Canada (Beaufort Sea)

Canada (Beaufort Sea)

Canada (Beaufort Sea)Canada’s Oceans Act directs the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) “… to collaborate with other ministers, boards and agencies of the Government of Canada, with Aboriginal organizations established under land claims, territorial governments and coastal communities, and other persons and bodies, to lead and facilitate the development and implementation of plans for the integrated management of all activities or measures in or affecting estuaries, coastal waters and marine waters that form part of Canada, or in which Canada has sovereign rights under international law.”

In 2009 the Beaufort Sea Planning Office published an Integrated Ocean Management Plan (IOMP) for the Canadian Beaufort Sea, one of five Large Ocean Management Areas in Canada, covering 1,750,000 km2. The geographic scope includes the coastal and estuarine components of both the mainland and the islands.

The plan was the culmination of several years of work by dozens of people representing aboriginal, territorial and federal governmental departments, management bodies, and northern coastal community residents with interests in the Beaufort Sea. Industry and other interested parties also participated in a range of events and working groups and provided comments throughout the process leading to the plan. The RCC, the BSP and Working Groups organized community tours and a series of workshops and meetings. The plan is based on advice from the participants in those processes. A Beaufort Sea e-Forum served as a repository for workshop reports and minutes of meetings/consultations, and offered stakeholders the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on draft documents.

The plan is voluntary and is intended to facilitate integrated planning among all Beaufort Sea resource users and managers. While sectoral agencies will continue to deliver their mandated responsibilities as usual, shared responsibility for implementation of the plan is intended to achieve responsible and sustainable use of the Beaufort Sea.

An Ecosystem Overview and Assessment Report (EOAR) published in 2008 described areas and activities that need priority action. A key part of the EOAR was the identification of 32 ecologically and biologically significant areas (EBSAs) in the Beaufort Sea.

Many residents of communities were interested in seeing economic growth based on non‐renewable resources, particularly oil and gas development. Therefore, one of the goals for the plan is to provide a balanced and responsible way forward so that both hopes for the future may be realized. A major consideration during the creation of the Beaufort Sea plan was the return of the oil and gas industry to the region, and how that might be used as an opportunity to begin to apply an integrated management approach to assess effects on the environment as well as to the social, cultural and economic well‐being of the area.

Canada (Beaufort Sea)

At the same time there was a strong desire by the Inuvialuit (indigenous peoples) and other local residents to ensure that the ability to harvest wildlife is maintained, while at the same time having the ability to pursue economic opportunities based on the availability of natural resources that will not require people to move out of the region. It was crucial that the plan ensures that healthy and harvestable quantities of fish, marine mammals, waterfowl and other wildlife continue to be available from the Beaufort Sea to provide for current and future users

The plan addresses 24 “objectives” (that are actually more similar to statements of general “goals”) and identifies organizations responsible for implementation. Only two of the “objectives” are spatial: one to initiate MSP in the Beaufort Sea; and the other to protect and conserve marine areas. While the need for performance monitoring and evaluation is identified, no plan to put M&E in place is specified.

The plan was endorsed in June 2009 by local participants and “supported” by the Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in August 2010—four years after the start of planning. However, no funds have been allocated for implementation, monitoring or evaluation.

What stimulated spatial planning in the Beaufort Sea

In 1997, Canada became the first country in the world to adopt comprehensive legislation for integrated ocean management. By passing its Oceans Act, Canada made a commitment to conserve, protect and develop the oceans in a sustainable manner.

Part 2 of the Oceans Act calls for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to “…lead and facilitate the development and implementation of plans for the integrated management of all activities or measures in or affecting estuaries, coastal waters and marine waters….”

Through the implementation of an integrated management approach, Canada seeks to:

  • Maintain health of its marine ecosystems;
  • Address user conflicts;
  • Limit the cumulative effects of human activities within a defined ocean space; and
  • Maximize and diversify sustainable use of its oceans.



Authority:CanadaOceans Act of 1997 (the first comprehensive ocean management legislation in the world)
Lead Planning Agency:Regional Coordination Committee (overall management of the planning process and theBeaufort Sea Planning Office (staff support from Regional Office of Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
Financing:Not specified
Size of Planning Area:1,750,000 km2
Time required to complete the plans:Three years
Drivers of MSP:Consideration of how to use return of oil and gas industry to region as an opportunity to assess effects on environment as well as social, cultural, and economic well being of region
Stakeholder participation:The Beaufort Sea Partnership, comprised of 38 members, acted as forum for stakeholder participation
Sectors included in planning:Primarily oil and gas industry, marine transport, and Inuvialuit (aboriginal) interests
Relation to coastal management:Coastal community development plans considered in overall integrated management plan
Relation to marine protected area management:An ecological assessmentwas conducted to compile available science and traditional knowledge of the area.The completed Ecosystem Overview and Assessment Report describes areas that need priority actions. A key part of the EOAR was theidentification of ecologically and biologically significant areas (EBSAs).
Plan approval:Approved by Regional Coordination Committee in 2009 and “supported” by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in August 2010
Legal Status of Plan:Advisory
Plan revision:Reviewed every 3-5 years
Performance monitoring and evaluation:The need for performance monitoring and evaluation is discussed in the plan, but no details are provided


The Beaufort Sea plan and an update of the status of the plan
Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada