Course:FRST370/Pacific North Coast First Nations Initiatives in Marine Planning

From UBC Wiki

In the North Coast of Canada, communities, First Nations, industry and government are working to create prosperous community, small scale businesses while conserving the environment and encouraging replenishment where necessary. They plan to accomplish this through integrated and ecosystem-based management as well as collaborative governance.


A cannery in Prince Rupert.jpg

The North Coast of British Columbia is home to many marine species and complex ecosystems. Some keystone species include Humpback whales, Killer whales, salmon, herring and groundfish. (NCSFSS & Province of British Columbia, 2017 pp.5) (PNCIMA Initiative, 2017 pp.6). [define the parameters of the North Coast]

There are also many First Nations communities that inhabit the North Coast and have developed highly marine-based lifestyles and economies.

According to a census, approximately 52% of community members [in which communities?] are employed in the Marine Sector, which includes on average, 12% in fishing, 8% in fish products processing, 3% in aquaculture, and 5% in marine transportation. Approximately a third of these workers are of Indigenous descent. (FERENCE WEICKER & COMPANY, 2009)

The North Coast First Nations also have a strong historical tie to marine resources, which can be seen by how about 40% of the average North Coast Indigenous meal consists of seafood, 78% of which was non-commercially harvested. Today, approximately half of the local community members gather their own marine resources for subsistence. Unfortunately, this percentage is seen to be continually declining due to industrialisation [explain what you mean]. (FERENCE WEICKER & COMPANY, 2009).

Marine resources are not the only attractive features of the North Coast. The coast is also known to be the windiest location in the world, and as a result has attracted wind energy producers to develop offshore wind farms along the North Coast sea. It is also a source or Liquefied Natural Gas, attracting LNG producers. (PNCIMA Initiative, 2017 pp. 15/66)

Not to mention, its aesthetic and recreational values attract a fair amount of tourism as well. (NCSFNSS & Province of British Columbia, 2015 pp.1)

Tenure arrangements

Although, in respect of section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982, the Crown recognizes Aboriginal rights, and takes into account the interests of the First Nations in question when tenure rights are requested by outside companies on their land. A referral is made, which allows for free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) with Indigenous communities. (NCSFNSS & Province of British Columbia, 2015 pp.48) As of October 24, 2019, FPIC is required in British Columbia under Bill 41 for any project on or affecting First Nations territory, which evidently applies to the North Coast as well. From then, in BC, an action plan must be clearly communicated, annual reports must be provided and agreement with First Nations leaders must be attained before proceeding. (Brown, 2019)

One issue or confusion that may arise from this is that oceans are legislated under the Canadian federal government. So although Bill 41 may have passed for British Columbia and its First Nations, there is ambiguity on whether this applies or not to their offshore natural resource reliance and values. (Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management Coast and Marine Planning Branch, 2004 pp.2)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) regulate aquaculture tenures, and for marine based log transportation, where timber is organized and transported through water, tenure is provided by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. In order for First Nations to attain tenure, under the Land Act, they must apply for a license such as the First Nations Woodland License and Free Use Permits. (MFLNRO, 2016). [here you are muddling up separate processes]

Administrative arrangements

Like the majority of British Columbia, Indigenous territory in the North Coast of British Columbia is unceded land, and therefore the land was not won over, nor was a treaty created in trade of the land. In spite of this, the Canadian Constitution Act of 1867, in section 91, claims that the Canadian federal government may practice legislative control over marine areas, fisheries, Indians and their reserves, as well as environmental protection mechanisms and plans.

Furthermore, in Section 92, it states that a provincial government has command over properties and civil rights legislation. (PNCIMA Initiative, 2017 pp 7-10) More than a decade later in 1984, [date?] the Supreme Court of Canada stated that the province of British Columbia owns the waters, lands minerals and various other natural resources of the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Johnstone Strait, and Queen Charlotte Strait. (Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management Coast and Marine Planning Branch, 2004 pp. 1)

Today, provincial power in British Columbia has been decentralized to municipal and local governments, giving communities more say in regulations. (PNCIMA Initiative, 2017 pp. 10). This is also muddled: you need to specify which powers you are referring to.

Various institutions and committees have formed in the attempt to engage the local First Nations with industry and government. While different in mechanisms, their goals are generally to increase prosperity of local communities while maintaining ecological health of the North Coast of British Columbia.

The Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) was created in 2005 under the Oceans Action Plan, and involved the Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Haisla, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, and Metlakatla First Nations. The North Coast Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society (NCSFNSS) and the Province of British Columbia later created the Marine Protection Plan (MaPP) as an extension to the PNCIMA. The First Nations who are involved in the NCSFNSS are the same First Nations as those that had been involved in the making of the PNCIMA.

Other marine plans including those of the Strait of Johnstone, the strait of Quatcino, and the North Island straits do not necessarily cover the same 88,000km2 area that the PNCIMA and MaPP do, and they have been made with the cooperation of other First Nations such as the Xwémalhkwu and K’omox First Nations and Hamatla Treaty Society. (MFLNRO, 2018)

Integrated management and ecosystem-based management (EBM), as required by Canada’s Oceans Act, have become the core modes of marine planning, as they are fluid and ever improving plans. (PNCIMA Initiative, 2017 pp.7-10) They accommodate for the prosperity of economy and human needs as well as environmental health.

