SIDNEY - The Honourable Peter Kent, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced with the Honourable Terry Lake, British Columbia's Minister of Environment, that the governments of Canada and British Columbia have agreed on a proposed boundary for a national marine conservation area reserve in the southern Strait of Georgia also known as the Salish Sea.
The proposed area extends from the southern tip of Gabriola Island to Saanich Inlet and Cordova Bay, just north of Victoria.
The ministers also announced that their governments will now undertake in-depth consultations with First Nations, local governments and stakeholders on the proposed national marine conservation area reserve.
"Today's announcement affirms the commitment of this government to protect and conserve our rich landscape," said Minister Kent. "In consultation with all stakeholders, this is a significant step forward in protecting this ecologically rich marine environment for all Canadians, today and in the future."
This significant milestone to conserve the waters of the Strait of Georgia as a national marine conservation area reserve is the result of strong cooperation between the governments of British Columbia and Canada. The Government of British Columbia has agreed to transfer administration of the seabed to the federal government if a national marine conservation area reserve is established.
"British Columbia is committed to marine protection in the southern Strait of Georgia, and designation as a marine conservation area will provide for permanent and rigorous environmental protection," said Minister Lake. "It's important that our decision reflect the needs of the public, and the communities and First Nations nearby, as well as the need for continued protection of this ecosystem."
The Strait of Georgia is among the most productive marine ecosystems in the world due to fresh water from the Fraser River mixing with the ocean waters flooding through Juan de Fuca and Haro Straits. The area is home to some of Canada's iconic marine animals such as orca whales, salmon and seals.
The Strait of Georgia is one of 29 marine regions that Parks Canada aims to represent as part of the national marine conservation area system. Ecologically sustainable fishing, navigation and recreation will continue.
2011 marks Parks Canada's centennial as the world's first national parks service. BC Parks is also celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first provincial park in British Columbia.
For additional information on today's announcement, please see the accompanying backgrounder at www.parkscanada.gc.ca under Media Room.
Office of the Minister of the Environment
BC Ministry of Environment
Oct. 13, 2011 Ministry of Environment
Southern Strait of Georgia
National Marine Conservation Area Reserve Feasibility Assessment
Features of southern Strait of Georgia
The marine life along the west coast of British Columbia is among the most diverse in the world's temperate waters. The southern Strait of Georgia's marine biodiversity is highly representative of the larger Strait of Georgia (also known as the Salish Sea) marine ecosystem. The unique habitat supports rich subtidal communities, lush kelp forests, harbour seals, killer whales, sea lions, porpoises, seabird colonies, thousands of invertebrate species, and the world's largest octopus, the giant Pacific octopus.
This nutrient rich and highly productive marine environment provides some of Canada's most spectacular underwater diving adventures. This is especially true in the Saanich Inlet - a deep body of water sheltered from the wind with relatively low levels of fresh water input. The inlet drops off dramatically, revealing layers of distinct marine ecosystems stacked on top of one another, each with its own sea creatures including cloud sponges, lingcod and wolf eel.
In the Strait, the high productivity of this estuarine environment is due to fresh water from the Fraser River mixing with the ocean waters flooding through Juan de Fuca and Haro Straits. A national marine conservation area reserve would protect a representative portion of this vital marine ecosystem and would also allow people to continue using the area in an ecologically sustainable manner.
A proposed boundary
The governments of Canada and British Columbia have agreed on a proposed boundary for a national marine conservation area reserve for consultation purposes with First Nations and local governments. Adoption of this boundary would protect a broad area of approximately 1,400 sq. km. in the southern Strait of Georgia stretching from Cordova Bay in Saanich to the south, and Gabriola Passage and southern Gabriola Island to the north, including Saanich Inlet.
Designation of this national marine conservation area reserve would occur in phases, beginning with a core section of about 800 sq. km. including the waters of Active Pass to the south and surrounding the southern Gulf Islands, including Mayne, Prevost, Pender and Saturna Islands, along the southern shores of Saltspring Island and south to D'Arcy Island.
