Wildlife area in the works

The North Island will soon be home to a great Canadian first.

The North Island will soon be home to a great Canadian first.

Environment Canada revealed plans for the Scott Islands Marine Wildlife Area (MWA) at a public consultation at Port Hardy Civic Centre Monday night.

The Scott Islands MWA will be the first of its kind in Canada.

“There are many terrestrial areas, but this is the first marine one,” said Barry Smith, regional director for Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS).

The Scott Islands are a group of five small islands just north of Cape Scott at the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

The islands and the surrounding sea are a crucial seabird habitat, said Smith.

“This is by far the most important seabird habitat in Canada, no other place comes close,” said Blair Hammond, CWS conservation manager.

Forty per cent of all seabirds that breed in B.C. nest there, including 90 per cent of all tufted puffins in Canada and 55 per cent of all Cassin’s Auklets in the world, according to Environment Canada’s website.

Although the islands themselves are already protected, the surrounding sea, the birds depend on for food is not.

The protected area will consist of approximately 11,950 sq-km, about 2.6 per cent of Canada’s Pacific territorial waters.

The public consultation was intended to engage local public feedback.

The presenters assured the audience current activities within the area such as fishing, recreation and shipping will not be affected as they are not shown to pose a threat to the marine ecosystem.

“We factored in social-economic factors in how we drew the boundary,” said Hammond.

The main environmental concern at the moment is oil spills.

Part of the project involves providing equipment to local emergency response services, such as the coast guard, with equipment to deal with oil spills.

The Scott Islands project also has future threats in mind, whatever they may be.

“This is not a reactive process, this is a proactive process,” Hammond said.

No fixed date for when the MWA will become a reality was given, but the presenters expressed hope that the project will be concluded during 2012.