PM paddles in proposed Southern Strait of Georgia NMCA: Conservationists urge protection

Vancouver, BC – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society BC Chapter are pleased to see Prime Minister Trudeau and his family take a short break kayaking in the proposed National Marine Conservation Area in the Southern Strait of Georgia, and are urging the PM to make sure that this area is finally protected, before it is too late.

“The Prime Minister has already started building a reputation for himself as a global ocean hero, and here he has a chance to really live up to that title by finally establishing the National Marine Conservation Area in the Southern Strait of Georgia, the home of BC’s endangered southern resident orcas” said Sabine Jessen, National Ocean Program Director at CPAWS.

The Southern Strait of Georgia contains a large portion of the critical habitat of the southern resident killer whales, which now number fewer than 80 individual animals. Orcas face many threats including pollution, overfishing and noise from vessel traffic. “Marine Protected Areas, like the National Marine Conservation Area, can address multiple threats to species and ecosystems by managing all activities within a given area” said Jessen.

“This area is an ecological jewel and is home to about 3,000 other marine species, a number of which are also of conservation concern, including rockfish, ancient glass sponge reefs, whales, and various seabirds” said Alexandra Barron, Ocean Conservation Manager for CPAWS-BC. “But it is also one of, if not the most, heavily used marine areas in BC, so those ecosystems and species need urgent protection” adds Barron.

Parks Canada is currently working on a feasibility assessment for the proposed National Marine Conservation Area but progress has been painfully slow according to conservationists. “The area was first proposed as a potential marine park back in 1970, a proposal that was endorsed by none other than the Godfather of marine conservation, Jacques Cousteau,” said Jessen. “PM Trudeau has a unique opportunity now to be a real ocean hero, and finish what was started over 47 years ago” Jessen adds.

Trudeau has made strong commitments to marine conservation in Canada, promising to protect at least 10% of Canada’s Ocean by 2020, but the Southern Strait of Georgia has languished. “We have seen some great progress for marine conservation in BC with the recent designation of the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs MPA” said Jessen. “It’s now time to continue this good work and make sure that this area and the orcas, get the protection they so desperately need in the face of climate change, proposed increases in oil tankers, shipping traffic and other industrial issues” Jessen adds.