According to Wondolleck and Yaffee (pp. 3), EBM can be defined through 5 components. It is management that is based around an ecological scale and natural areas, boundaries and time frames. It sees ecosystems as being complex systems that require appropriate strategies to address its complexity. It aims to maintain balance between anthropic needs and the health of natural resources. Collaboration and engagement of various communities and groups is also one of the major components of EBM. Finally, in EBM, uncertainty is acknowledged and as a result, adaptive management is implemented to adjust to needs. In other words, it is a plan that is based around human activities and focuses on the effects created by action. (Long et al., 2015 pp.1)

Another vital aspect of management is the Collaborative Governance Memorandum of Understanding used in the PNCIMA to facilitate efficient communication between First Nations, industry, government and other members. (PNCIMA Initiative, 2017 pp.1)

Affected Stakeholders

As mentioned earlier, there are many stakeholders that would face direct harm by insufficient marine management and decision-making. Due to the high reliance of marine production in the economy of coastal communities, all members would experience its downfalls and uprisings. Specifically, 1,700 worker would be affected in the seafood processing industry, 140 in the aquaculture industry, 1000 in the marine tourism industry and 500 in marine transportation. In terms of the economy, $84 million is on the line for seafood processing, $17million on aquaculture, $48 million on commercial fishing, $20 million on marine tourism and $17 million on marine transportation. (FERENCE WEICKER & COMPANY, 2009)

A decline in marine populations and overall health would not only result in material or monetary loss for First Nations, but also a loss in culture and livelihood. In order to learn and practice Traditional Ecological Knowledge, First Nations have a need to access and interact with their environment.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Interested stakeholders are mainly large scale industries that look to create business in the energy sectors, such as LNG and wind power.

LNG and wind power pose many potential threats to the well being of oceans and marine ecosystems. LNG plants require cooling systems, which can increase water temperatures causing marine organism death, trap marine organisms and generally disrupt human communities.(PNCIMA Initiative, 2017 pp. 15/66)

Inlet in Kitimat

Wind power, especially offshore wind power can cause disruptions during construction by destroying habitats and ocean beds. As a result, local fisheries and other businesses along the path will be impacted, further straining their ability to sustain the local community economy. There are also still some unknown effects due to infrasound produced by wind turbines. This may potentially affect larger marine mammals such as whales, who use low frequency sounds to communicate, in ways in which we are not yet able to understand. (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, 2014) Although, as the world's most windy area, wind farms could be very prosperous and even beneficial to communities as a source of clean energy.

The provincial government is also an interested stakeholder in that it has the potential to benefit from tourism, recreation and other potentially harmful activities to the environment and the local community’s resources. In order for recreation and tourism to act as a benefit to local communities, there would need to be regulation and monitoring to ensure that local values are being respected.


The aims of the various marine plans are to create systems in which local communities, especially First Nations are able to sustainably improve their economies, celebrate their traditional ways of life, and enjoy a thriving environment and livelihood. They aim to create ways in which the North Coast communities of BC can work together and have a mutual understanding of each party’s needs.

An example of this successfully happening is in 2016, when the LNG company Enbridge was rejected from constructing their Northern Gateway project due to opposition from the Gitxaala First Nation, also known as "People of the Salt Water". The project would have transformed their land into a hub of LNG transportation and disrupted their waters with large oil tankers. Not only would the activity have tampered with their environment, it would have put communities and wildlife at risk in the possible event of an accident. Strong rejection and disapproval of the project by local communities and insufficient efforts to involve First Nations during their planning process, left Enbridge with an overturned approval by the federal court. (Vinsek)


Some of the issues that are currently being faced are the tensions between the government and the First Nations, especially in terms of recreational rights, such as recreational fishing. Furthermore, aquaculture is still being researched and needs to be worked on in order to determine if it is an effective activity or not. Recognition of First Nations authorities and the validity of their Traditional Ecological Knowledge are also issues that continue to be worked on.(NCSFNSS & Province of British Columbia, 2015)


While there has been great improvement and initiative to create sustainable marine plans in the North Coast of BC, there is still room for improvement in balancing power between communities and government and allowing for smaller businesses such as First Nations business to thrive and not be crushed by larger companies. Tighter tenure regulations and less tenure allocation to non-local businesses can help to alleviate pressures and competition within communities and create a more circular economy.

Also, while plans are helpful, at the end of the day, it is regulation and bills that guarantee action into motion and therefore the cooperation of the government is a vital aspect of marine planning not only in the North Coast, but also the rest of Canada.


Brown, K. (2019, October 30). "BC's new UNDRIP bill – Reshaping provincial laws to advance reconciliation".

Ference Weicker & Company (2009). “Social and Economic Assessment and Analysis of First Nation Communities and Territorial Natural Resources for Integrated Marine Use Planning in the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area”.

Vinsek, J. (n.d.). "Gitxaala-People of the Salt Water".

Long, Rachel D., et al. (2015, 28 Jan)“Key Principles of Marine Ecosystem-Based Management.” Marine Policy, vol. 57, pp. 53–60., doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2015.01.013.

Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (2017). “North Coast Annual Report 2017.”

Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (2018). “North Coast Annual Report 2018.“

Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO)(2016, 28 July). “First Nations Forest Tenures.” Province of British Columbia, Province of British Columbia

Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO). (2018, December 20). "Quatsino Sound Coastal Plan".

Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO). (2018, December 13). "North Island Straits Coastal Plan".

Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management Coast and Marine Planning Branch. (2004, December). “The Johnstone - Bute Coastal Plan.”

North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society (NCSFNSS) & Province of British Columbia. (2015). “North Coast Marine Plan 2015."

Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) Initiative. 2017. “Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area Plan” : vii + 78 pp.

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (2014, October 16) "Impact of offshore wind farms on marine species." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily.

Wondolleck, Julia M., and Steven L. Yaffee. (2017) “Marine Ecosystem-Based Management in Practice Different Pathways, Common Lessons. Island Press.”

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST370.