The marine environment of the Great Bear Rainforest has few parallels in the world when it comes to biodiversity, richness and abundance. It is home to all five Pacific salmon species, the key building block of the rainforest and adjacent sea; Pacific herring, an important feeder species; eulachon, a small oily fish sustainably harvested for thousands of years by First Nations and used as a form of trading currency; fin, orca, and humpback whales; and sea otters, a sentinel species and indicator of overall ecosystem health. Marine plans and protected areas are needed to help stop overexploitation and damage of marine resources and ecosystems.
GBEAR is working with First Nations and the provincial government as part of the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) initiative that aims to establish a template for marine plans and protected areas on the B.C. coast. To this end, GBEAR team members participate in the central coast advisory committee to ensure that protection of one of the world’s last great natural coastal regions is placed at the core of marine planning.
GBEAR Brings Knowledge and Experience to the Table
GBEAR team members bring more than two decades of direct field observations and local knowledge, as well as its support of scientific research will help to ensure that the best marine plans emerge from the MaPP process. The Great Bear Sea Hydrophone Network (GBHN) and underwater remote cameras are gathering data about sea life and conditions that will be invaluable for future MaPP indicator monitoring.
What Kind of Marine Plan Do We Need?
We support marine plans that put sustainability and ecosystem integrity at the foundation of all resource use and economic development decisions. Marine management plans must be implemented to maintain a healthy marine environment, one that will continue to sustain the entire Great Bear Rainforest from sea to land. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are areas of ocean that are free from destructive forms of resource exploitation. A series of well-managed MPAs where human activity is limited, including no-take zones, or zones where no fish or seafood harvesting is permitted, would allow ecosystems to recover and maintain functionality. In addition, coast-wide planning efforts that help to minimize the negative impacts of fishing and tanker traffic are needed to bolster the effectiveness of these MPAs and contribute to the overall health of the Great Bear Sea.
MPAs Alone Are Not Enough
Although MPAs are necessary, they are not sufficient alone in achieving biodiversity, fisheries, or food security objectives. MPAs offer moderate to little protection from threats outside of their boundaries, such as ocean acidification, contamination by toxins and tanker noise. Furthermore, the exclusion of fishing pressure from an MPA simply displaces and concentrates that same amount of effort in a smaller fished area elsewhere. Consequently, protection of species and ecosystems outside reserve boundaries must accompany MPA network design plans. Many novel and successful tools exist. For example the trade in by-catch quota in B.C.’s groundfish fishery reduces by-catch, and overall reduction in fishing quotas cuts overexploitation. Habitat degradation and designated access rights such as territorial user rights for fishing (TURFS) help to reduce the ‘race to fish’ mentality, while fishing co-operatives result in an increase in a fishery’s landed value (price per pound) by limiting total landed biomass. There are many sustainable management tools that can not only enhance the long-term viability of a fishery, but also enhance the effectiveness of MPAs and marine planning in general.