What is marine planning?

A quiet bay on Mayne Island, in the Gulf Islands group off the coast of British Columbia. Image: Thomas Quine, flickr

Marine planning comes in many forms. At its core, it’s a way that coastal communities, Indigenous nations, industry, and all those who use the ocean can engage in the planning for its management and protection in a way that balances competing ecological, economic, cultural and social uses for the ocean, and that includes coastal areas.

It involves identifying biologically, culturally and socially important areas that need to be protected, and addressing human activities that can cause harm or pollution, such as fishing, shipping, oil and gas development, tourism and recreation.

Marine planning can encompass marine spatial planning, marine protected areas (MPA) networks, national marine conservation areas (NMCA), and other types of processes and tools for managing ocean spaces. Some of these tools create sanctuaries to allow for the protection and recovery of species and habitat, while others allow for a balanced use of waters that enables communities to thrive, while prioritizing ecological protection.

First Nations also designate protected land and waters through Indigenous laws, governance and knowledge systems, with an increasing number of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCA) being created. As expressed by Gisele Martin of the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks, “It is the modern articulation of what our ancestors have always done.” IPCAs are Indigenous-led, they elevate Indigenous rights and responsibilities, and prioritize culture, abundance and conservation.

Arrow iconWatch this 6-minute video by the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership, an Indigenous-led network advancing Indigenous-led conservation to transform the conservation sector in Canada.

Why is marine planning important in the Salish Sea?

The Salish Sea is a region that is under threat from a growing and increasing complex set of factors, including population growth, urbanization and climate change, along with growing social inequities. All of these factors are putting more pressure on marine ecosystems and communities – and there is an absence of a watershed-wide approach to reducing these pressures in this region.

Effective marine planning and management can reduce biodiversity loss, which helps to mitigate climate change, while increasing the reproductive capacity of marine plants and wildlife that facilitates healthier waters, ecosystems and communities.

By improving ocean governance of marine spaces, including co-management between First Nations and settler governments, as well Indigenous-led management, ocean health is prioritized in equal measure with community and economic health.

At the national level, Canada has committed to protecting 25 percent of its oceans by 2025, with the intention to protect 30 percent of Canada’s oceans – as well as 30 percent of global oceans – by 2030.

As of early 2023, Canada had protected 14.6 percent of its oceans, through federal initiatives, totaling 842,822 km².

What is GSA’s approach to marine planning?

Marine planning is a long and complex journey in which broad and effective public engagement is an important part of its long-term success. These processes must be co-created with or led by Indigenous communities. They must also include those directly impacted, and include equity-deserving communities, who are frequently excluded from these conversations.

At GSA, our focus is on creating and supporting space for meaningful community engagement to strengthen public engagement in marine planning processes. We’re focused on promoting the establishment of strong and strategic place-based marine protection in this region, and increasing public awareness and understanding of the various processes occuring in the Salish Sea (see list below).

We are currently focused on doing outreach and establishing engagement opportunities with Cowichan Tribes’ youth – who represent a large percentage of the population. We will be supporting them in exploring and articulating their vision for management and protection of their marine territory. We will also look to support Indigenous Marine Protected Area initiatives wherever possible, and advocate for more inclusive federal government processes for the public.

What are the established marine protected areas, as well as initiatives underway?

Across Canada, there are currently:

We look forward to listening, learning and sharing more about marine planning in the Salish Sea in the coming months!

Image: A quiet bay on Mayne Island, in the Gulf Islands group off the coast of British Columbia. Credit: Thomas Quine, Flickr

2 thoughts on “What is marine planning?

  1. shouldn’t we also be looking upstream, at the rivers that flow into the Salish Sea? Protection of the watersheds surrounding these rivers should be protected.
    Case in point; the Little Campbell River & associated tributaries, located in Surrey/Langley BC; flows into Semiahmoo Bay, which is connected to Boundary Bay and the Salish Sea.
    The Metro Vancouver Regional Government (Mayors of the Lower Mainland) have approved the area surrounding the Little Campbell River to be zoned Commercial/Industrial; to allow building cement warehouses which in turn will increase the traffic of “Big Rig” trucks/ semitrailers;
    How can we claim to be concerned about the environment, global warming, food security, endangered species, etc.
    if we allow this development.

    • We completely agree that protection of our regional marine environment should be watershed based and include the rivers that feed into it. And that is why we support processes such as marine planning because they take a regional approach, and therefore open the door to including full watersheds or create the opportunity to do so . As it is, each creek, river, stream and ocean – and development project – is treated as if it stands alone and has no impact or influence on other entities. This approach has harmed the Salish Sea for generations and has to stop.

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