outdoors Club helps foster ocean stewardship. High school students learn practical skills in fishing, wilderness first aid and boat safety. They visit ancient clam middens and learn how important ocean resources have been to their community for thousands of years.
“Stewardship is something that is learned by being out on the land and the water,” says SEAS instructor Johanna Gordon-Walker. “Students are picking up the skills needed to become young leaders and the confidence to share their skills. They know how to make a fire and cook over it and they learn the territory well enough to know which way to go in a boat.”
The Central Coast Marine Plan includes objectives and strategies aimed at protecting and sustaining the region’s rich traditional and cultural resources by engaging young people in traditional use activities. SEAS brings elders into the classroom to demonstrate how to use plants as medicine and to teach the cultural protocols for sharing harvests with the community. Grade 4 students study herring science on the water. They learn how to set tree branches for herring roe and to preserve the eggs.
“The thing that really sticks with you most is the wonder and awe factor,” says Johanna. “It’s a huge adventure for the younger children to go out on a boat for the day. The more they learn, the more questions they have.”
Funding for MaPP supports SEAS program coordination, cultivating the next generation of stewards to carry out marine plan implementation. On this year’s first winter camping trip, students job-shadowed commercial crab and prawn fishers.
At the end of the SEAS program, some graduates aspire to work with the coastal guardian watchmen or the Coast Guard. For others, learning to harvest ocean resources for their families makes them feel appreciated and gives them a productive role in their communities.
The experience is rewarding for Howard, too.
“When the students see something for the first time, I take joy in seeing their eyes light up,” Howard recounts. “When somebody sees a wolf for the first time, I realise it’s not just another wolf. It’s the first wolf this person is seeing. Every one of these opportunities make me appreciate what we have and allows me to see something for the first time– again.”
Originating high in the coastal mountains of northwestern British Columbia, the Skeena is the second largest river in the province and one of the world’s longest undammed waterways. It winds 610 kilometres from its headwaters to its rich estuary near Prince Rupert.
The mouth of the Skeena is a world onto itself. Unlike most estuaries, the Skeena does not have a single distinct intertidal delta. Instead, sediments from the river are deposited in shoals along the lower river and channels that connect the estuary to the open ocean. The result: a region of extensive mudflats and shallow intertidal passages. Here, eelgrass beds and kelp forests so vital to the health of other species flourish. The area supports some of the largest fish populations on the coast and it is a critical waterfowl habitat. All Skeena salmon spend part of their life in the estuary and depend on its health as juveniles and as returning adults. The Skeena Mouth is important to the region’s First Nations and includes ancient village sites, harvesting areas and sacred places. With its natural beauty and abundant wildlife, it is also a great spot for ecotourism.
To help protect this “super habitat,” the Province of British Columbia and First Nations in the North Coast plan area, represented by the North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society (NCSFNSS), identified the mouth of the Skeena River as a protection management zone (PMZ). Land use decisions consistent with the recommendations in the North Coast Marine Plan will help ensure the sustainability of this unusually productive and complex ecosystem that is so important for a number of culturally, recreationally and economically important marine species.
One such species in particular has an important role in nature and culture: eulachon. These small ocean fish return to the estuary at the end of every winter and, while their lack of commercial value means little research has been undertaken, their value to the area’s First Nations people is immeasurable. To this day eulachon are an important part of indigenous communities’ diets.
“The eulachon run is one of the first signs of spring along the Skeena,” says Penny White, a fisheries biologist with NCSFNSS, which helps coordinate the monitoring efforts for the eulachon harvest. “After a long winter, eulachon were often the first fresh food available and were relied upon for their nutritional value.”
She adds, “The run this year was extremely late; we didn’t see any eulachon until March. We were worried they wouldn’t come at all but, when they arrived, life on the river exploded. It’s an amazing sight with thousands of gulls, seals and sea lions all following the fish.”
Penny talks with fishermen and elders along the river to get an estimate of the eulachon run, how much each person harvests, who they are fishing with and how long it takes fishermen to get enough fish for themselves and those they share with.
MaPP identifies the importance for First Nations to have access to traditional foods and recognizes the value of protecting the variety and quantity of marine resources for First Nations use. It considers data on food security needs and First Nations use when selecting areas for protection. “Food security is a big issue our Nations are facing and it’s a priority for NCSFNSS,” says Penny.
The best way to understand the cultural, biological and economic importance of the Skeena Estuary is to get to know it. After a short visit, you may become inspired to participate in efforts to enhance stewardship of this truly unique coastal habitat to ensure future generations can enjoy all that it has to offer.
Slimy and brightly coloured, these aliens – otherwise known as Chain tunicate (Botrylloides violaceus) and Star tunicate (Botryllus sclosseri) – spread across docks, boats, gear and the rocky seafloor, smothering seaweeds, barnacles, shellfish and any other species in their path. Because of their ability to overgrow and spread quickly, invasive tunicates are considered a big threat. They can reduce natural biodiversity, damage infrastructure, invade key recreational areas and result in major costs to aquaculture operations.
