Let’s get it together with ecosystem management

The North Coast of B.C. is one of my favourite places.

The North Coast of B.C. is one of my favourite places.

If you visit this spectacular and ecologically diverse region, you’ll see people fishing, logging, travelling on boats and ships, and raising families.

You’ll see mountains, forests, oceans, sea lions, puffins, and whales. If you are fortunate to dive into the ocean, you’ll see salmon, herring, rockfish, sea anemones, giant scallops, kelp forests, and – deep below – 9,000-year-old glass-sponge reefs. There is so much to see here, but we still have a lot to learn about how this ecosystem works.

It’s absurd to think that we could manage our activities in such a vast and complex area by having different government departments oversee individual activities in isolation. But that’s pretty much the way we’ve been doing things.

Fortunately, people are beginning to talk about a new way of managing our oceans, a way that’s being tested in five large ocean areas in Canada.

One of these areas is the North Coast of B.C., in a region stretching from northern Vancouver Island to the B.C.-Alaska border, which the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has labelled the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area, or Pncima.

DFO is attempting to engage an integrated management planning process here, in part based on the recognition that everything in nature is interconnected, including human activity.

For years, many scientists, resource managers, and environmentalists have encouraged government to adopt an ecosystem-based management, or EBM, approach that takes into account all values and interests.

The Encyclopedia of Earth defines EBM as “an integrated, science-based approach to the management of natural resources that aims to sustain the health, resilience and diversity of ecosystems while allowing for sustainable use by humans of the goods and services they provide.”

The federal government’s planning processes in the Beaufort Sea, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Eastern Scotian Shelf, Placentia Bay/Grand Banks, and Pacific North Coast could set an example for the EBM approach in all of Canada’s oceans.

Until now, there’s been more talk than action.

The Pncima integrated management planning process has recently seen some significant breakthroughs, though.

In December, DFO signed a formal governance agreement with First Nations in the area to move forward with a marine planning process. And in late March, more than to 380 people – including representatives from government, First Nations, coastal communities, marine industries, and non-governmental organizations – took part in a two-day forum to discuss management and conservation options for the region.

That so many people from so many walks of life and so many communities were able to come together to discuss the needs of this area shows not just that cooperation is possible but also that everyone understands the need for urgent action to protect the health of our oceans.

As with most processes involving a multitude of resources, interests, and ecological values, government must continue to play a leading role.

Even more importantly, our government must provide enough money for scientific research to ensure that decisions are made according to the best local and scientific knowledge.

We don’t have a lot of time to waste. Many ocean ecosystems are at tipping points, with pollution, resource extraction, and industrial impacts contributing to declines in fish, mammal, and other marine-life populations.

Add to that uncertainty about the effects climate change is having on these ecosystems, and the need for planning becomes even more urgent.

A credible, long-term plan for any ocean region must include an increase in protected areas where specific types of industrial activity are limited. Canada has the longest coastline of any nation on Earth, and 40 per cent of our jurisdictional area is ocean, yet the federal government has set aside less than one per cent of that as marine protected areas.

I hope governments, First Nations, and other interested people will continue the formal dialogue, scientific research, and relationship-building required to ensure we have intelligent management and conservation in our oceans.

I believe most people understand that our own health depends on the health of ocean ecosystems, and are willing to come together to ensure ecological and economic well-being provided by our oceans are maintained at as high a level as possible.

I encourage everyone in Canada who cares about the future health of our oceans to let the federal government know that we want a greater investment in science, management, and conservation so that our oceans stand a fighting chance in an all too uncertain future.

This column is co-written by broadcaster David Suzuki and Faisal Moola, a scientist.

Just Posted

Chemical analysis may provide clues to cause of huge Red Deer industrial fire

Fire on April 17 caused $9 million in damage to oil and gas industrial building

New loonie reason to celebrate and educate: central Alberta LGBTQ community

The new LGBTQ2 loonie is a conversation starter and a reason to… Continue reading

C & E Trail property owner wants to use land as RV storage yard

Red Deer city council gives initial approval

Indigenous cultural centre needed in Red Deer

Urban Aboriginal Voices Society hosts annual community gathering

Red Deer youth recognized for his compassion

Blackfalds man dies after vehicle collision

MISSING: Joshua Arthur Sanford

37-year-old Ponoka man last seen on Tuesday morning

Inspired by a galaxy far, far away, these ‘Star Wars’ mementos could be yours forever

CHICAGO —The stuff of “Star Wars” —and there is unfortunately no better… Continue reading

Shoppers Drug Mart launches second online medical pot portal in Alberta

TORONTO — Medical cannabis users in Alberta can now get their therapeutic… Continue reading

Oh, yes! Nurse, Raptors look to finish series with Magic

DENVER — In response to an early call, Toronto coach Nick Nurse… Continue reading

Delay of game calls, goalie interference top worst rules for NHLers: survey

The pace and excitement of 3-on-3 overtime isn’t just a thrill for… Continue reading

Avengers get epic send-off at ‘Endgame’ world premiere

LOS ANGELES — There were more than a few sniffles from the… Continue reading

Writers’ Trust launches program pairing rising writers with established mentors

TORONTO — The Writers’ Trust has launched a program that gives five… Continue reading

Family: A potpourri of Easter egg hunts, music and politics

The election is a thing of the past. Albertans have spoken. They… Continue reading

Most Read