A view of an estuary in Kitasoo, part of the study area for the proposed national marine conservation area reserve in the Central Coast of British Columbia. With clouds covering the peak, and eelgrass is in the foreground.
An estuary in the Central Coast feasibility study area
© Douglas Neasloss

The Governments of Canada, British Columbia, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk, and Wuikinuxv Nations recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to launch a feasibility assessment for a proposed national marine conservation area reserve in British Columbia’s Central Coast.

Located offshore of the Great Bear Rainforest of the Central Coast of British Columbia the study area for the national marine conservation area reserve (NMCAR) feasibility assessment covers approximately 14,200 square kilometres. For millennia, the wellbeing of the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv have been linked, inextricably, to the health of the marine environment. Management and use of abundant marine resources, particularly salmon, eulachon and herring, supported ancient civilizations and allowed rich and complex cultures and societies to develop. Archeologists have dated the origins of village sites on the Central Coast to as far back as 14,000 years – making them some o the oldest continually occupied sites in Canada. 

The study area for the NMCAR feasibility assessment includes inshore and offshore marine ecosystems, that are adjacent to an intricate shoreline that includes steeped walled fjords and narrow channels, island archipelagos, open coast, estuaries, sandy beaches, and rocky shorelines.This dynamic environment is home to numerous species of marine mammals, including humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, Harbour and Dall’s porpoises, more than 6000 species of invertebrates, 400 species of fish, 150 species of birds, and some of the largest kelp forests in British Columbia. 

Based on a model of collaborative governance and management, the enhanced protection of the Central Coast marine ecosystem stemming from the proposed NMCAR would not only help to conserve biodiversity, manage fisheries sustainably, and mitigate the impacts of climate change but also would contribute to maintaining the culture, traditions, and well-being of the local Central Coast First Nations, who have long been stewards of these lands and waters.

The proposed NMCAR in this culturally important and biodiversity-rich area presents an opportunity to strengthen a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations, and will contribute to Canada’s growing network of protected and conserved areas. These protected areas help safeguard Canada’s biodiversity and provide opportunities for Canadians to experience the outdoors, learn about our environment, and significantly contribute to the protection and preservation of Canada’s most vulnerable ecosystems.

 

This map identifies the study area for the proposed national marine conservation area reserve in the Central Coast of British Columbia. The study area is offshore of the Great Bear Rainforest of the Central Coast of British Columbia, beginning to the southwest of Oweekeno and extending to the northwest of Klemtu.