Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Territories and Areas

ICCA Consortium Worksop in Tofino, B.C.

There is a new approach to marine planning available to First Nations that want to protect territories of biological and cultural significance: Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCA). In many parts of the world Indigenous peoples are using ICCAs to protect their territorial Rights and Title while at the same time conserving the natural world. And it could work in British Columbia.

Characteristics of ICCAs:

  • A bond between a community and an area
  • First Nation’s have the ability and structure to make decisions
  • Decisions lead to the conservation of nature

One or more First Nations can start the process by registering an ICCA internationally. It does not need to be recognized by municipal, provincial or federal governments although it is helpful to have the support of other governments that can utilize legislation to prohibit classes of activities from these areas.

Having or re-establishing a presence to conserve and protect a territory that provides food and cultural benefits is at the core of this initiative. ICCAs should benefit from  increased community-level conservation management from their onset.

Why create ICCAs in Canada?

According to the International ICCA Consortium, ICCAS are described as:

“A close association is often found between a specific indigenous people or local community and a specific territory, area or body of natural resources. When such an association is combined with effective local governance and conservation of nature, we speak of ‘ICCAs’.”

“For many people and communities that relationship is much richer than it can be expressed in words. It is a bond of livelihood, energy and health. It is a source of identity and culture, autonomy and freedom. It is the connecting tie among generations, preserving memories from the past, and connecting those to the desired future. It is the ground on which communities learn, identify values and develop self-rules. For many it is also a connection between visible and invisible realities, material and spiritual wealth. With territory and nature goes life, dignity and self-determination as peoples.”

A win-win-win situation

Living Oceans is encouraging the establishment of ICCAs because 20 B.C. First Nations and the Provincial Government are working on a Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) for the North Coast. Combined, these First Nations have marine territories that cover approximately 115,000 km2 of ocean, some of which will be zoned as conservation areas.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an international agreement which Canada has signed, sets the global target for marine protection at 10 percent of our nation’s ocean by 2020. ICCAs can contribute to a nation’s total, so if B.C.’s First Nations establish marine ICCAs it will go a long way to helping Canada meet its 10 percent obligation. This makes ICCAs a win-win-win for marine conservation, Canada’s commitment to the CBD and First Nations’ sovereignty.

Although there are no officially registered ICCAs in Canada, thousands have been set up worldwide and are recognized in the UN's Global Database of MPAs. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) calls ICCAs the "brave new frontier for conservation."

Benefits of registering ICCAs

  • Raises awareness of community conservation approaches, processes and impacts at an international level
  • Contributes to a growing body of knowledge that can inform conservation and other policies regarding the positive influence of community-based environmental management and governance
  • Enhances documentation of ICCA sites and systems, which may also assist with securing legal status
  • Documents the story and point location of ICCAs through online case studies and interactive map
  • Respects intellectual property rights, which are retained with the community. An ICCA can be removed from the database or case studies at any time on request.

How to register an ICCA

There are two ways to participate, one is by registering your ICCA and the other is to document your area as a case study that can be viewed on the ICCA website without being registered.

For more information visit
For additional information please contact the North American Coordinator for ICCAs Eli Enns at eli [at]

How to apply to become a member of the ICCA Consortium

Becoming a member of the ICCA Consortium connects your community with many others around the world to provide advice and help support your interest in conserving an area. For more information visit