The proposed national marine conservation area reserve would surround Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, ensuring ecosystem protection on both land and water in the Strait of Georgia.
History of Feasibility Assessment and Consultation Process
In October 2003, the governments of Canada and British Columbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding that committed the two governments to assess the feasibility of a national marine conservation area reserve in the southern Strait of Georgia.
Since 2004, Parks Canada, in partnership with the provincial government, has been conducting a feasibility assessment to determine if the southern Strait of Georgia should be protected as a national marine conservation area reserve. Between 2005 and 2010, Parks Canada hosted 35 public information sessions, open houses and workshops in local communities in the southern Gulf Islands and in the Lower Mainland. These consultations were attended by over 1800 people. In addition to discussions with First Nations, over 300 meetings and presentations have occurred with a range of diverse stakeholder groups including non-governmental organizations, the sport fishing, yachting, power and sailing squadrons, kayaking, whale watching and scuba diving communities, as well as commercial interests such as fisheries, aviation and transportation.
Initial discussions to begin to identify their interests in the feasibility assessment process have also occurred with each of the 19 First Nations potentially affected by the proposal.
In addition, Parks Canada has completed a range of technical studies including the analysis of ecological, cultural and socio-economic information. A map atlas has also been developed detailing the marine values and resource uses within and around the proposed national marine conservation area reserve.
Next steps for Feasibility Assessment
Now that a proposed boundary for the national marine conservation area reserve has been agreed upon by the governments of Canada and British Columbia, in-depth consultations with First Nations regarding their interests related to the project are necessary.
Governments have an obligation to engage in meaningful consultation with Aboriginal peoples whenever their proposed activities may infringe on Aboriginal rights or interests. Although discussions with First Nations have occurred throughout the feasibility assessment, it is necessary to further consult with First Nations on their interests related to the proposed boundary.
At the conclusion of the feasibility assessment, the governments of Canada and British Columbia will consider input gathered and determine whether a national marine conservation area reserve is practical and desirable. If the decision is favourable, the two governments would then proceed to negotiate a federal-provincial agreement for the establishment of a national marine conservation area.
If those negotiations are successful, Parks Canada will coordinate the preparation of an interim management plan with input from First Nations, stakeholders, and members of the public. The interim management plan will guide the management of the national marine conservation area for five years and is a required step before establishment can proceed.
Finally, Parks Canada will recommend to Parliament the protection of the area under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.
Canada's National Marine Conservation Areas
There are 29 marine regions in Parks Canada's National Marine Conservation Area Systems Plan, including the Strait of Georgia marine region. Parks Canada's goal is to represent each of these distinct marine regions with a national marine conservation area.
Currently, five of these marine regions are represented by four national marine conservation areas, they are: Fathom Five National Marine Park and Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area in Ontario; Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park in Quebec; and most recently, Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, designated in June 2010.
National marine conservation areas are protected areas managed for ecologically sustainable use by Parks Canada under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act. They include the seabed, the water above it and all living resources. The goal in these protected areas is to harmonize conservation practices with human activities such as fishing, shipping and recreation. Mining and oil and gas exploration and exploitation are prohibited.
A national marine conservation area reserve in the Strait of Georgia would be managed in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which would continue to manage fisheries in the area.
Parks Canada's Centennial
This year, Parks Canada is celebrating its 100th birthday as the world's first national parks service. For a century, Parks Canada has been a leader in protection, education and visitor experience programming that is admired around the world. Today, Parks Canada protects 167 national historic sites, 42 national parks and four national marine conservation areas, which together make up one of the most extensive networks of protected national heritage places in the world. Throughout the country and all year long, Canada's historic and natural treasures are hosting special programs and activities to celebrate this anniversary.
BC Parks Centennial
In 2011, BC Parks is also celebrating its 100th anniversary. The BC Parks system began with the establishment of Strathcona Provincial Park on March 1, 1911. Throughout 2011, more than 100 events and special projects have occurred throughout the province to recognize this spectacular parks and protected areas system.
Office of the Minister of the Environment
819 997-1441 Media Relations
BC Ministry of Environment