Gitga’at Nation and Haida Nation are hosting federal pilot projects to develop a new maritime awareness information system beginning in the Fall of 2018. (Black Press photo)

Haida and Gitga’at Nation to host coast protection pilot projects

Projects aim to reduce the underwater noise impacting Southern Resident Killer Whales

Gitga’at Nation and Haida Nation are hosting federal pilot projects to develop, test and evaluate a new maritime awareness information system.

On March 13, during a speech at the British Columbia Chamber of Shipping’s Annual General Meeting, the Marc Garneau, minister of transport, announced that under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada is launching the pilot projects for the Enhanced Maritime Situational Awareness initiative on B.C.’s North Coast and investing in measures to reduce the underwater noise impacting Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Starting fall 2018 until fall 2019, the two Nations will work with Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard and other federal departments on the projects.

“I am proud of the partnerships our Government is building under the Oceans Protection Plan,” Garneau said. “The traditional knowledge and expertise we are gaining from Canada’s Indigenous peoples and coastal communities is a critical element to safeguarding Canada’s waters, and the Enhanced Maritime Situational Awareness initiative is an excellent example of these partnerships at work.

“In addition, Budget 2018 funding will allow us to take the next steps needed to address the impacts of human activities that are threatening endangered whales. Safeguarding whales is a government priority that we take very seriously.”

The system will provide coastal partners, including Indigenous peoples, provincial governments and scientific non-governmental organizations, with essential maritime information, including near real-time data on ship traffic. The Haida and Gitga’at Nations are the first of up to nine communities that will host pilot versions of the new system across Canada’s three coasts.

READ MORE: Trudeau announces $1.5 billion ocean protection plan

“The Gitga’at First Nation is pleased to participate in the Enhanced Maritime Situational Awareness pilot project that will collect near real-time information on vessel traffic, and also provide the ability to monitor marine mammals,” said Roger Sterritt, manager of the Gitg’at emergency response team. “Being able to contribute to and have access to other sources of this critical information will serve to enhance prevention measures and improve response capacity in the event of a marine emergency in local waterways.”

President of Haida Nation, kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin, said the initiative gives access to the best coastal marine information available today.

“We’ll be aware of all shipping traffic in near real-time, be able to make informed decisions if there is a crisis or accident and better plan for the future; such as, keeping vessels well offshore. By incorporating our Nation’s deep ocean knowledge into the system, all users in the future will have a better understanding of Haida Gwaii and the reasons we insist on its protection,” Lantin said.

The federal government’s Oceans Protection Plan is a $1.5 billion investment aimed to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways. The government plans to create a world-leading marine safety system that provides economic opportunities for Canadians, while protecting our coasts and waterways for generations to come. This work is being done in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities.

READ MORE: Whale researchers find nearly three feet of plastics on remote beaches

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