There are numerous management changes on the horizon that will help safeguard B.C.’s oceans, thanks to Canada’s nation-wide Oceans Protection Plan announced in November of 2016. The Oceans Protection Plan will help keep Canadian waters and coasts safe and clean. Under the plan, the Government of Canada will partner with Indigenous and coastal communities to develop a marine safety system and ensure that commercial shipping is taking place in a way that is safe for mariners and that protects and sustains the economic, environmental, social and cultural health of Canadian oceans and coasts. This is good news for coastal First Nations since it will provide extensive resources to keep our oceans healthy as LNG projects go ahead.
The extensive Oceans Protection Plan includes $1.5 billion in funding over a five year period, though given the magnitude of the plan, it will take some time for specific program and initiative announcements to roll out.
To implement the plan, the Government of Canada will partner with Indigenous and coastal communities and seek their advice regarding:
- Environmental monitoring plans
- Mitigation measures for marine mammals
- Coastal habitat restoration
- New systems for real-time information and modernized tools
- Mitigation measures for marine traffic
- Emergency Response
Environmental Monitoring Plans
The federal government will work with First Nations to develop environmental monitoring plans on all three of Canada’s coasts. The plans will look at environmental indicators, proposals and strategies, and facilitate environmental data collection in order to detect changes in each respective ecosystem and improve our understanding of cumulative shipping effects.
Mitigation measures for marine mammals
Specifically, the plan will address key threats to marine mammals such as the southern resident killer whale pods. Some of the threats include contaminants, noise pollution, and availability of prey or food sources. The plan will then establish baselines for threats such as shipping noise and examine options to mitigate effects.
Coastal Habitat Restoration
The government will establish a fund to protect and restore coastal marine ecosystems that are vulnerable to increased marine shipping activities. The fund will first help identify specific coastal habitat zones as restoration priorities and then set out a plan that First Nations and local communities use to restore habitat and mitigate stressors resulting from increased marine traffic and other development.
Mitigation Measures for Marine Traffic
The government also plans to have new information sharing systems and platforms designed for better access to real-time information on marine shipping activities in local waters. Transport Canada will work with Indigenous communities to find ways to manage and overcome marine traffic difficulties. For example, Indigenous communities may be able to request restrictions on the speed and routing of certain ship types, establish areas that ships must avoid near sensitive sites or prohibit sewer discharges near harvesting areas.
Emergency Response and Training Opportunities
The Government of Canada will also work with coastal Indigenous communities and the Province of British Columbia to develop a new emergency response plan. The Canadian Coast Guard will work with Indigenous communities to design and launch new Indigenous Community Response Teams, first in B.C. then on other coasts. Interested First Nations will be instructed in search and rescue missions, environmental response and incident management. These formal training activities will take place in some communities and at Canadian Coast Guard facilities.
With these measures in place, the Government of Canada benefits from First Nations involvement and environmental stewardship, in the interest of protecting our coastlines during LNG operations. Not only that, but this partnership provides training opportunities for local First Nations who have a vested interest in ensuring environmental protection and safety standards are upheld.
Photo Credit: Government of Canada