The importance of healthy oceans was the topic of two recent presentations in Port McNeill and Port Hardy.
Kat Middleton, former policy analyst, marine planning and protected areas with the Living Oceans Society, based in Sointula, talked about the five reasons we need healthy working oceans.
The first reason oceans are important to coastal communities is that they provide employment in fields such as fishing, aquaculture, and transportation.
Middleton said the ocean generates $11 billion a year in revenue, with 30 per cent of that coming from tourism and recreation, which is the second reason oceans are important.
A love for nature and adventure makes commercial tourism and everyday ocean recreation an important part of a sustainable coastal economy.
The third reason we need healthy oceans is that they provide food and culture.
The fourth reason is that oceans provide natural services. The ocean is a powerful source and protector that gives us clean air and water and shields our communities from storms.
The fifth reason we need them is that they provide a connection to nature.
“Humans are part of the natural world and a connection to the ocean is a huge part of life,” she said.
Healthy communities need healthy oceans, she said, and they are being threatened by things like climate change, overfishing and pollution.
“Overfishing hits close to home for me, because I’m a fish biologist. Even the small fish are having a lot of problems,” she said, citing the collapse of the sardine fishery
Another concern is that ships and boats create noise pollution. Oil spills and ship strikes are other issues impacting the oceans and the creatures that live there.
When the ocean is threatened, communities are threatened too, she said.
Middleton remains optimistic about the future, however, because of initiatives like the development of marine protected areas, which seek to benefit all organisms.
There has been a change in direction, from single species management, to ecosystem-based management, where “the healthy function and resilience of the whole ecosystem comes first,” Middleton said.
The Marine Planning Partnerships for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP) initiative is a partnership between the Province of British Columbia and 18 member First Nations that developed marine use plans for B.C.’s North Pacific Coast. The MaPP region is divided into four sub-regions: Haida Gwaii, North Coast, Central Coast and North Vancouver Island.
Marine stakeholders representing multiple sectors provided input and advice to the process via advisory committees: four sub-regional and one regional.
In addition, a Science Advisory Committee gave expert technical and scientific knowledge and advice throughout the planning process.
Through meetings and discussions with stakeholders, planners were able to gather information and make informed and coordinated decisions on how to use marine resources sustainably, she said.
The MaPP plans provide recommendations for key areas of marine management, including uses, activities and protection. The plans will shape decisions regarding the sustainable economic development and stewardship of British Columbia’s coastal marine environment.
The four sub-regional marine plans were completed in April and the regional action framework is scheduled for completion by summer/fall of 2015.
In order for these plans to be successful, they can’t just be on paper, said Middleton, “you need to have people here to enforce those rules.”
The areas also need to be large.
“Research has shown that a network of marine protected areas work better than isolated areas,” Middleton said. As a country, Canada needs more protected areas. As a nation, only 1.4 per cent of oceans are protected and there is an agreement in place to increase that to 10 per cent by 2020.
Middleton says that number should, in fact, be between 20 and 30 per cent. British Columbia is currently at three per cent.
“We have a long way to go still,” she said.