Information sessions upcoming on marine conservation area

  • Feb. 14, 2007 11:00 a.m.

Gwaii Haanas will be holding community information sessions over the next two weeks to let islanders know more about plans for a national marine conservation area reserve in the waters around southern Moresby Island. Marcia Morash, project manager for the proposed marine area, said she will be making presentations at all five sessions, explaining exactly what marine conservation areas are and the process that Gwaii Haanas will be following in order to establish one here. She will be joined by a variety of other resource people, including representatives of the Haida community, scientists, and Parks Canada staff. Many details about the marine area are unknown at this point, because Gwaii Haanas will be looking for information from local residents and stakeholders like commercial fishermen and tour operators as it prepares its plan, Ms Morash said. But some things are clear. The boundary of the marine area has already been set. It covers approximately 3,400 square kilometres of ocean, extending out 10 to 12 km from the land portion of Gwaii Haanas. As well, federal legislation requires national marine conservation areas to have at least two types of zones, one which is highly protected and one which allows sustainable use, Ms Morash explained. The marine area will affect commercial fishermen, she said, as it could result in limitations to where they can fish or how they can fish. Tour operators may also be affected if no-fish or no-go areas are established. The idea of protecting the waters around Gwaii Haanas has been around for almost 20 years, since the national park-Haida Heritage Site was created in 1988. Ms Morash said several small steps have been taken since then, including the Council of the Haida Nation and the federal government negotiating a management agreement for Gwaii Haanas, four oil and gas companies giving up seabed leases they held in the area, and the province of BC transferring its interest in the seabed to the federal government. The Council of the Haida Nation has also claimed the seabed, which led to another delay as the federal government figured out how to proceed in light of the fact that there is a court case pending on the issue. Ms Morash said that has now been sorted out to the federal government’s satisfaction, and once the marine area is established, it will be cooperatively managed by the Haida Nation and Parks Canada. The information sessions to be held over the next two weeks are preparing the way for consultation, which will take place later in the spring, Ms Morash said. “We would really encourage islanders to come out and take part,” she said. “We really want to be inclusive in the process.” The info sessions will be held in Skidegate this Monday (Feb. 19) and Old Massett on Wednesday. The next week, sessions will be held in Queen Charlotte Feb. 26, Sandspit Feb. 27 and Port Clements Feb. 28. All sessions start at 7 pm. Ms Morash said she is also willing to meet one-on-one with interested people who can’t make it to these meetings. You can reach her at 559-6344.