Marine Planning on the North Coast

  • Nov. 25, 2011 6:00 p.m.

Submitted by Dan Edwards, Executive Director, Area A Crab Association –Over the last 15 months, the Area A Crab Association has spent several hundred hours working with other industries and interests to help build an ecosystem-based management framework for marine planning in the north coast region. The association has advocated developing this plan due to a number of current ongoing concerns and potential future conflicts almost certain to be generated as the ocean space becomes more crowded, as environmental impacts from climate change and ocean acidification increase, and as more and more disparate processes demand the engagement of more and more of the fishery’s limited resources. Many of their concerns in the past have been ignored or marginalized.The association had hoped the PNCIMA process was going to rectify this. The following document, however, tells the story of the failure of this process.Area A is well aware of the need to respect consensus principles of communication from within a process, but as will be seen, Area A takes the position that this process is now dead. Worse, that the pretence that it’s still valid is both dishonest and counterproductive. It will be impossible to rebuild a proper process based on a lie; we are better off telling the truth and starting again.The fundamental core of an ecosystem-based planning process is the development of a governance structure/consultative process that includes all substantially impacted interests to develop the initial plan and to implement and update the plan. There are a number of examples of different governance and consultative processes used around the world to successfully develop and implement oceans plans. A common overarching frame for many is an ecosystem framework which means the plan deals with all human activities and ecological factors interacting within a specific ocean space. These stakeholder engagement and governance processes range from simple consultative processes through to shared decision-making. At one end of this spectrum, public input is gathered and advice is incorporated into the plan by the agencies with the legislative mandate to implement that plan. At the other end, shared decision making processes are used, typically including an interest-based consensus framework in conjunction with shared problem solving partnering with the affected stakeholders.In the north coast area, the government of Canada has identified a Large Ocean Management Area(LOMA) as one of five large ocean areas to implement the integrated planning processes identified under the Oceans Act, legislation passed in 1996 by the federal government. This act is not prescriptive, instead focusing on the articulation of higher level objectives for a collaborative approach to ocean management and mandating Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to take a leadership role in bringing together various agencies that have jurisdiction in the oceans. This act also clearly articulates the intent to integrate stakeholder interests (including other levels of government) in the region, including “indigenous peoples and coastal communities”.DFO signed off on a governance memorandum of understanding with First Nations in the region over two years ago and more recently with the province, and embarked on a public consultation framework shortly afterwards, beginning with a large public meeting in Richmond. They also agreed to sign an MOU with the same government partners and the Moore Foundation for a private-public partnership that would see that Foundation investing $8.3 million to support the planning process. This would provide capacity for engagement, independent scientific advice, and capacity needs for the duration of the planning process. Developing out of this consultative process for the governance MOU, the Integrated Oceans Advisory Committee (IOAC) was formed, with membership from the stakeholder groups. A capacity fund for this body was established, with funds to come from the proposed funding MOU between the Canada, BC and First Nations.At the beginning of September, however, the federal government unilaterally withdrew from the funding MOU with the Moore Foundation.The shipping industry reported in its newsletter that this decision came directly from the Prime Minister’s Office: Quote from the Chamber of Shipping newsletter:”Prime Minister’s office blocks PNCIMA funding.The Prime Minister’s office announced this week that a contract between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Tides Canada to accept 8.3 million of funding from the U.S. based Moore Foundation has been cancelled. The west coast marine industry has long advocated such a move in view of the serious conflicts arising between the activities of the Moore Foundation in funding groups opposed to the development of Canada’s oil sands and related port projects including restrictions on tanker traffic.”The withdrawal of the federal government from the funding MOU has created significant problems for all those interested in furthering this planning process. The core issue that has emerged from this action is the complete disregard for the fundamental principles of engagement that are at the centre of any valid ecosystem-based management planning process.Whether it is a simple consultative process or a more empowered shared decision making process, there has to be a commitment that those with significant interests will have their concerns noted and included at some level in the planning process. However, if one sector works outside the process and undermines the consultative process, then the entire process is undermined, possibly beyond repair. If stakeholders can get their interests met outside the planning process, they have no reason to engage with it or, if they do engage, they have no incentive to participate in a constructive manner to build a rational plan for the area. As one participant said of the Massachusetts Ocean Plan, “So many special interests lobbied to be left out of any impacts from the plan that it was not a matter of a glass half full or a glass half empty, but rather simply an