Time runs out on the federal government to launch a marine conservation planning process in B.C.
Government misses World Oceans Day deadline; Fails to make noticeable progress on B.C. marine use and conservation plan
Vancouver, B.C. – The Federal Government has failed to meet the June 8th World Oceans Day deadline to initiate a planning process for BC’s threatened North Coast waters, leading environmental groups said today.
In February 2008, the David Suzuki Foundation, Living Oceans Society and Sierra Club BC asked Ottawa to fulfill its mandate to establish a marine conservation planning process in the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA), a region which includes the marine waters from Campbell River to Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii on the BC coast. The groups set World Oceans Day as a deadline.
“The health of our ocean will continue to deteriorate if we don’t take steps to improve ocean management and establish conservation areas in sensitive ocean environments,” says Bill Wareham, Senior Marine Conservation Specialist for the David Suzuki Foundation. “Government is moving far too slowly in establishing a planning process that will ensure BC’s coast is managed in a way that’s good for marine life and good for the people that live there.”
The environmental organizations’ campaign includes an initiative called PNCIMA Watch, which tracks and reports on government’s progress toward establishing the marine use and conservation planning process for PNCIMA, home to 9,000-year-old glass sponge reefs and one of the world’s most endangered whales, the blue whale.
The PNCIMA Watch initiative has elicited a groundswell of support since its launch in February. Hundreds of people have signed up for its monthly e-newsletter reporting on the status of progress. In addition, more than 20 scientists from across Canada recently signed a consensus declaration calling on the government to start and fund a PNCIMA planning process.
"Ocean ecosystems are of tremendous value to Canadians, but that value is being eroded in the absence of good governance and policy,” says Kai Chan, Assistant Professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. “All the pieces are in place for major breakthroughs, and First Nations and many stakeholders are ready. Now it's time for the federal government to get on board."
This past February, when the environmental organizations launched the “Countdown to Oceans Day Campaign,” they sent a countdown clock to Fisheries and Oceans Minister Loyola Hearn and other MPs in Ottawa that counted the days to June 8, 2008, World Oceans Day. They established a series of steps for government to take, including:
- Ratifying a federal/provincial and First Nations protocol for marine-use planning;
- Establishing a planning process structure that included the participation of coastal residents;
- Assigning a multidisciplinary team to conduct effective research and analysis on critical marine issues;
- Establishment of a marine-planning secretariat to operate the planning process.
“It is truly disappointing to see none of the recommendations we made met by the Oceans Day deadline,” said Jennifer Lash, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society. “The inability of the Federal Government and DFO in particular, to make noticeable progress on PNCIMA in the past several months is of serious concern. We have tried to work collaboratively with government to get this process going but it is now obvious that more public pressure is needed.”
PNCIMA is an area of high ecological, social, and economic importance and encompasses approximately 88,000 square kilometres. Current management is inefficient, too narrowly focused, and contributes to unnecessary environmental degradation.
Kim Wright, Living Oceans Society, (604) 696-5044
Bill Wareham, David Suzuki Foundation, (604) 740-4318
Colin Campbell, Sierra Club British Columbia, (250) 361-6476