How would you take care of your greatest treasures?
Some of this country’s greatest ecological treasures are to be found in protected areas on land, water and sea. Much work has been done to protect these places by great many people, including aboriginal peoples, local communities, industry and all stripes of government. From coast to coast to coast: Gwaii Haanas, Tombstone, Nahanni, Torngat Mountains, Lake Superior, the Sable Gully are some examples in a list too long to include here. Here at WWF we have celebrated the establishment of protected areas. They require a lot of time, lengthy processes and lots of cooperation to put in place – they are hard work! These areas are central to protecting and safeguarding the landscapes, wildlife, cultures and people of a region, as well as the ecological processes that sustain them. They are for the enjoyment of all Canadians and future generations. But designating them as protected is only half the battle: Ensuring we take care of these gems is the other half that equally requires our attention.
In April 2008, the Bowie Seamount (Sgaan Kinghlas) – one of the shallowest and most productive underwater environments in the North Pacific, and an ecological treasure located 180 Km off the coast of Haida Gwaii — was designated as Canada’s 7th Marine Protected Area (MPA). This extraordinarily bio-diverse and rich underwater mountain is unique among areas offshore because it rises from the deep ocean to within only 24 meters of the surface. Its high productivity and shallow depth make it marine oasis and a hub of life for many species, including Species at Risk Act (SARA) such as Ancient Murrelets, Steller Sea Lions, Offshore Killer Whales and Bocaccio Rockfish.
When Bowie Seamount was established amidst much celebration as an MPA, the Government of Canada committed to putting into place a management plan for this area within 2 years. This plan was to ensure that the limited activities allowed in parts of Bowie Seamount did not compromise the protection and conservation of this unique and special ecosystem. The MPA was set up to have multiple zones of protection and use, and allowed for a limited fishery, scientific research, recreation and marine transportation. Management plans stipulate how activities are to be managed, what additional measures will apply, what enforcement and surveillance activities will be put on place, and what sort of additional research will be undertaken to both ecologically monitor the area and the effect of permissible activities. Such plans are necessary to secure the long-term protection of the area and provide the additional safeguard after a protected area is established.
As we mark the 4th anniversary of the designation of Bowie Seamount, WWF is sad to report that no management plan has been implemented for this extraordinary protected area. This puts one of Canada’s ecological treasures at risk and it is certainly no way to ensure its long term protection. In response, WWF has formally petitioned Canada’s environment commissioner to hold the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to account for this delay and to explain what actions will be taken to correct this.
The future of Bowie Seamount and all the life it supports depends on smart management. We are so very fortunate to have special marine areas like this that are teeming with life and biodiversity. Let’s make sure we take care of these treasures by putting in place plans to effectively manage what happens on them – when you’re entrusted with gems as rare as Bowie you can’t afford not to!
A full version of the Petition is available, here.