(Click on Map to download in full size as pdf file)
The idea is not new. Parks Canada and The Islands Trust have promoted a National Marine Conservation Area in the southern Gulf Islands.
After more than a decade of study, on October 13, 2011, the Governments of Canada and British Columbia announced a proposed boundary.
Progress has been made in establishing a National Park with some small terrestrial and marine reserves (see map).
The problem is that after another decade, the dark blue part is left without protection.
Our islands and these reserves cannot thrive and survive without protection from industrial activity in the connecting waters.
Parks Canada is presenting its changes to the Policy Objectives and Regulations of National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs). Click on the table preview to see all Zones 1-4.
Most likely, all of Salt Spring Islands surrounding waters will be Zone 4 (Multiple Use). Here is what that means in a nutshell:
(1) Freighter & Tanker Anchorages allowed: While freighters and tankers will be able to use Gulf Island anchorages just as before, or even more, now local small businesses engaging in Ecotourism and Kayaking will have to apply for permits and will be strictly regulated by Parks Canada.
Please note that Freighter & Tanker Anchorages are even allowed in the stricter zone 'Multiple Use with Lakebed/Seabed Protection', despite the well known fact that anchors will scour the valuable and productive sea beds.
(2) Renewable Energy allowed: Should we prepare for proposals for giant windmills in our area, which will broadcast massive low frequency noise and increase mortality for migrating birds? Or massive turbines anchored in the water that may chop up fish and marine mammals? Or dams between islands that will turn tidal power into energy for BC Hydro? All of the above will be allowed.
(3) Industrial Aquaculture allowed: Imagine the following. A Summer Camp for Children is educating about life in the intertidal zone. They will have to apply for a permit and will be strictly regulated by Parks Canada. At the same time, DFO will be allowing industrial aquaculture companies to devastate the shorelines by placing plastic netting over the shoreline to keep out animals that eat shellfish, or plant ten thousands of vertical white PVC pipes into the intertidal zone for farming geoduck, forming someting like an anti-tank barrier for any person who would like to swim, launch a kayak, or enjoy the beaches. Who will benefit?
(4) No Drilling for Oil/Gas, no Mining in Gulf Island waters: Good news. Some say that the main reason why the federal government agreed to this, is because otherwise the National Marine Conservation Areas would not be internationally accepted towards the 10% of Oceans that Canada committed to protect.
(5) Ecologically sustainable use: Thank you. Is this a gift, meaning that the remaining unprotected 90% of Canada's Oceans will be managed unsustainably?
The proposed Policy describes objectives such as 'conservation practices (...) that maintain the health and increase the resilience of marine ecosystems', 'social, cultural and economic well-being', and 'encouraging recreation or tourism'.
Industrialization of a marine conservation area is not compatible with these objectives and should not be allowed
What we need is a clear and efficient commitment in Policy and Regulations to exclude any industrial activity that by nature of its scale, emissions, risk of pollution, or alteration of both habitat or visitor experience is taking away from these objectives.
In addition, there needs to be a transparent permitting process for development that will include and respect the local population.
Without a proposed map it is difficult to interpret what will happen. Most likely, all of Salt Spring Island will be surrounded by Zone 4 (Multiple Use), as shown in dark blue in the map on top of this page. Therefore, the points below are mostly directed at this Zone 4.
(1) A clear and efficient commitment in Policy and Regulations to exclude industrial activity that by nature of its scale, emissions, risk of pollution, or alteration of both habitat or visitor experience is taking away from these objectives.
'Multiple Use' also means respecting others. Any use should only be allowed if the nature of the activity is within certain limits and not reducing the experience and living quality of other users enjoying this unique and protected marine area.
(2) The proposed zoning needs to be expanded to provide the necessary flexibility for marine protection. It is impossible to apply only four general zones across Marine Conservation Areas in all of Canada, and hope to provide adequate protection in each case. Think of Conservation Areas containing hundreds of kilometers of ocean surface in the Arctic or in the open Pacific. The proposed zoning may work well for such areas. They could be called Type A, with 'Multiple Use' Zones 3a and 4a.
The southern Gulf Islands are entirely different. We have a lot of shoreline, islands, inlets and bays, adjacent residential areas, recreational and tourism values, all intertwined at a very small scale like a mosaic. There simply is not enough space to allow industrialization without affecting everything else. In such a Type B situation, the proposed 'Multiple Use' zones could be called 3b and 4b and need to specifically exclude industrialization.
(3) Minimize the regulation of Local Businesses and of Research. It seems unreasonable that Parks Canada is allowing industrialization in Multiple Use zones, while asking for powers to regulate Ecotourism and Environmental Research that are usually respectful activities and well suited for a zone with Multiple Use. It would make more sense to only apply a permitting system for tourism and research to regulate access to the small and sensitive Zones 1 and 2.
MORE POINTS IN DETAIL:
In Policy and Regulations, include a clear, decisive, and specific commitment to protect the area from industrialization. Exclude any industrial activity that by nature of its scale, emissions, risk of pollution, or alteration of both habitat or visitor experience is taking away from the policy objectives of both conservation of healthy marine ecosystems and enjoyment for residents and visitors.
Deactivate the anchorage sites for freighters or tankers at Captain's Passage outside Ganges Harbour, and the anchorages in Plumper Sound. These anchorages are in or bordering on critical habitat for southern resident Orcas. Eliminate all planned anchorages for freighters and tankers around Salt Spring Island.
Phase out all anchorage sites for freighters and tankers within the Conservation Area and end this attempt of establishing new anchorages here. Some of the earlier anchorage sites may remain for occasional use, such as real emergencies or as before, the occasional cruise ship not more than once every other year.
Exclude regular traffic by freighters and tankers within the Conservation Area. While some traffic to local facilities may be permittable, the Reserve Area should not be used as an industrial travel or transport corridor for vessels with external origins and destinations.
Limit industrial activity within all zones of the Conservation Area. Some industrial activity needs to be excluded specifically. For example, commercial fishing and aquaculture should not be allowed at an industrial scale, based on emissions, alteration of habitat, and alteration of visitor experience. For aquaculture, practises such as plastic netting and intensive geoduck farming with thousands of PVC pipes need to be addressed and excluded.
Adjust the boundaries of the Conservation Area to reflect protection priorities. The Ganges Shelf needs to be included in protection from industrialization. This area is a larger contiguous shelf of less than 30m depth, stretching from Ganges Harbour into Captain's Passage. Sunlight reaches these depths and forms a valuable and diverse sea bottom, and serves as a highly productive birth chamber for many organisms in the Gulf Islands, and as a feeding area for migratory birds. In addition, as the passage to Ganges, this area is of very high recreational value for both visitors and residents of this largest centre and hub for sailing and boating in the Gulf Islands. It is our beautiful 'front yard', 'play ground', and 'business card' we cannot afford to lose to industrial development. Any pollution would pile up in Ganges at the end of the inlet.
Enable a legal framework that is effective for the protection of the Conservation Area in the southern Gulf Islands. It may not be possible to include all of these suggested points into this general overall framework for National Marine Conservation Areas across Canada, because conservation areas can range from vast offshore areas to small-scaled and diverse island archipelagos like ours. If so, clear objectives and commitments are needed to adjust existing Policies and Regulations with Transport Canada and with the Dept of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
Include the Islands Trust as Partner into management of the Marine Conservation Area. Some restructuring within the Islands Trust may be necessary, in order to create an efficient, transparent, and representative system to connect the mandate 'Protect and Preserve' with marine areas, residents, and other users. The current system of 'Advocacy' being adminstered by the Chair alone is not sufficient. Additional adaption of provincial regulations, legislation, or provincial marine protected areas may be necessary to fully address the mandate of 'Protect and Preserve' the area of the southern Gulf Islands.
Enable an effective decision making process that involves local residents within the Conservation Area. Previous 'consultations' have only involved the Islands Trust without a public consultation with residents living here.
Reduce and minimize the overall time large vessels spend in all of southern BC, beyond the Conservation Area. Instead of offering anchorages for overflow, idling, and pollution, Transport Canada needs to put the necessary logistics in place to reduce and minimize the exposure of the natural environment and people living in BC to harmful air emissions by the shipping industry.