The Great Bear Education and Research Project’s focus area is the northern portion of the Pacific coast of Canada, also known as the Great Bear Rainforest. Bounded by Bute Inlet to the south and the Alaskan panhandle to the north, this region contains a significant portion of the world’s remaining intact temperate rainforest. Historically, this forest type occupied less than 0.2% of the earth’s land mass; it remains one of the rarest forest types on the planet.
This coastal rainforest supports many threatened and globally unique marine and terrestrial species. Over two thousand separate runs of Pacific salmon intertwine through an ecosystem rich with wildlife, including genetically distinct wolves, the all-white spirit bear and Canada’s largest grizzly bears, in addition to many species of marine mammals. GBEAR addresses our conservation priorities through research, education and advocacy in the following three areas: Ocean, Land and Communities.
Canada has the longest coastline in the world, but less than 1.1% of our ocean territory is under full long-term protection from extractive activities. Scientific estimates for conservation of biodiversity indicate that 30-50% of Canada’s oceans should be protected, which means that below that level species will be lost from our waters.
The Great Bear Sea is one of Canada’s marine hotspots of biodiversity, containing critical habitat for threatened humpback whales, northern resident killer whales, transient killer whales and many other species. Supertanker traffic, open net-cage salmon farms, seismic testing for oil and gas reserves and unsustainable fishing practices are some of the immediate threats to the marine environment. The Great Bear Sea represents the opportunity to protect a quiet sanctuary from industrial activity, where species such as the humpback whale and Pacific herring may continue to recover.
For decades, GBEAR team members have fought against intensive clearcut logging in the intact salmon-bearing river valleys of the Great Bear Rainforest. Today, 30% of the land base of the Great Bear, including most of those valleys, are protected under various conservancy designations. There are still many outstanding candidate areas for protection, and there is much work to be done to ensure that resource extraction in unprotected areas is done sustainably under the Ecosystem-Based Management approach.
The Great Bear Rainforest is home to many First Nations that have lived here since time immemorial. Their members make up the majority of the population on the outer central and north coast of B.C., and have been working hard to reclaim stewardship over resources in their remote territories. They are building their own capacity for research, monitoring and management using both traditional and modern science and practice. GBEAR partners with local First Nations in several programs that are designed to build capacity for wildlife and environmental monitoring. We also support these communities in their efforts to tackle environmental threats including tanker traffic, overfishing of herring, trophy hunting and marine pollution.