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The Haida Nation and Government of Canada celebrate three years of increased marine protection measures off the west coast of Haida Gwaii

Press Release

From: Transport Canada

December 7, 2023

The Government of Canada and the Haida Nation have partnered together to increase protection measures and further preserve the important marine ecosystem, unique landscapes, diverse marine life, and rich ecological and cultural heritage of Haida Gwaii. The islands are home to the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area and the Haida Heritage Site, which includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site of SGang Gwaay.

The Minister of Transport, Pablo Rodriguez, and the President of the Council of the Haida Nation, Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, recognized the third anniversary of the launch of the Voluntary Protection Zone (VPZ) for shipping on the west coast of Haida Gwaii through Canada’s Oceans Protections Plan, noting a 94% compliance rate. The VPZ plays a significant role in mitigating current and future shipping impacts by reducing the number of vessels transiting through this sensitive ecological area.

Launched in September 2020, the VPZ reduces the risk of grounding and other marine incidents around Haida Gwaii by requiring vessels of 500 gross tonnage or greater transiting the west coast of Haida Gwaii to observe a minimum distance of 50 nautical miles (nm) from shore, with some exceptions for:

  • cruise vessels, who are asked to observe a minimum 12nm distance from shore;
  • vessels transiting between Pacific Northwest ports (Washington, British Columbia, Alaska) who are asked to observe a minimum 25 nm distance from shore; and
  • tugs and barges (including pushing and towing alongside) and fishing vessels, which are fully exempt.

Despite increased vessel traffic on the west coast of Canada, in 2022, 94% of vessels transiting along the west coast of Haida Gwaii observed the VPZ; this is a 5% improvement from 2021.

The success of the VPZ has been possible through significant collaboration between the Council of the Haida Nation, the Government of Canada and the marine shipping industry. By maintaining these partnerships and formal commitments made under the 2018 Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Bioregional Oceans Management and Protection, we can continue working together to protect the marine environment and improve marine safety.

The Oceans Protection Plan is a Canadian success story. When Indigenous Peoples, industry, communities, scientists, and government work together to protect our environment and grow our economy, we deliver real results. The Oceans Protection Plan is keeping our oceans and coasts healthy, advancing reconciliation, and building a clean future for our children and grandchildren.

Quotes

“The Council of the Haida Nation acknowledges the ongoing efforts by industry and partner organizations to support the continued success of the Voluntary Protection Zone for Shipping on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. The VPZ represents an important first step towards long-term protection, and is an integral component of various collaborative initiatives that are ongoing to protect Haida Gwaii and the livelihoods that have long depended on the unique cultural and biological diversity of this area.”

Gaagwiis Jason Alsop
President of the Council of the Haida Nation

“The Haida Gwaii Voluntary Protection Zone for Shipping is a key measure to keep Haida Gwaii’s coasts and waterways safe.  We are proud of this partnership. Together with the Council of the Haida Nation, and thanks to the many vessel operators participating in these voluntary measures, we are ensuring our oceans and coastlines remain clean and safe for generations to come.”

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez
Minister of Transport

Quick facts

  • Since 2016, Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan has made shipping safer, increased protections for our marine ecosystems and strengthened the role Indigenous Peoples have in how their traditional coasts and waterways are managed.
  • The Haida Nation has advocated for a safe distance offshore since 2014 when the Russian cargo vessel, Simushir, lost power during a storm and came close to grounding off the west coast of Haida Nation.
  • In 2018, the Council of the Haida Nation and Government of Canada agreed to work together on the issue of vessel drift on the west coast of Haida Gwaii through the Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Bioregional Oceans Management and Protection.
  • The Voluntary Protection Zone is part of the Proactive Vessel Management initiative under Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan, which aims to reduce conflicts between local waterway users and protects environmentally and culturally sensitive areas.
  • The Voluntary Protection Zone supports realization of commitments made by Canada and the Council of Haida Nation in the Gwaii Haanas Gina ‘Waadluxan KilGuhlGa Land-Sea-People Management Plan.
  • Vessel traffic on the west coast of Haida Gwaii continues to be closely monitored by the Haida Nation and Transport Canada using data gathered through the Enhanced Maritime Situational Awareness initiative, funded by the Ocean Protection Plan.

Associated links

Contacts

Ileah Mattice
Communications Department
Council of the Haida Nation
(250) 626-5252 or cell (250) 922-5900
ileah.mattice@haidanation.com

Laura Scaffidi
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez
Minister of Transport, Ottawa
Laura.Scaffidi@tc.gc.ca

Media Relations
Transport Canada, Ottawa
613-993-0055
media@tc.gc.ca

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