Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Living Oceans celebrates new marine plan for British Columbia’s North and Central Coast

April 27, 2015

VANCOUVER—Living Oceans commends the British Columbia government and its 18 partner First Nations on the announcement of the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) plans in Victoria today. The unveiling of plans for the future of Canada's Pacific Ocean follows on fully a decade of work by Living Oceans to encourage governments to engage in marine planning. Living Oceans represented the conservation sector at three of the MaPP advisory tables in an inclusive planning process that depended upon input from environmental groups, ocean-based businesses and regional district governments.

“MaPP plans are a step in the right direction to protect the ocean off B.C’s North and Central Coast that so many coastal communities depend on for their livelihoods,” said Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans. “These globally significant ocean ecosystems that are so rich with life are threatened by industrial development and climate change.”

MaPP plans cover four sub-regions of coastal British Columbia: Haida Gwaii, North Coast, Central Coast and North Vancouver Island. The MaPP plans will inform decisions on where to place development opportunities and provide a framework for local job creation that will bring economic prosperity to the coast while protecting the environment. The plans are science-based and were guided by traditional and local knowledge that will preserve long standing ways of life.

“The extent to which MaPP engaged and sought input from marine stewards and users alike sets a good precedent for the type of cooperative decision making and governance that is required in today’s political reality,” said Wristen.

Living Oceans worked hard to get an oil tanker ban included in the plans, but the federal government was not part of the process and shipping is their jurisdiction. An increase in tanker traffic on the coast would threaten commercial fisheries and the recreation and tourism industries that are worth billions of dollars to British Columbia’s coastal economy.

“The First Nations-Provincial partnership has done the heavy lifting with the development of these marine plans,” Wristen said. “Now it’s time for the federal government to join in with the implementation of a network of Marine Protected Areas that will help give effect to the plans and ensure that we maintain biodiversity and sustainable fisheries.”


Contact Information

Karen Wristen
Executive Director
Living Oceans Society


Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are places in the ocean that are protected like parks to provide sanctuary for species and habitat, and safeguard food-webs so they can recover and thrive. A network of MPAs ensures the protection of all the different habitat types needed for species of concern. It allows mammals, birds and fish to flourish when their entire range cannot be protected.

A marine plan that includes an MPA network not only preserves important species, but a broad diversity of life that includes different genetic stocks in different areas. Ecosystems with greater biodiversity are more resistant to environmental changes and recover more quickly from natural and human-caused disasters. This is especially important because of increasing pressures on ecosystems from climate change and ocean acidification.

Canada has 197 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Pacific Ocean, but most are very small. Combined, they take up only three percent (about 14,000km²) of the total area of Canada’s Pacific waters. Canada is a long way from meeting its commitment under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to protect 10 percent of our waters in Marine Protected Areas by 2020.

The Auditor General of Canada recommended in 2013 that planning for ocean protection needs to include finding compatible economic opportunities, and spoke to the ecological and economic benefits to be gained from a healthy ocean. Without a plan that restrains unwise industrial uses of our coastal waters we risk losing the benefits the ocean provides free of charge. Some of those things are difficult to put a price tag on: oxygen, carbon fixing and weather stability. Other benefits are easier to calculate, such as recreational opportunities, food webs and other resources that provide livelihoods for many people on the coast.

An ocean plan that uses ecosystem-based management within and around MPA networks would allow people and industries to use the ocean in ways that consider specific needs for the area. Different areas require different levels of protection. Protection Management Zones, for example, can contribute to food security for coastal communities now and for future generations. Successful networks in other countries, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, factor economic and social considerations into their design.


  • Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans.