After invasive European green crabs were discovered on Haida Gwaii in the summer of 2020, a busy field season started to assess how far this invasive species has spread. Learn more about how the Council of the Haida Nation, the Province of BC and partners are responding to this invasion, how you can identify the European green crab and report your findings.
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“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Watch a new video about the work of the NVI Guardians. The Guardian program is one of many projects being implemented in the North Vancouver Island Marine Plan.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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. marxiv.org/rfnk3.
Read the report online here.
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:
- Central Coast: Sally Cargill, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
- North Vancouver Island: Andy Witt, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
- Haida Gwaii: Barry Wijdeven, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
- 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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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 https://conbio.org/mini-sites/imcc5/
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.
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.