Big Eddy

Protecting the Big Eddy coastal and ocean ecosystems will ensure that its unique biodiversity will have refuge from the many threats posed by human activities. Matching protection on the Canadian side of the Big Eddy with protection on the US side, would not only lead to the long term conservation of marine life, but would also allow for sustainable use in harmony with conservation practices.

Who is Big Eddy?

The Juan de Fuca Eddy ecosystem, affectionately known as "Big Eddy" is the area off the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada and the northwest coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, U.S.A. Located within the coastal upwelling production zone (where deep nutrient rich waters are brought up to the surface), the Juan de Fuca Eddy circulates a vast amount of nutrients to a wide range species and habitats.  Teeming with life, the Big Eddy supports large populations of orcas, sea otters, seabirds, rockfish and salmon, as well as diverse cold water coral communities. It is a convergence point for southern and northern Pacific species and is a particularly important migration corridor for grey and humpback whales.

An opportunity for international cooperation

The Big Eddy region provides an exemplary opportunity for international cooperation and management. For conservation purposes, it is important to consider marine ecosystems in their entirety, regardless of political boundaries. Water, species and impacts flow freely across the border and effective stewardship of any region requires a holistic approach to the ecosystem as a whole.

The U.S. side of the Big Eddy region is protected in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary which is managed to protect its natural resources while encouraging compatible commercial and recreational uses. On the Canadian side, protection is limited to the narrow marine component of Pacific Rim National Park. Coordinated international management might include an international peace park which could be formed by matching the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary with similar protection in Canadian waters. It would be a symbol of common conservation goals, friendship and peace between the U.S. and Canada.

The threat

The Big Eddy region’s marine ecosystems are in crisis. In recent years the signs have become unmistakable: declines in rockfish, salmon stocks and orca populations; harmful algal blooms; and destruction from bottom trawling of many important benthic habitats, including coral forests on the west coast.

Parks Canada has a long standing commitment to establish a NMCA on the Vancouver Island Shelf as part of its mandate to create a national system of NMCA’s representing all distinct marine regions. However the process to identify potential representative marine areas for the region has yet to commence.  The Big Eddy region one of the only marine regions in Canada for which Parks Canada has not completed such a study.

What CPAWS is doing

The Big Eddy is part of CPAWS’ national marine campaign for Canada. We hope to establish networks of new Marine Protected Areas and aim to cover at least 10% of our oceans by 2020. To find out more, or to learn how you can make a difference, click here.

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