Friday, September 26, 2008

PNCIMA Resolution Passes at UBCM

At this year's Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) meeting a resolution on the need for marine planning in PNCIMA was passed. The resolution originated out of Alert Bay this Spring and was brought forward and passed at the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities (AVICC). This brought it to UBCM this week. The content of the resolution is as follows:

WHEREAS the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding respecting the implementation of Canada's Oceans Strategy on the Pacific Coast of Canada;

AND WHEREAS the process of integrated planning for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) appears to have stalled due to lack of commitment and adequate funding:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities urge the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia to immediately commit to increased engagement and collaboration in the integrated Oceans Management Planning Process for the Pacific Coast of Canada.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Last of this year's coastal speakers series

I will be touring around North Island communities again in the last of this year's coastal speakers series. This time we are holding a coastal film night and will be featuring a film called "SEASWAP". This film was produced in Alaska and is about sperm whales in Southeast Alaska taking black cod off of longline gear. The film is an interesting look at what a collaborative project between fishermen and scientists can look like, and is also appealing because of what I learned about sperm whales, creatures that inhabit the coastal waters of BC, but which we don't have the privilege of seeing very often.

The film will be followed by a discussion with Victoria O'Connell, one of the principle investigators on the SEASWAP project. In her previous job as Groundfish Manager with Alaska's Department of Fish and Game, she brings a wealth of knowledge to the coastal film night and I hope that we will get to learn more, not just about sperm whales, but about the various commercial groundfisheries in Alaska.

We will be on tour from October 8th to 11st, and will be in the following communities:

Wednesday, October 8th: Campbell River Campbell River Museum
Thursday, October 9th: Port Hardy Cafe Guido
Friday, October 10th: Alert Bay Inner Coast Natural Resources Centre
Saturday, October 11th: Sointula (2pm) Old Fire Hall and Port McNeill Black Bear Resort

All screenings will be at 7pm apart from the Sointula "matinee".

Monday, September 22, 2008

Low pink salmon returns in the Broughton Archipelago

As I blogged last week, I have been touring around the North Island coordinating video interviews. One subject came up quite often in Port McNeill and Alert Bay, and interestingly enough, there was an article in last Friday's Globe and Mail about it. "It" would be the low pink salmon returns, particularly to the Glendale River in Knight Inlet and the effect that this is having on the grizzly bears up there. I've included the article here, and while this wouldn't be the first time that low salmon returns have had an effect on grizzly bears around here (I'm thinking of the fallout from the chinook collapse in the Wannock around 1999), it is still unpleasant to think about what things will be like next spring.

Declining salmon runs blamed for wilderness tourism slump

From Friday's Globe and Mail

September 19, 2008 at 4:31 AM EDT
VANCOUVER — Few people in British Columbia know how to find killer whales better than Bill MacKay, who tracks them in a high-speed, super-quiet boat from Port McNeill, on northern Vancouver Island.
But Mr. MacKay, who with his wife, Donna, runs MacKay Whale Watching, has had an increasingly difficult time finding large numbers of killer whales to show his customers this year.
All along the B.C. Coast, wilderness tourism operators who run bear-viewing, whale-watching and sport-fishing resorts are reporting tough times because of declining salmon runs.
But the biggest impact may be occurring in the Broughton Archipelago, where Mr. MacKay operates, and where pink salmon runs have all but vanished, sending a shock wave through the region's ecosystem.
"Some of the northern pods are just not here," Mr. MacKay said yesterday. "And we've had three occasions [this summer] when we did not see any orcas at all. That's pretty weird."
He said northern killer whales visit the area during the summer months, collecting in big social gatherings where breeding takes place.
"When they get together like that it's called Super Pod Day, and we will see over 100 dorsal fins out there at a time," Mr. MacKay said. "That didn't happen this year, for the first time since we've been collecting data, which is almost 30 years."
Mr. MacKay said it's not coincidental that the whales have vanished along with the salmon.
"It's pretty simple. ...What do you think these orcas eat?" he said.
Surveys by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans indicate pink salmon stocks have fallen to extremely low levels in the Broughton Archipelago. In Glendale Creek, a key indicator stream, there have been only 19,000 spawners counted this year, compared with 264,000 last year.
Pink salmon, which usually spawn in prodigious numbers, are a keystone species on the West Coast. Chinook salmon, the mainstay of the orca diet, feed on young pinks, while grizzly and black bears depend on spawning adult pink salmon to bulk up for hibernation.
Howard Pattinson, owner of Tide Rip Tours, a grizzly-bear viewing business based in Telegraph Cove, said the pink collapse has forced bears to rely on late berry crops and sedge grasses for nutrition.
"We're used to seeing bears eat 15 to 20 fish an hour. Now once a day we might see a bear catch one fish," Mr. Pattinson said. "We are seeing big male bears killing [yearling] cubs and eating them. ...It's pretty shocking for the tourists when they see raw nature like that."
Mr. Pattinson said he's worried about the future of his business.
"The bears are now eating berries and sedges. It's enough to get through the winter, but not enough for pregnant females. They'll either reabsorb their embryos or abort this winter. ...Next spring, I don't think there'll be any cubs," he said.
Brian Gunn, president of the Wilderness Tourism Association, said the collapse of salmon stocks is threatening the survival of ecotourism businesses.
"The bear-viewing businesses, the whale-watching operations, they built up a lot of equity showing people these wild animals. Now the fish aren't there and they are seeing their equity drain away. ...If the salmon go, so does the wildlife, and so does the business."
Mr. Gunn blamed the fish-farming business, saying a heavy concentration of net pens in the Broughton Archipelago has created sea-lice epidemics which kill young salmon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kingcome Inlet

Yesterday, I had the privilege of flying into Kingcome Inlet, BC as part of the work that I have been doing with the North Island leg of the video interview project. Once the fog lifted in Port McNeill (around 1230pm), the float plane could fly the short 3 minute flight across to pick us up in Sointula.

