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Indigenous Nations Lead the Way in Marine Planning: How to Get Involved


View from Qikiqtarjuaq, a community located just north of the Arctic Circle on Broughton Island, adjacent to the eastern coast of Baffin Island at the Davis Strait. Photo by Chris Colombo.


From coast to coast to coast, Indigenous nations are leading the way for marine planning. While it isn’t broadly applied by Canada's provincial or federal governments, Indigenous governments are using marine planning to support co-management of the waters and resources within their territories.

 Here are three examples:

  • On the west coast, the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP) for the North Pacific Coast in British Columbia is a partnership between Government of British Columbia and 16 First Nations. The MaPP plans provide recommendations for marine uses, activities and protection, and inform decisions regarding the sustainable economic development and stewardship of British Columbia’s coastal marine environment.
  • On the north coast, The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) and the federal government have reached an important milestone in creating Canada's largest marine protected area, signing an agreement in principle for Tallurutiup Imanga and announcing the final boundaries for Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area in the High Arctic. Protecting the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area will help Canada meet its target to protect 17 per cent of land and 10 per cent of oceans by 2020 under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The QIA and the Governments of Canada and Nunavut also recently announced that they will work together to explore the potential protection of areas in Tuvaijuittuq (the High Arctic), while supporting the development of a conservation economy in the region. 
  • On the east coast, the Nunatsiavut Government and the Government of Canada have formed a partnership to develop the Imappivut marine plan. Imappivut aims to fully implement the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement in the coastal and marine areas of Nunatsiavut.

If your traditional territory includes large lakes, coastlines and/or the open ocean, and you’ve been wondering how best to protect what matters and plan for the future, this post is for you! Read on for an overview of marine planning and how it differs from land use planning, and to hear about marine planning initiatives from around the globe.


What is marine planning?

Marine planning aims to achieve balance between the development you want to have, and protecting what’s important to you. It’s about deciding when and where activities can occur. For example, you can decide that a certain area should be protected and completely closed to all activities, except for fishing during a specific season. You can also identify areas where you would welcome development, such as an aquaculture facility.


The end goal is not necessarily a master plan for all activities on all coastlines and oceans in your territory (though if you want that, go for it!). You can make your marine plan as focused or as broad as you want. Whether your goal is to designate an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area, or to map out areas for every current and future ocean use, marine planning will help you accomplish it.


Indigenous Guardians - On the Frontlines

The Coastal First Nations along British Columbia’s North Coast, Central Coast and Haida Gwaii have some of Canada’s most long-running, established and heralded Guardian Watchmen programs. These Guardian programs generate significant value for all parties. The value of Indigenous Guardians driving marine planning outcomes is recognized in federal budgets which are focused on advancing the federal government's existing commitment to conserving at least 17 per cent of land and inland waters by 2020, through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. Given that 90 per cent of Canada’s land and inland waters are provincial and territorial Crown or Indigenous lands, achieving this goal requires collaboration with Indigenous governments and Indigenous Guardian programs. To support Canada’ biodiversity and protect species at risk, the Government of Canada proposes to make investments that total $1.3 billion over five years, on top of related funding allocations for Indigenous Guardian initiatives.


How does marine planning differ from land use planning?

It’s similar to land use planning in so many ways. A marine planning process starts with collecting background information, including what you want to protect and where and how you want to grow, and creating a vision for your coastal and marine spaces. Marine planning and land use planning share common elements, including being community-led and needing a realistic implementation plan. Think of your marine plan as a partner to your land use plan, applying your common vision and values across your entire territory, lands and waters.


What makes marine planning a little trickier than land use planning is the environment you’re planning in. First, things are always moving – from tides to ships to seals, nothing stays in one place. There are also seasons to consider, including that for fishing, tourists, migrating and breeding animals, and ice cover. Then, there’s the fact that creating a plan for waterbodies and the resources within them requires cooperation between traditional rights holders and their governments, and provincial and federal governments, plus multiple agencies within those governments. And let’s not forget all the different users of marine spaces – conservationists, fish harvesters, energy developers, tour guides, recreational boaters, to name a few. It’s challenging but not impossible, and there are many examples, globally and locally, of successful marine planning initiatives.


Who is doing marine planning Internationally?  

According to the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, over 70 countries have marine planning initiatives in various stages, from early planning to post-implementation evaluation. Here are three examples:

  • In Belgium, a marine plan was created to ensure offshore wind turbines were located far offshore in response to concerns about visual impact.
  • In Massachusetts, the Ocean Management Plan has designated over 70% of the plan area as special, sensitive or unique, and includes habitat for endangered species, fish spawning grounds, and sensitive ecosystems where infrastructure development is forbidden.
  • As part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Plan, Indigenous communities can outline their own visions for their traditional waters, including restricting use of their sacred sites. Indigenous businesses are contracted by the federal authority to conduct management activities, including research, monitoring and compliance enforcement within the plan area.
Ride the wave with us!

We’ve just skimmed the surface of marine planning and we’ll be doing a deeper dive in future posts (puns intended). In the coming weeks, we’ll take you step-by-step through the marine planning process, and will showcase some of the ways our clients have participated in marine planning initiatives.


Indigenous Planning Blog Series

This is the fifth post in a series that explores ways Indigenous communities have used the planning process to create an exciting vision for their future and a realistic roadmap to get there – and some resources and ideas for you to do the same. We hope you join us for the rest of the ride.  And please get in touch if there’s a topic you’d like us to explore.


Read more posts in this series:

Five Crucial Elements Every Land Use Plan Needs

Three Questions to a Clear Vision

Background Info Check List

Indigenous Planning Cheat Sheet: Five Types, Tips and Resources


Looking for planning help?

If you are trying to figure out how to get started, do give us a shout. We’d be happy to discuss your options and help you weigh the pros and cons of your planning options. We’re a team of self-proclaimed planning geeks who love to talk about this stuff, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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About Us: Shared Value Solutions

We are a Canadian B Corp, and we assist Indigenous communities with support throughout regulatory processes surrounding major development projects like mines, hydroelectric facilities, transmission lines, highway expansions, oil and gas pipelines, natural resource transport applications and nuclear power. 


We have deep context and experience behind the recommendations we provide, having worked for our clients on almost every major project in Canada over the last 10 years. For us, it’s all about building long-term relationships with our clients. We want to get to know you and what you want to do so we can help you move your plans forward. 


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