PNCIMA

PNCIMA Case Studies

The following case studies highlight some of the exciting work that is taking place within PNCIMA. Please check back for updates.

PNCIMA Collaborative Governance Memorandum of Understanding: an Approach to Integrated Oceans Planning

The arrangement created by the PNCIMA MOU established a governance framework for marine use planning in PNCIMA that engages federal, provincial and First Nations governments. The MOU is an example of a proactive approach to collaborative governance on the west coast of Canada.

Bruce RiedThe governance model adopted for PNCIMA was designed to support key principles of integrated management, including the recognition of existing authorities and jurisdictions of key parties as well as the need for enhanced communications and coordination between federal, provincial and First Nations governments. The application of the PNCIMA governance framework has enabled some unique outcomes to emerge from the planning process, including:
  • the sharing and integration of information and knowledge across the three levels of government and stakeholders to support the development of the plan;
  • the achievement of consistency in concepts and outcomes across marine planning initiatives within PNCIMA;
  • the establishment of enhanced opportunities for First Nations to collaborate and engage meaningfully in integrated oceans planning;
  • the strengthening of relationships between federal, provincial and First Nations governments;
  • the opportunity for stakeholders to engage in the development of the marine plan; and
  • the identification of information and policy gaps that may require further work and coordination to enable effective implementation of the plan.

Maintaining an ongoing, adaptive governance arrangement will support successful implementation of the PNCIMA plan.

Management of Unique Species in PNCIMA

There are more than 80 species of cold-water corals in B.C., and 250 species of sponges exist on Canada’s Pacific Coast (Gardner 2009). In 1988, four large glass sponge reefs were discovered in Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. The reefs are the largest known of their kind in the world: individual reefs measure up to 35 km long, 15 km wide and 25 m high. The reefs have existed in the deep, iceberg-furrowed troughs of Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound for an estimated 9,000 years.

Many cold-water corals and sponges provide structural habitat for a number of fish and invertebrate species that are of economic and social importance to Canadians. For example, live glass sponge reefs provide important nursery habitat for juvenile rockfish, and high-complexity reefs are associated with high species richness and abundance (Cook 2005; Marliave et al. 2009). Protection and conservation of cold-water corals, glass sponge reefs and their associated communities is needed to preserve our natural heritage, protect biodiversity and maintain key ecosystem dynamics.

In B.C. waters, bottom fishing likely has the greatest direct impact on cold-water corals and sponges due to the removal of, or damage to, these organisms. Consequently, DFO, the Groundfish Trawl Advisory Committee and the Canadian Groundfish Research and Conservation Society have worked together to prohibit commercial and research groundfish trawl activity within the footprint of the Hecate Strait glass sponge reefs since 2002. In 2006, the original closure boundaries were extended, and the closure was expanded to include shrimp trawl fishing in order to provide greater protection for the reefs. In 2010, to enhance protection and prevent impacts by all human activities in perpetuity, the glass sponge reefs were identified as an Area of Interest for designation as a marine protected area under the Oceans Act. Today, work is continuing to establish the Area of Interest as an Oceans Act marine protected area and scientific research is being conducted to better understand these unique and vulnerable species.

Cook, S.E. 2005. Ecology of the Hexactinellid sponge reefs on the western Canadian continental shelf. MSc thesis, University of Victoria, Victoria, B.C.

Gardner, J. 2009. Coldwater corals and sponge conservation on Canada’s Pacific coast: perspectives on issues and options. Background paper to support discussions toward a conservation strategy. Submitted to the Organizing Committee for the workshop, Developing a Conservation Strategy for Coldwater Corals and Sponges on the Pacific Coast. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Vancouver, B.C.

Marliave, J.G., K.W. Conway, D.M. Gibbs, A. Lamb, and C. Gibbs. 2009. Biodiversity and rockfish recruitment in sponge gardens and bioherms of southern British Columbia, Canada. Marine Biology 156:2247–2254. doi 10.1007/s00227-009-1252-8.


