The B.C. government has completed regional marine plans with 18 First Nations on the B.C. Coast, from northern Vancouver Island up to the Alaska border.
The marine plans are to be an extension of the 2007 coastal land use plan that has become known as the Great Bear Rainforest agreement. The four regions are Haida Gwaii, Central Coast, North Coast and North Vancouver Island, but they do not attempt to intrude on the key federal jurisdictions of shipping and fisheries management.
Aboriginal leaders said they were proceeding with B.C. and environmental organizations, but the federal government has not participated in what they call MaPP, the Marine Planning Partnership for the North Pacific Coast.
Haida Nation President Peter Lantin said the marine plan for the waters around Haida Gwaii sets aside 20 per cent as a marine reserve, and discussions with Ottawa are underway to add more area around Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. But with pipelines and oil and gas projects proposed for the region, the plans are far from completion.
“When we embarked on this journey a decade ago, the whole intent was to be comprehensive marine planning, which involves everything,” Lantin said. “So as the environment’s changed over the last 10 years around those federal jurisdictional issues, we’ve seen them not want to be part of this process.”
The Haida Nation remains opposed to crude oil tanker traffic through its marine territory, and is studying the issue of liquefied natural gas tankers in North Coast waters, he said.
Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea’s office issued a statement in response to the announcement in Victoria.
“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans did not participate in MaPP as it is involved in similar initiatives with similar partners such as the Canada-B.C. Marine Protected Area network strategy, which achieves marine protection and conservation goals through a joint federal-provincial approach, collaborative decision-making and a participatory process,” the statement said.
Doug Neasloss, representative of the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance, thanked Tides Canada and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a San Francisco-based environmental charity started by a co-founder of Intel Corp., for continuing to support the establishment of protected areas on the B.C. coast.
U.S. donors working through the Tides Foundation put up $60 million in 2007 to participate in the Great Bear Rainforest land use agreement. B.C. and the federal government put up $30 million each.