Monday, February 6, 2023

New Central Coast Marine Refuge Area created, region to be closed to all fishing

The Federal Government, Provincial Government and an Indigenous Nation along the Southern Central Coast joined together on Sunday to announce the creation of a Protected Marine Refuge.

The initiative follows on a November 29th 2021 declaration by the Mamalilikulla First Nation  of the Gwaxdlala/Nalaxdlala (Lull Bay/Hoeya Sound) in Knight Inlet as an Indigenous Protected and Conserved area.

image from Gov't of Canada Livestream

The 2021 declaration was the focus for Chief Councillor Winidi (John Powell) of the Mamalilikulla First Nation in his remarks on Sunday.

“Our Nation’s 2021 Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area declaration invited Canada and British Columbia to work with us on urgent protection of the sensitive corals and sponges in Gwaxdlala/Nalaxdlala, and to begin discussions on collaborative management to incorporate our ancient laws and practices. 

We offered collaboration to advance this site as a contribution to Canada’s conservation targets and to demonstrate a commitment to reconciliation. 

This important decision on Gwaxdlala/Nalaxdlala demonstrates the power of working together to achieve shared objectives. We look forward to continuing this collaborative effort between Canada, British Columbia and Mamalilikulla First Nation.”

The initiative was announced at the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress, with Joyce Murray, the Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard providing the background towards the Federal participation in the development of the refuge and noted that it would be closed to all fishing as part of its status as a refuge.

“The establishment of the Gwaxdlala/Nalaxdlala (Lull/Hoeya) site as the first marine refuge in the Northern Shelf Bioregion Marine Protected Area Network was the result of close collaboration between First Nations, federal, and provincial partners. 

This is a significant achievement in Canada’s commitments to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and protect important marine areas. Only by working together at all levels can we achieve Canada’s marine conservation targets to protect 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025.”

image from Gov't of Canada Livestream

Nathan Cullen the Stikine MLA and Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, was the provincial representative at the announcement, with Mr. Cullen noting of the step towards further reconciliation that the announcement heralds.

“I congratulate the Mamalilikulla First Nation for the stewardship of their coastal waters and protection of its rare shallow coral gardens and sponges. The creation of a marine refuge in the Knight Inlet will allow the land and waters to heal and recover from cumulative impacts. 

The management of our natural resources is one of the Province’s core responsibilities, and agreements such as this one advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, safeguard environmental sustainability, and generate economic prosperity in B.C.”

Through her social media stream, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice also hailed the creation of the new refuge, though she did offer up a nod towards concerns of the Commercial Fishery.

The area of the protected region is in at Knight  inlet region of the Central Coast adjacent to Northern Vancouver Island. 

The Gwaxdlala/Nalaxdlala (Lull/Hoeya) site is located in Knight Inlet, a fjord in B.C.’s Northern Shelf Bioregion (NSB) at the north end of Johnstone Strait and east of Port McNeill. 

The site measures 21.2 km2 and contains unique and highly valuable features that support ecological and cultural priorities for the Northern Shelf Bioregion. 

Marine refuges are intended to be long-term in nature to help protect important species and habitats. 

All commercial, recreational and Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) fisheries will be closed within the area to prevent impacts from human activity and to ensure full protection of the marine environment.

The full announcement from Sunday's presentation can be reviewed here.

You can review the full presentation from Sunday from this link to the live stream of Sunday.

More notes on Fishery issues can be explored through our archive page.

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