Human activities in upland ecosystems – farming, forestry, development, and so on – typically have impacts downstream as well, in coastal or even offshore areas. Recognizing the connections between land and sea systems is a central part of coastal and marine ecosystem-based management. The feature article on integrated land-and-sea management in our June-July 2013 issue examined three cases where marine resource managers have worked to integrate upstream and downstream management ("Integrated land-and-sea management: Examining three cases where marine practitioners are looking upstream", MEAM 6:6). That was Part 1 of MEAM's coverage of this subject.

Now, in MEAM's finishing coverage of integrated land-and-sea management, we examine a protected area on Canada's Pacific coast that straddles land and sea: Gwaii Haanas. The protected area – which includes rugged mountaintops, more than 100 watersheds, and marine waters extending seaward to the continental slope – combines the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and the Haida Heritage Site (designated by the Haida Nation, an Aboriginal people). Each component carries its own priorities, particularly with regard to preservation and sustainable use. The joint management of Gwaii Haanas – conducted by a body that is made up of equal representatives of the Haida Nation and the federal Government of Canada – is now developing a site management plan by 2015 to balance those considerations. MEAM spoke with Norm Sloan, marine ecologist for Gwaii Haanas.

MEAM: Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve was created under the National Parks Act, which generally enshrines preservation with no commercial use. Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site was created under the NMCA Act, which enshrines sustainable use. What are the main challenges in balancing the respective approaches as well as the management entities – namely Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and the Haida Nation?

Norm Sloan: There are many challenges involved in managing Gwaii Haanas. These include:

  • Building relationships and trust among partner organizations and external organizations.
  • Reconciling different perspectives and worldviews.
  • Working together to manage marine resources in Gwaii Haanas to be in line with ecosystem objectives.
  • Building new governance structures on top of existing ones.

To understand some of these challenges, one must understand our complex history and governance structure. Our legal name – Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site – represents laws, values, and accords along our path to establishment.

In 1985, the Haida, the Aboriginal people of Haida Gwaii, designated Gwaii Haanas a Haida Heritage Site and blockaded a logging road, preventing logging activity on Lyell Island. This act resulted in mass arrests. Ensuing legal tumult and media coverage led the federal Government of Canada and provincial government of British Columbia to commit in 1988 to creating a protected area in the southern 15% of Haida Gwaii's lands and surrounding waters.

In 1993, the Government of Canada and the Haida Nation signed the Gwaii Haanas Agreement, which committed Canada to managing Gwaii Haanas in cooperation with the Haida Nation. Twenty years after its signing, it is still referred to as an agreement before its time. At its core is an agreement to disagree. The Haida Nation and the Government of Canada both assert ownership over Gwaii Haanas, but they agree to put aside this difference in order to work together to protect the area. The Agreement allows each party to maintain its respective authorities under Haida and Canadian laws. This is unique in that it provides a process for two different governments to come together and make shared decisions under two different authorities.

The Agreement created the Archipelago Management Board (AMB), a consensus-based decision-making body composed of two representatives of the Council of the Haida Nation and two Parks Canada staff, representing Canada. Since 1993, the AMB has managed Gwaii Haanas' 1500 km2 of lands, including 1700 km of shoreline. Within Gwaii Haanas, Haida subsistence hunting, fishing, gathering, and trapping are permitted. The first terrestrial management plan in 2003 excluded marine waters, but underscored the inseparability of land and sea toward eventual integrated management. Terrestrial management goals include: preserving natural and Haida cultural heritage, managing human use (visitation), and informing citizens about conservation and heritage from a unique place-based perspective.

After nearly two decades of working to designate a marine conservation area adjacent to the terrestrial protected area, Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site was established in 2010, with the signing of the Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement. This 3400-km2 area is protected under Parks Canada's 2002 Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act. This Act is known as enabling legislation, which defines a process by which Parliament creates permanent NMCAs that are representative of Canadian marine regions.

