After six years of prepatory work by conservation groups, the fishing sector, tourism outfitters, Coastal First Nations, scientists, and coastal residents, the Government of Canada finally embarked on the PNCIMA marine planning process in 2010. The goal was to develop a plan to conserve a relatively undeveloped region, while fostering sustainable economies on the coast. The initiative promised to make Canada a world leader in marine conservation. But after only a year and a half, in September 2011, the federal government withdrew from an agreement that provided external funding to support the PNCIMA process. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans asserted that the process was being realigned to better fit with timelines and to be consistent with ocean planning on the other coasts of Canada (and disregarding the fact that neither the Beaufort Sea or ESSIM plan had moved ahead upon completion). Under its “streamlined plan”, external funding for public consultation and independent science was no longer required.
Sceptics offer different interpretations about the federal government’s rationale, blaming lobbying by oil and gas and shipping industries as the principal cause of the pullback. For example, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines Project is a proposal to construct twin pipelines running from Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia. The eastbound pipeline would import natural gas condensate and the westbound pipeline would export crude oil to the new marine terminal in Kitimat where it will be transported to Asian markets by oil tankers. The project was proposed in mid-2000s and has been postponed several times. Coastal First Nations are opposed to the pipeline.
Following DFO’s withdrawal from the funding agreement for PNCIMA in September 2011 and its unilateral decision to alter substantially the content and nature of the plan and planning process, First Nations decided to withdraw from the PNCIMA process. Negotiations between DFO and First Nations have been underway since, focusing on developing an understanding about specific components that were dropped and which all of the First Nation communities identified as important in their community-level spatial plans, specifically, spatial planning with regard to protected areas, co-management and increased economic opportunities for First Nations in commercial fisheries. Negotiations have been focused on the development of a Letter of Intent (LOI) that addresses these items specifically and commits DFO to work collaboratively with First Nations. In addition, the LOI includes an new governance engagement model that includes a higher-level executive committee with representation at the Assistant Deputy Minister level in Ottawa.
A Letter of Intent was signed on 7 June 2012. Negotiations on the content of the new PNCIMA process continue. A draft version of the PNCIMA plan was shared with stakeholders and the public in May of 2013; a series of community open houses were held to discuss the plan in June 2013. Comments have been incorporated, and a final version of the plan is expected to be completed in the spring of 2014.
What stimulated spatial planning in the Pacific North Coast
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 the 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.
|Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada|