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First Nations Take Action to Steward and Protect Coastlines

Coastal First Nations are undertaking an initiative that will see 3,500 kilometres of shoreline patrolled and inspected for marine debris. Photo by NOAA Marine Debris Program.

First Nations in British Columbia are protecting the coastlines of their territories through two new initiatives.

Coastal First Nations (CFN) have partnered with the Government of British Columbia on a program that will remove marine debris from shorelines and food-gathering areas. The organization—an alliance of nine First Nations—will utilize $1.33 million to identify and prioritize food gathering areas for cleanup and provide training and jobs to community members, including youth.

Shoreline cleanups not only remove existing debris from important habitat, they also prevent the subsequent formation of microplastics in the ocean.

“At least 3,500 kilometres of shoreline will be patrolled and inspected for debris. Shoreline cleanups not only remove existing debris from important habitat, they also prevent the subsequent formation of microplastics in the ocean,” said Chief Marilyn Slett, president, Coastal First Nations. “The CFN’s Regional Monitoring System, which ensures a standardized approach to data collection for monitoring coastal regions, will be used to track efforts and collect information on what is removed.”

CFN will work with local stewardship offices and coastal guardian watchmen, conducting patrols along the shoreline to identify areas to prioritize for debris removal. Learn more about the initiative here.

The Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) is taking significant steps to protect the coastline of Haida Gwaii by implementing a 14-month trial Voluntary Shipping Protection Zone. CHN is working with Transport Canada, the shipping industry, and Gwaii Haanas to implement the Protection Zone which is part of CHN’s Safe Distance Offshore project aimed at keeping large vessels sufficiently far offshore the Daawxuusda (the West Coast of Haida Gwaii) to ensure adequate response time and prevent accidents.

Voluntary Protection Zone Haida Gwaii
A 14-month trial of a Voluntary Protection Zone (VPZ) for Shipping is being implemented that asks vessels to observe greater distances when transiting on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. Photo by the Council of the Haida Nation.

“The increased vessel traffic around Haida Gwaii is a concern for the Haida Nation,” said Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, President, Council of the Haida Nation. “We have worked collaboratively with Canada for over four decades on Haida Gwaii and we’re committed to continue this work with Transport Canada to prevent current and future shipping impacts. The voluntary measures are a step in the right direction, yet we have much work to do together to protect the coastlines of Haida Gwaii to the highest standards.”

The Voluntary Shipping Protection Zone was announced by CHN and Transport Canada on September 4, 2020. The trial is a partial realization of recent commitments made by CHN and Canada in the Gwaii Haanas Gina ‘Waadluxan KilGuhlGa Land-Sea-People Plan. Marine Planning staff will continue to monitor shipping traffic and analyze adherence to the Voluntary Protection Zone, and work with Transport Canada and the shipping sector to find a long-term solution. Learn more about the Protection Zone here.