BC First Nations and Province sign marine plan implementation agreements

Skeena EstuaryVictoria – The BC Government and 17 coastal First Nations have signed implementation agreements for four Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) marine plans, collaboratively developed for the North Pacific Coast.

Completed in 2015, the marine plans foster a balance between stewardship and economic development using an ecosystem-based management approach that includes recommendations for marine management, uses and activities.

“The implementation of marine plans ensures strategic, forward-looking planning for regulating, managing and protecting the marine environment,” says Kelly Russ, Chair of Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative. “These plans include addressing the multiple, cumulative, and potentially conflicting uses of the ocean. The Coastal First Nations believe the marine plans are an important tool to balance existing and new ocean uses with protection, conservation and restoration of ecologically important ocean and coastal habitats.”

Plans have been completed for four sub-regions: the Central Coast, Haida Gwaii, North Coast, and North Vancouver Island. In addition to the sub-regional marine plans, the Regional Action Framework, released this spring, outlines actions related to marine management that the Province and First Nations agree will be most effectively implemented on a regional scale. These actions are consistent with and support implementation of the sub-regional marine plans.

“The Haida Gwaii Marine Plan is an important addition to the work the Haida Nation has completed on the land, working collaboratively with the Province for the well-being of Haida Gwaii,” says kil tlaats ‘gaa (Peter Lantin), President of the Haida Nation. “We look forward to working on the implementation of shared priorities that will sustain healthy oceans and an abundance of marine life for generations to come.”

Taken together, these plans will inform First Nation and provincial decision-making in the respective sub-regional coastal and marine areas. The marine plans do not address management of uses and activities that the Province considers to be federal government jurisdiction. First Nations and the Province commit to working with the federal government on these issues.

In signing the implementation agreements, the partners agree to co‐lead implementation of the marine plans, including ongoing engagement with communities, local governments, and stakeholders. The agreements describe how the Province and First Nations will work together and how implementation activities will be prioritized and managed. Example priorities include continuing collaborative governance arrangements; implementation of marine zoning; fostering marine stewardship, monitoring and compliance; and facilitating sustainable economic development opportunities to support healthy communities.

“The Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv Nations take responsibility for all the resources in our territories,” says Doug Neasloss, governance representative for the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance. “While there is still much work to do to ensure our indigenous laws are reflected in all marine management decisions, working with the Province to implement the Central Coast Marine Plan represents and important step in our continued effort to ensure responsible stewardship and management in these areas.”

Implementation of the four marine plans will complement related plans and planning activities, such as the Pacific North Coast Integrated Marine Area Initiative, and the development of a Marine Protected Area Network for the Northern Shelf Bioregion, in addition to other MaPP partner initiatives within the sub-regions.

“The implementation of these plans signals an important step forward in our efforts to improve relationships with First Nations on governance and management issues,” says John Rustad, BC Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.

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