Photo: Neil McDonald   Photo: Neil McDonald

First Nations Culture, the Marine Environment and Ecosystem-Based Management

Respect for the land, sea, spirit world and all living things is at the heart of First Nations interactions with nature. Coastal First Nations have been practising ecosystem-based management of the land and sea for countless generations. The understanding that humans are part of the ecosystem, a concept that is reflected in EBM principles, is integral to First Nations values, beliefs and approaches to land and marine stewardship (Jones et al. 2010). The understanding that “everything depends on everything else” is also the basis for all First Nations marine use plans. For example, from the Haida perspective:

Haida culture is intertwined with all of creation in the land, sea, air and spirit worlds. Life in the sea around us is the essence of our well-being, and so our communities and culture. We know that our culture depends on the sea around us, and that the well-being of every community and Nation is at risk. It is imperative that we bring industrial marine resource use into balance with, and respect for, the well-being of life in the sea around us
(Coastal First Nations 2009).


EBM provides the foundation for addressing many marine issues that are being discussed at community-based, sub-regional and regional marine use planning tables. These issues include fisheries sustainability, conservation, habitat protection, marine-based economic development, and monitoring and enforcement. Through joint planning processes, the provincial and federal governments and First Nations developed a set of EBM principles and goals that promote marine ecosystem health and restoration alongside social, cultural and economic well-being. These EBM principles and goals will help guide marine use management at multiple scales and across many marine activities in PNCIMA.

Coastal First Nations. 2009. Into the deep blue: marine ecosystem-based management. Vancouver, B.C.
Jones, R., C. Rigg and L. Lee (2010). Haida marine planning: First Nations as a partner in marine conservation. Ecology and Society: 15(1):12.


Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve & Haida Heritage Site

Gwaii Haanas, “islands of beauty” in Haida, is a 5000 km2 land-and-sea protected area in southern Haida Gwaii, an island archipelago in the northwestern part of PNCIMA. Gwaii Haanas is managed cooperatively by the Government of Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation through the Archipelago Management Board.

The Haida Nation designated both the land and sea areas of Gwaii Haanas as a Haida Heritage Site in 1985. Soon after, the terrestrial area of Gwaii Haanas was established as a National Park Reserve by the Government of Canada. In 2010, the Government of Canada established the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act. The Council of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada are committed to managing Gwaii Haanas cooperatively through the Gwaii Haanas Agreement (1993) and the Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement (2010).

The marine area of Gwaii Haanas is currently managed under an Interim Management Plan. Through this plan, 3% of the area is in zones of full protection. An additional 13.6% (472 km2) is zoned as DFO-designated Rockfish Conservation Areas, in which hook-and-line fisheries are prohibited. Current human uses of the Gwaii Haanas marine area include Haida traditional activities, commercial and recreational fishing, and a range of tourism activities.

The Archipelago Management Board is developing an integrated land-sea-people management plan for Gwaii Haanas, to be completed in 2017. Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site is located within PNCIMA. Similar to the PNCIMA plan, the Gwaii Haanas plan may include management goals, objectives, targets and a spatial zoning plan. The Archipelago Management Board has been developing the plan with advice from an advisory committee, local communities, the fishing industry, tour operators and other stakeholders.

Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network

The Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network is a First Nations-managed program that supports the stewardship and monitoring of the marine, terrestrial and cultural resources of the North and Central Coast of B.C. and the impact of management practices implemented under ecosystem-based management.

A key component of the program is a Regional Monitoring System, which has been designed to:
  • develop a standardized approach to monitoring priority issues;
  • provide tools for communities to collect, store and retrieve data;
  • compile and compare coast-wide data for use by communities and
  • others; and
  • empower communities to use the information in planning and decision-making.

Guardian Watchmen field staff in First Nations communities within PNCIMA monitor indicators of the health of plants and animals that have ecological and cultural importance, as well as broader ecosystems in order to track changes and impacts from resource activities. The Network has also developed an online data management system, which allows local Guardian Watchmen to compile data from their programs, share information, analyze regional trends and report information in ways that meet the needs of their communities.

The Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network is one example of an innovative initiative that may be used to help implement the PNCIMA plan, specifically in relation to supporting monitoring and enforcement partnerships.

For more information, please visit http://www.coastalguardianwatchmen.ca/guardian-watchmen-programs