Monday, December 1, 2008


This past week, I attended the 4th ESSIM Forum Workshop in Halifax. The ESSIM (the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management) Initiative was the Canada's first integrated ocean management plan under the 1996 Canada's Oceans Act.

Since 1998, stakeholders in the Eastern Scotian Shelf area have been working towards the creation of a plan to "provide long-term direction and commitment for integrated, ecosystem-based and adaptive management of marine activities." (ESSIM Planning Office, 2007)

In previous years, the ESSIM Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) used the bi-annual Forum as a broad multi-stakeholder dialogue on integrated management and marine planning. Insight gained from ESSIM forums were then integrated into future SAC decisions about the ESSIM initiative. In 2007, the ESSIM SAC officially released its Integrated Ocean Management Plan - a reflection of almost 10 years of effort from committed stakeholders.

This year, the overall goal of the ESSIM forum was to focus upon making the shift from planning to implementation of the integrated management process. A focus session on Marine Spatial Planning, led by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Fanny Douvere and Charles Ehler reflected the SAC's identification of Marine Spatial Planning as a key component to the implementation of the ESSIM plan.

There was a strong representation from the West Coast at this forum, with representatives from the Living Oceans Society, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Pacific Region), and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society among others swelling the ranks of forum attendees. It is important for all those involved in the PNCIMA planning process to understand and learn from the ESSIM management process. Because PNCIMA is just in the preliminary stage, ESSIM is about 10 years ahead of us in the Large Ocean Management Area marine planning process.

Here is a snippet of the advice that the ESSIM participants provided for those involved in PNCIMA:
1. There must be confidence in the planning process amongst all of the various stakeholders. This is very important but also very time-consuming.
2. Because planning is time-consuming, expectations must be managed. Everything is not going to get done in a year or two, and all stakeholders must understand this.
3. It will be important to build a constituency in this initiative. Engage the local voting public: they will be able to keep the focus on planning activities over time.
4. PNCIMA must involve all aboriginal peoples in the region. There are a multitude of First Nations on the BC coast, many more than in the ESSIM constituency, and they should be strong stakeholders in the planning process.
5. At the beginning of the process, it will be important to look early on at the expected outcomes, and stick to this vision over time. Also, don't shy away from controversial issues at the beginning of the process - discuss them openly and honestly at the beginning of the process. If not, the controversial issues will slow the process later on, potentially halting the momentum gained over time.

For more information about ESSIM, visit

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