Marine conservation area explained in Sandspit

  • Feb. 13, 2009 3:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay–The National Marine Conservation Area proposed for the waters surrounding Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site would be a first for Canada. Protecting the sea 10 km out from shore would encompass 5200 square km of ocean and land.”From mountain top to seafloor,” said Terri Dionne, of Gwaii Haanas who attended the Moresby Island Management Committee meeting Feb. 11. Although there are two existing marine conservation areas in Canada (one in the Great Lakes, the other in the St. Lawrence seaway), neither provides the extent of protection that the proposed Gwaii Haanas NMCA would. The federal government’s intention is to establish a network representing 29 marine regions in Canada and Ms Dionne says this marine area would be an important step towards the goal. She said relationships have been established between Parks Canada and the Haida, who first designated the marine area as part of the heritage site in 1985. Since then, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has also come on board. She said an interim marine advisory committee has been meeting monthly to provide Gwaii Haanas advice and guidelines for proceeding through the steps to creating the marine reserve area. She introduced Sandspit resident Heron Weir of Moresby Explorers as one of the members. Ms Dionne showed MIMC members some of the marine ecosystem maps that have been made during the process and pointed out the “yellow blob map.” This was produced by overlaying all habitat maps over top of each other and the areas with the most overlap are now highlighted in yellow. Ms Dionne says the map provides a starting point for picking out “no take” zones or fully protected areas for the proposed park. One of the requirements in creating a marine protected area is that the interim management plan must have at least one of these zones in it, she said, as well as, a zone that encourages ecologically sustainable use of the marine area zone. Mr. Weir pointed out that the yellow spots on the map also give people an idea of how many no take zones the marine park planners are aiming for. He said other marine protected areas in the world, like the Great Barrier Reef, have protected 30 percent. The yellow blobs account for approximately 30 percent of the park. MIMC member Gord Usher asked if there were any exceptions to whom the “no take” areas impact. Ms Dionne explained the exception is for First Nations taking marine resources for food, social, and ceremonial use. Committee chair and regional district director Travis Glasman noted that with the tight economic times, other people who live on the islands are going to need access to resources from the sea too. “People are going to be turning back to that,” he said. Committee member Bente Sutherland said for sure the Haida have rights to the area, “but shouldn’t people who live and work here have rights too?” Duane Gould said that since becoming protected, getting to the southern half of Moresby Island is getting more and more restrictive. Ms Dionne said these were very good comments and that people should bring these concerns to the planning processes and coffeehouses coming up. Mr. Gould replied he’d been to enough consultation sessions and that everything he and others have said over the years has been disregarded. “Not even the minutes are distributed,” he said. The interim plan must also have a management agreement between DFO, CHN and Parks and a roadmap for getting from the interim plan to the full plan in five years. Throughout the planning, Ms Dionne says Gwaii Haanas has been trying to engage fishing sector groups too. She says upcoming public events will give others the chance to provide input. Not only has she been meeting with elected officials, but she will be holding chat sessions at coffee houses over the next couple of weeks. The first one is Feb. 23 in Tlell at the Rising Tide Bakery, then Feb. 24 in Sandspit at Brady’s Bistro, Feb. 25 in Old Massett at the Haida Rose Café, Feb. 26 in Queen Charlotte at the Purple Onion, Mar. 3 in Port Clements at the Patio Zone and Mar. 4 in Skidegate at the Eating House at the Kaay centre. All meetings take place between 5-8 pm.