Last week, the Canadian government finally started to embrace the precious connections between land and sea ecosystems during Oceans Week by announcing its intent to create Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve — B.C.’s ‘Galapagos of the North.’
Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) is a raw, rugged, rain-soaked wonder, filled with orca and humpback whales, seabirds, salmon, and lush kelp forests.
Marine protection would allow the magnificent coastal and marine ecosystems to thrive.
The announcement has been a long time coming. The Haida First Nation has called Gwaii Haanas home for more than 10,000 years. Their culture depends on diverse and abundant marine life, so they have long protected the precious connections between land and sea ecosystems, and between humans and wildlife. It’s a concept that the Canadian government is beginning to embrace with the creation of this special marine conservation area.
But we can’t put our feet up just yet — many potentially damaging activities may still be permitted there. So there’s lots to be done to ensure that human activities in Gwaii Haanas are sustainably managed, with conservation of these unique and delicate ecosystems as a crucial priority. If this can be achieved with the government, Haida, local communities, and interest groups working co-operatively together, Gwaii Haanas will be a world model for marine protection.
In the meantime, we can applaud the federal government and the Haida Nation for this important move towards healthier oceans.
Kai Chan is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES) at UBC. Stephen Ban is a PhD candidate with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.