How the tunicates came to Haida Gwaii is a mystery but the fact remains that these aquatic aliens are here to stay. To identify where these tunicates and other aquatic invasive invertebrate species are, and to work to prevent their spread, a team of alien hunters was assembled which includes staff from the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) Marine Planning Program, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), Gwaii Haanas and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. In October 2016 this team – Stuart Crawford and Lais Chaves (CHN Marine Planning), Lynn Lee (Gwaii Haanas), Vanessa Hodes and Erika Anderson (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) and Linda McCann and Kristen Larson (SERC) – resumed the annual hunt in Haida Gwaii.*
Hunting for tunicates is a relatively simple affair: flat ceramic squares called “settlement plates” are weighted with chunks of brick and lowered to one meter in depth in the water column. The plates are then collected a few months later and analyzed using microscopes for signs of an alien invasion.
This is the third year that the hunt has taken place. In 2014, the team put out their first sampling plates, which they collected and analyzed in the fall of 2015. This process has been repeated twice with more plates being dropped into Haida Gwaii waters every year.
Supported in part by the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP), in the spring of 2016, CHN staff put out fifty plates in five locations; Gwaii Haanas staff put out an additional forty plates in four locations (see map below). “We wanted to see how far the invaders had spread,” says CHN marine ecosystem-based management (EBM) coordinator Stuart Crawford, “so we looked at several new sites that have never been monitored for invasive species.” This included sites on the Daawuuxusda/Duuguusd west coast, Ḵ’iids Gwaay/Ḵ’iis Gwaayee Langara Island and Moresby Camp.
The results of this year’s hunt were a mixed bag. The new sites were all free of tunicates, which, in the words of Stuart Crawford, “is great news.” However, he also had some bad news to report: “We found the invasive Star tunicate in Port Clements. This invader has been in Masset since before 2007, but did not reach Port Clements until this year.”
Minimizing the introduction and impacts of invasive species is a priority objective in the MaPP CHN-B.C. Haida Gwaii Marine Plan (2015). The CHN and the Province of B.C. will continue to collaborate with Gwaii Haanas, DFO and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center on monitoring aquatic invasive species in Haida Gwaii as part of the Haida Gwaii EBM monitoring program. The marine plan partners will be developing a marine invasive species management plan as well as educational and outreach materials to better prevent their introduction and spread in Haida Gwaii.
Tunicates in Haida Gwaii are here to stay. However, we can slow or stop the spread of tunicates or other invaders by early detection and intervention through measures such as periodic inspections and hull maintenance of the vessels that may inadvertently transport them from place to place.
*Some opportunistic monitoring for aquatic invasive invertebrates by Fisheries and Oceans Canada also took place in Haida Gwaii in 2007, 2012 and 2013. In 2014 DFO secured funding for a three year monitoring program. This monitoring work was done by a contractor in 2014, but for the subsequent two years monitoring has been a collective effort by DFO, Gwaii Haanas, HOTT and the Smithsonian Institute.
Just imagine – It is a beautiful spring day, and you’re out on your skiff with the family. Crab and prawn traps, coolers, and blankets are loaded. You are looking forward to a meal of crabs later on, but as you cruise towards your favorite spot, you see a row of buoys ahead of you and as you draw closer, you realize that your passage is blocked – you will have to turn back!
There is significant interest on Haida Gwaii to pursue shellfish aquaculture as part of a diversified marine economy. This interest is captured in the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN)-B.C. Haida Gwaii Marine Plan, which lists shellfish aquaculture as one of five areas available for marine economic development for the islands’ communities. Several inlets have been identified as having good potential for cultivating shellfish, including scallops and oysters, and the seasonal outdoor work associated with shellfish cultivation is well-suited to the islands’ existing labour force.
But like a “choose your own adventure” book, the boating scenario above points to some of the issues that can arise when economic development is pursued without careful consideration of the cultural, social, and ecological activities in an area. To address those concerns a study known as a ‘carrying capacity analysis’ is usually carried out. This type of study focuses on the ability of an area to sustain a particular activity without compromising the natural environment, as well as ensuring that the people who live, work, harvest food, and recreate in the area are not significantly impacted by a type of activity.
‘Capacity’ is measured in different ways, depending on the activity that is being looked at: For example, in 1996 Gwaii Haanas established an annual limit of 33,000 visitor days and nights based on visual impact surveys as well as stakeholder and public consultation. The limit was developed to protect the ecological and cultural heritage of the area and to maintain a “wilderness” experience for Gwaii Haanas visitors.
A ‘capacity’ study for shellfish aquaculture may focus on things like the location of traditional seafood harvesting areas, ocean views from the homes, and the routes of local tourism companies, to name only a few. In turn, a carrying capacity study may also inform management decisions related to the number, location, and size of permitted sites, as well as aesthetic requirements (e.g. the use of black or green floats to maintain views in an area) and direction on the types of species that may be cultivated.
The Marine Plan Partnership contracted shellfish aquaculture specialist Brian Kingzett and Vancouver Island University to develop and apply a methodology to calculate the carrying capacity for shellfish aquaculture development in several key sites in the Haida Gwaii area, including Skidegate Inlet. Mr. Kingzett assembled a cross-Canada team that traveled to Haida Gwaii in January, 2016 for a site visit and meeting with CHN and B.C. technical staff to go over the proposed methodology. The CHN Marine Planning Program and B.C. staff worked with the consultants during the project and the teams are currently finalizing revisions to the report.