October 3, 2002
For immediate release
Victoria, BC — TheSouthern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA), announced today in Ottawa, will add significant protectionfor the marine environment of British Columbia’s south coast, according to a leading BC marine conservation group.
The Georgia Strait Alliance applauds Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Heritage Minister Sheila Copps for setting in motion Canada’s action to establish a protected marine zone in the southern Straitof Georgia. Complementing the new Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, the Southern Strait of Georgia NMCA will extend environmental protection into the marine realm. Parks Canadahas called the Strait of Georgia the most at risk natural environmentin Canada.
“This is a major milestone in the protectionof British Columbia’s exceptionally diverse marine ecology,”said Peter Ronald, Marine Habitat Coordinator of the Georgia Strait Alliance. “This area is extremely rich biologically,but it is under increasing stress from population growth, transportationand other development pressures.”
The sheltered, inland waters of the southern Strait are in dire need of protection:
- The southern resident Orcas are endangered in Canada, currently numbering just 79 whales, representing a 20% decline in the last six years.
- Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia Harbour seals and Orcas are amongst the most contaminated marine mammals in the world.
- Lingcod and rockfish are at historically low levels and DFO managers have imposed severe restrictions on commercial and recreational catches in the Strait of Georgia. The entire US west coast groundfish fishery is closed from California to Washington State.
- Eel grass, kelp beds, rocky reefs and other critical habitat have little real protection despite their important role as nursery, nesting and feeding areas for myriad ocean species.
Legislation passed this summer will enable Parks Canada to pursue a feasibility study for the area, which may extend from Gabriola to Discovery Islands, taking in some of the most heavily used waterways on the Pacific coast. This area is notonly the primary shipping route to and from Vancouver but is a recreational paradise for pleasure boaters, kayakers, divers, whale watchers and nature lovers of all kinds.
“The Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area will contribute significantly to the vision of the Orca Pass Stewardship Area, a large, international, zoned area specially managed for protection of aquatic habitat and species of the Strait of Georgia and northern Puget Sound,” said Ronald.