Marine planners present draft plan

Project leaders came to Port Hardy and Port McNeill last week to present the Draft North Vancouver Island Marine Plan.

PORT HARDY—After nearly two years of work, project leaders came to Port Hardy and Port McNeill last week to present the Draft North Vancouver Island Marine Plan. But, with an expected June completion date looming, several North Islanders voiced criticism that the consultation was too little, too late.

Alongside Haida Gwaii, North Coast and Central Coast, the North Island plan is  under development as part of the joint First Nations-Province of B.C. Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) initiative. The plans are intended to “provide recommendations for achieving ecosystem-based marine management that maintains social and cultural well-being, and economic development based on healthy ecosystems over the long term,” as described in the draft summary.

Around two dozen came out to Seto’s Wok and Grill in Port Hardy Apr. 16, to an open house and presentation of the plan chaired by project co-leads Matthew Justice and John Bones.

Justice, presenting, was quickly put on the back foot by Mike Kelly of the North Island Sport Fishing Advisory Committee, who said his group had not been contacted about the process. Other fishermen chimed in, echoing Kelly’s disappointment with the lack of direct contact and voicing concern about ‘protected’ zones within the draft plan.

Justice pointed out that there was still an opportunity to provide feedback and that a sport fishing representative had been present during early discussion. He was also at pains to point out that the plan and its included zones were not intended to address management of uses and activities that the province considers to be federal government jurisdiction.

“We had disinterest from sports fishermen,” explained Bones. “These zones are all about tenure, not allocating fishing zones.”

With respect to the late consultation, Bones pointed out that the group had met with Regional District representatives and said that it was the councillors’ duty to pass on that information.

Nikki Shaw, one of three Port Hardy Councillors in attendance, fired back, saying, “You met the RD yesterday with a 200-page document — you’ve been doing this for two years. It seems like you’re accusing council of a lack of consultation; it’s a lot to digest in a day.”

Another member of the audience questioned what impact local feedback could make so late in the process. “I’m hearing, ‘This is a done deal’,” he said.

“We’re here for your input,” replied Justice. “All those things you value; that’s what we’re here to address.”

Justice was joined by Scott Harris of the Nanwakolas Council, the group representing First Nations interests, in completing an overview of the draft plan.

The draft plan provides plan area management direction for 13 topics: Community and economy; Infrastructure; Marine pollution; Conservation and Protection; Cultural and Heritage Resources; Recreation and Tourism; Forestry Operations; Aquaculture; Energy; Fishery Economy and Associated Values; Governance and Collaborative Management; Regula-tory Compliance and Enforcement; Research, Education and Training. Manage-ment direction is provided through spatial zones and associated recommendations for marine uses and activities.

The draft plan includes three overarching zone types with recommended use and activities:

•General Manage-ment Zone (45 per cent of the overall plan area): supports a wide range of co-existing sustainable marine usesw and activities associated with public, private and community uses.

•Special Management Zone (22 per cent of the overall plan area): areas of multiple uses and multiple high values/high potential, and each of the 38 SMZs are assigned a management emphasis of community, recreation/tourism, shellfish aquaculture or cultural/economic.

•Protection Manage-ment Zone (10 areas which cover 10 per cent of the overall plan area, in addition to 23 per cent of the plan area currently under existing/proposed provincial government marine protection and proposed federal protection): allocates space primarily for conservation purposes or objectives.

A copy of the draft plan and a form to provide comments and feedback can be found by visiting the MaPP website at: mappocean.org/north-vancouver-island/draft-plan-for-input/

The public review period for the North Vancouver Island draft Marine Plan is open now and ends May 15.