empty glass being built.”DFO, which has the mandate to lead this process, has stated publicly that their new refocused and streamlined planning process (which has yet to be fully articulated), will now proceed without the funds and that the funding issue was not the heart of their decision. The messaging is that the decision was made internally after looking at the tight timelines and the lack of progress to date and that there was a decision made to refocus in a manner which does not require the significant funds that were originally to be brought to the table through the MOU.This justification from DFO on the reason for withdrawing from the funding MOU is not, however, in any way credible given their previous stance: while members of the IOAC heard repeatedly over a number of months from the shipping sector that they did not want to see these funds from the Moore Foundation used in the planning process, DFO consistently and repeatedly responded to the shipping industry at the IOAC table that the funds were needed if the plan was to going to be able to engage all the interests properly.What’s more, the IOAC sent a consensus letter, which included the shipping industry, to the Fisheries Minister outlining some concerns that some members have with the source of the funds, but reiterated that a collective decision had been made to accept the funds so long as they were delivered in a transparent and accountable framework. By then lobbying against the consensus they agreed to in this letter, the shipping industry broke one of the fundamental rules of the terms of reference for being a party to the IOAC process: they clearly, and by their own admission, did not respect the terms of reference. Furthermore, the Government of Canada did not respect the terms of reference either, as witnessed by the capitulation to those lobbying efforts.Simply put, the basic principles of engagement necessary for a planning product to get buy-in at the end of the day were broken on two levels: (1) by the shipping sector within the IOAC; and, (2), by the government of Canada, which responded to special-interest lobbying outside the planning process.The demise of this process has had ramifications for more than just the Area A crab fishery. A number of stakeholder interests were seriously engaging in this process because, like Area A and other members of the Commercial Fishing Caucus, they believed in the fundamental need to develop an ocean management plan that would be used to maintain and enhance a sustainable ocean area in this region for decades to come. Such a plan is essential if we are to build a proper foundation for sustainable ocean use in a period of increasing pressures and environmental upheaval.While the Oceans Act is still seen as a progressive piece of legislation that put Canada ahead of the curve as a nation, the delay in implementing the act does not reflect well on Canada as a leader in ocean management. The federal government has been clear about its intentions to support expansion of the oil sands and diversification of energy exports, including a pipeline to open up export opportunities in Asia. This intention does not and should not, preclude support for marine planning. Marine planning is not about one industry or one agenda; it’s about the entire ecosystem interaction and the need to respect the impact all of us have on the planet’s ecosystems and on each other. This requires a balanced approach, with all interests engaging seriously with each other. The actions of the shipping industry and the federal government have fundamentally undermined this new way of doing business. The outcome of this being that the present PNCIMA process design is now dead, killed by one of its own members and by a government allowing an end run to support that one interest. Adding to this, the government of Canada has now come out with a memo stating it no longer needs the LOMA process because it has learned what it needs from the existing pilots and are now embedding planning within the internal structures of DFO. There is nothing credible about this, particularly in light of budget cuts about to occur, just as there was nothing credible about the excuse used to withdraw from the original funding MOU. The need for marine planning is still there and, in fact, as time marches on this need for proper marine planning will only get more critical. One of the impacts of the recent action by the federal government will be for individual sectors, First Nations and the provincial government to return to isolated approaches for planning and a reliance on lobbying to influence the federal government. This would constitute a complete failure of the promise of the Oceans Act and a loss of at least 10 years of work to try and build an integrated approach to ocean use.What next?As things currently stand, the actions of the federal government in dismantling the LOMA framework have now made the solution of a reconstituted marine planning process within the Oceans Act framework extremely unlikely at the present time. They have removed the framework for engagement, guaranteeing that future ocean uses will be driven by internal government directives, with those directives being set by non-transparent lobbying processes as opposed to an open, transparent and inclusive planning process.In spite of these setbacks, there are those who still believe in the vision of marine planning and collaborative ocean management. An alternative to falling back into the status quo, therefore, is to re-engage in a new planning process, ensuring a stronger commitment by all parties to respect the terms of reference of the process. This would require a zero-tolerance policy towards adversarial positioning at the table and towards lobbying away from the table, this being policed by an independent chair.Under this type of process, the next stage of marine planning can be worthwhile, but it requires external funding, with clear terms of reference to maintain balance between powerful and less powerful interests; a code of best practices; and, most importantly, it requires strong political support from a broad range of parties, both government and stakeholder interests.