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Greater Victoria, BC News

ARTICLE

Date ArticleType
2/1/2013 Published Article
Proposed National Marine Conservation Area

In October of 2011, the governments of Canada and British Columbia proposed a national marine conservation area (NMCA) reserve in the Southern Strait of Georgia. The proposed area reaches from the southern end of Gabriola Island (just south of Nanaimo) into Saanich Inlet, down to Cordova Bay (just north of Victoria). Having agreed on an area, governments are now taking up an assessment with stakeholder groups to determine whether the NMCA reserve is feasible.

An NMCA is a type of marine protected area, similar to a national heritage site or park, which maintains ecologically sustainable use. Parks Canada is responsible for the National Marine Conservation Areas Program which oversees and manages these areas; protecting them from ocean dumping, undersea mining, development and oil and gas exploration.

The potential for an NMCA in our region could help us better plan for future generations by using a shared stewardship model to promote the maintenance of biological diversity through the conservation of marine habitats, species and water quality. Shared stewardship involves consultation with First Nations, local communities, stakeholders and governments, however once an NMCA is established, all decisions are made by Parks Canada. The NMCA is made up of two zones, ecologically sustainable use and full marine protection. Ecologically sustainable use zones allow for fishing, shipping, marine transportation, and a number of other recreational and tourist activities though they are limited by NMCA regulation; while full marine protection zones do not allow for these activities.

Compared with other NMCAs, the proposed Southern Strait of Georgia NMCA reserve is in a significantly more urban developed area. With this brings a larger number of users and activities in the water, in the sea bed, as well as on the shoreline. The majority of Vancouver Island’s access to electricity and gas comes from submarine cables, while all other goods and produce arrive by sea. Creating an NMCA in the waters that connect us with the rest of the mainland could result in the cost of such necessities going up, as well as hampering future growth and development by creating a complex authority structure.  Although areas of higher concentrations of commercial and industrial use like BC Ferries ports are excluded from the proposed area, their routes are not. What would it cost passengers if the ferries had to re-route to protect a particular habitat? This is only one example of many potential and costly limitations that must be considered as part of the project’s feasibility assessment.

The creation of a NMCA could be a wonderful thing for our community and environment; however we must fully educate ourselves on how this could also negatively impact our region, and bring our concerns forward. Just as forestry decisions impact small logging communities, NMCA decisions, implementation and regulation will impact our coastal community at large.


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