Numerous federal agencies cooperate in NMCAs with their individual mandates unfettered. DFO's work continues to be guided by the Fisheries Act, Oceans Act, and Species at Risk Act. The roots of DFO's fisheries mandate are three priorities: fisheries stock conservation; enabling constitutionally guaranteed Aboriginal subsistence for food, social, and ceremonial purposes; and providing stock to the commercial and recreational fishery sectors.

The NMCA Act mandate includes maintaining ecosystem structure and function (first priority), enabling multiple sustainable uses (such as fisheries, tourism, aquaculture), informing the public on marine conservation, facilitating visitors' experiences, and cooperating with academia and NGOs in applied research. The only explicit prohibition in NMCAs is extraction of non-renewable resources (petroleum, minerals, and aggregates). In 2010 for the establishment of Gwaii Haanas's marine portion, a record of public consultations was tabled in Parliament along with an Interim Management Plan including a zoning strategy enabling coexistence of sustainable uses with preservation. There are two zone types – sustainable use and full protection (no-take) – and more may be created. Haida subsistence use is permitted throughout the entire Gwaii Haanas Marine [as the marine portion of Gwaii Haanas is called].

Interim management guides operations until the adoption of the full Management Plan in 2015. By then zones and implementation strategies for all activities, including fishing and recreational use, will be defined and actions prioritized in order to work towards alignment with ecosystem objectives, currently under development. The interim plan is founded on guiding principles that include the need to balance protection and ecologically sustainable resource use, being able to demonstrate accountability and fostering innovation through the adoption of adaptive management approaches. Managing interactions among resource users will be challenging. This framework of ideas for balancing protection and sustainable resource use, complemented by the parallel progress on socio-economic and cultural objectives, will propel innovation for Gwaii Haanas Marine.

A primary challenge for Gwaii Haanas Marine will be integrating varying government mandates and legislations, respecting divergent viewpoints and opinions on "sustainability" while ensuring the partnership's overall objectives. Adding to this complexity is the fact that commercial fisheries are sectored, each industry sector operating in the area (e.g., herring, sea urchin) must be engaged through its individual established advisory processes under law. The approach being undertaken by AMB is first to identify areas of overlapping priorities with respect to marine resource management and emphasize similar goals as opposed to differences.

MEAM: How is the Archipelago Management Board set up to balance the respective management approaches and entities?

Sloan: From 1993 to 2010, the AMB consisted of two representatives of the Haida Nation and two representatives of Parks Canada. In 2010, with the designation of Gwaii Haanas Marine and the integration of the terrestrial and marine protected areas, the AMB expanded from four members to six, and now is composed of three representatives of the Haida Nation and three from the federal Government of Canada (two from Parks Canada, and one from DFO).

The AMB meets twice a month to discuss issues and make decisions. Each decision is signed off by one Government of Canada representative and one Haida Nation representative. Each party is responsible to implement that decision within its organization.

MEAM: Why do you think it is so rare for there to be a protected area extending from mountaintop to seafloor like Gwaii Haanas?

Sloan: One of the reasons that linked land-sea protected areas are rare is that marine protected areas are a much newer concept than terrestrial parks. Within Parks Canada, for example, our first national park was established in 1885, in the Rocky Mountains. We designated our first coastal terrestrial park in 1904, but it wasn't until 1986 that our first marine policy was issued. Our first marine park (Fathom Five) was designated soon after, in 1987.

When the Haida designated Gwaii Haanas a Haida Heritage Site in 1985, they included the marine area. In the Haida worldview, everything is connected to everything else: people, plants, animals, land, sea, and air. This worldview is, essentially, the science of ecology – the study of the ever-changing relationships in nature.

Gwaii Haanas's success will depend on the relationships we build – among the AMB partners as well as with other First Nations and stakeholders. Building these relationships often requires reconciling different worldviews and working through conflict. This work can be difficult, but it leads to better management solutions in the end. As we work toward an integrated land and sea management plan, Gwaii Haanas is still at the leading edge of natural and cultural resource management.

For more information:

Norm Sloan, Gwaii Haanas, Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. Email: