On Friday, Marilyn Slett, Chief, Heiltsuk Nation; Doug Neasloss, Chief, Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation; Samuel Schooner, Chief, Nuxalk Nation; Danielle Shaw, Chief, Wuikinuxv Nation, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada; the Honourable Katrine Conroy, B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development; and the Honourable George Heyman, B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to launch a feasibility assessment for a national marine conservation area reserve (NMCAR) in the Central Coast area of British Columbia.
The study area for the national marine conservation area reserve feasibility assessment is about 14,200 square kilometres in size, and located in the coastal and offshore marine waters adjacent to the Great Bear Rainforest on the Central Coast of British Columbia. The study area includes inshore and offshore marine ecosystems, that are adjacent to an intricate shoreline that includes steep walled fjords and narrow channels, island archipelagos, open coast, estuaries, sandy beaches, shell midden beaches, and rocky shorelines. This dynamic environment is home to numerous species of marine mammals, including humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, Harbour and Dall’s porpoises, more than 6000 species of invertebrates, 400 species of fish, 150 species of birds, and some of the largest kelp forests in British Columbia. It is also an important habitat for a number of endangered species including eulachon, abalone, bocaccio, marbled murrelet, and sea otters.
The feasibility assessment, led by Central Coast Nations, Parks Canada, and the Government of British Columbia, will use western science, Indigenous knowledge, and the results of consultations with stakeholders including the fishing industry, non-government organizations, and Canadians to consider the social, cultural, environmental, and ecosystem benefits and impacts of establishing a national marine conservation area reserve in the Central Coast of British Columbia. The results of the feasibility assessment will inform future decisions about whether the proposal will continue, including a proposed boundary and zoning considerations. Many commercial vessels sail these waters, including tugs with barges, passenger vessels, and some larger commercial vessels in transit.