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B.C.'s MPA network aims to protect biodiversity hot spots along with marine ecosystems and animals, such as these Steller sea lions. Photo by Rochelle Baker

CAN - 'A huge achievement': Vision for vast network of West Coast marine protected areas unveiled at last

The blueprint for a vast network of marine protected areas across the northern third of Canada’s West Coast is being unveiled after more than a decade of work.

A group of 17 coastal First Nations and the Canadian and B.C. governments havecrafted a draft action plan for the BC Northern Shelf MPA Network — covering 100,000-square-kilometres of ocean — and released it for public input Thursday.

It’s a significant milestone in a complex process to protect and link biodiversity hot spots in the waters from Quadra Island in the south to the border with Alaska in the north, said Josie Osborne, B.C.’s land, water and resource stewardship minister.

“It’s such a huge achievement,” Osborne told Canada’s National Observer Friday.

“Everybody is really proud of the incredible work that's been done … that we were all able to work together — with the orders of the government and First Nations — to bring this forward.”

The B.C. MPA network aims to conserve key habitats, species and areas of cultural value to First Nations as well as preserving regions for sustainable economic activity, Osborne said.

“It’s incredibly important that we take a long-term approach to conservation, and to honour that connection between people and the ocean,” she said.

“Using tools like marine protected areas, and this draft network plan, helps build on the efforts that we've already made in marine conservation and improving the existing network of parks and protected areas.”

Coastal First Nations were absolutely foundational in developing the MPA network, she added.

"It's such a huge achievement," said NDP Minister @Josie_Osborne on the unveiling of B.C.'s blueprint for a vast network of marine protected areas (MPAs) after a decade of work between First Nations and senior governments. #biodiversity

“This (MPA network) really builds on our government's commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and making that very strong commitment of co-creating legislation, policy and making decisions together.”

First Nations ‘foundational’ in crafting MPA network

First Nations have looked to ocean waters in B.C. as a source of food and prosperity for countless generations, said Christine Smith-Martin, CEO of Coastal First Nations in apress statement.

“Unfortunately, our waters are increasingly threatened by new development, overfishing, pollution and climate change,” Smith-Martin said.

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