It was an absolutely spectacular day to fly in there. We saw a huge group of Pacific white-sided dolphins and a pair of humpback whales. I also had a chance to pass over some of the many fish farms that dot the route on the flight path through the Broughton Archipelago.

Kingcome is located a two miles up the Kingcome River at the head of Kingcome Inlet on the BC mainland. There are about 85 year round residents. We flew in to interview the local culture and language teacher, and all that I can say is that I can't wait for the two-minute clip! All of the interviews that I have sat in on so far have been really informative, and it's amazing that even though there is a real diversity of opinions about the importance of different coastal communities to its residents, there are some common concerns that emerge regionally. I won't go into them though, because I would rather that you watch the clips for yourselves. They should be finished in the new year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Research Into Public Engagement With The 'Undersea'

I just read a summary of a study that was conducted in the U.K. on the public's perception with the 'Undersea'. The project was conducted by Natural England to try to understand the best way to engage (and not engage) the English public when it comes to the underwater landscape of the ocean.

The findings from the research suggest that most conventional campaigns that focus on 'issues' or 'problems' to promote Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are unlikely to 'work' for 60% of the population and will probably undermine attempts to create a political constituency advocating for MPAs. Even more surprising, less than 1% of the population can name a real undersea landscape feature. Essentially, there is no sense of place for the undersea landscape in England in the way there is for terrestrial landscapes, despite a high affinity for the sea as part of the coast.

While the results are for the U.K. only, the study definitely provides food for thought when it comes to our own work around MPAs here in B.C.

The full report can be viewed at:

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Days of PNCIMA - Introduction

I was hired in 2006 as Living Oceans Society's Marine Planning Specialist. The idea was that I would be the person from LOS who worked to ensure that DFO's imminent planning process for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) includes the establishment of a network of MPAs. Everyone thought that the PNCIMA process would be starting that Fall. Well, it's now 2 and 1/2 years later, and the PNCIMA process has yet to officially begin. Needless to say, my job description has changed in that time.

But PNCIMA has pretty much been my life during this time (at least my working life). And sometimes it has very closely resembled a soap opera. There have been tears of joy and frustration, marriages as organizations formed coalitions, lots of gossip, divorces as coalitions dissolved, and car chases (kidding). The plot has managed to move right along, even though the process itself has yet to begin.

Once the PNCIMA process does start, there will be lots to keep track of. So I am starting this blog post as a take on 'The Days of Our Lives', because for many of us, 'Our Lives' can easily be replaced by 'PNCIMA'.

As things move forward with PNCIMA I will try to recap the progress that is being made or notable highlights in 'episodes' on this blog.

Stay tuned for Episode 1!

Video interviews happening on the North Island

We are helping to coordinate video interviews on the North Island for a project that World Wildlife Fund in Prince Rupert is working on entitled "Your Values, Your Vision".

We are collecting interviews and stories in video format from people that live near British Columbia’s Coast and connected watersheds.

We want to know:
why this place is important to you?
how are you connected to the environment?
what are your greatest concerns in this region?
what your hopes are for the future of this region?

By gathering these interviews and linking them to an online map of the region, we will create a visual representation showcasing the different values and visions shared by you.

Interviews will be happening in and around Campbell River, Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Alert Bay, and Sointula between September 13th and 20th, 2008. Email me at if you are interested!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision-making

This new report - Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision-making - from the US National Research Council may be of interest to Coastal Voices readers. This book assesses whether, and under what conditions, public participation achieves the outcomes desired. Claims from all sides are considered and evaluated as a central point of the study in order to provide an overall assessment of the merits and failings of participation. The book also offers guidance to practitioners and identifies directions for further research.

The executive summary of the book can be downloaded from

12 Key Principles for Influential Advocates

Last week I attended an 'ENGO Advocacy' workshop in Ottawa. (ENGO = Environmental Non-Governmental Organization). One of the hand-outs we received was titled "Twelve Key Principles for Influential Advocates". It lists tips for people who are meeting with decision makers, and I think this is relevant not only to people who work for non-governmental organizations, but also for anyone who is advocating for something. So I'm sharing the list here.

1. It's a Conversation - don't bring a laundry list.
2. Stay Calm, but be Yourself - show that you're confident.
3. It's about Relationships - the first question should be "How are you?".
4. Be Mainstream - if you say you're on the sidelines, you will be seen as such.
5. Do Your Homework - make sure you know who the person you're meeting with reports to, and what they're able to make decisions on.
6. Focus on Solutions - research what works and be prepared to share that information
7. Responsiveness - this is essential.
8. Work All Levels - political, senior and junior staff, agency, regional if applicable
9. Get Representation Right - don't go into a meeting representing a group or entity that you don't have the authority to speak for.
10. Timing - some things just can't move sometimes and it's better to ride the wave and wait for the right moment.
11. Put a little water in your wine - you almost never can get it all.
12. Thank - whether you get what you want or not, maintain the relationships of those you trust.

Salmon Bycatch in the Bering Sea

This is the second story I've come across recently about salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea. Glad to hear the closures that they implemented may have had the right effect. The news stories from earlier in the year were about how the bycatch on Chinook in the Bering Sea was a whopping 120000 in 2007! A lot of those fish migrate down to BC rivers.

Here is the original news story.

Here is the most recent one.