The consultation process for the establishment of a national marine conservation area reserve in the southern Straight of Georgia, which encompasses a portion of the Salish Sea, is still ongoing.
The process, which involves 19 First Nations that may be implicated in the proposal as well as environmental organizations, industry and other stakeholders, began in 2013.
According to Victoria MP Murray Rankin, there are legitimate reasons as to why this process has taken over five years.
“It takes time to properly consult with First Nations,” he told Oak Bay News. “That being said, the federal government could be putting more resources into this project to move it along in a more timely manner.”
According to the federal government, the consultation process has been accelerated following a budget increase in 2016. Budget 2016 invested $42.4 million over five years to continue the work to create national parks and marine conservation areas, including advancing the proposal for the southern Strait of Georgia. Budget 2018 reiterated the commitment to expand the network of protected areas in Canada.
Audrey Champagne, a Parks Canada spokesperson, said the B.C. and federal governments are “committed to taking the necessary time to ensure meaningful consultation and engagement on the proposal,” adding that this project supports Canada in meeting its international commitments for biodiversity, sustainable development and climate change.
However, Parks Canada does not have a firm deadline on when the consultation process will be concluded. And once a determination on feasibility is made, the necessary establishment agreements will still need to be negotiated.
Home to more than 3,000 species, the Strait of Georgia marine region is an iconic example of Canada’s critical marine environment, according to the federal government. It hosts the world’s largest octopus, 100-year-old rockfish, vast schools of herring and salmon, millions of birds, as well as seals and sea lions, dolphins and whales.
Both Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP Randall Garrison and Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor have held town halls promoting the creation of a marine conservation area reserve in the Southern Strait of Georgia over the past year.
“The Liberal government must take meaningful action to protect the coastal ecosystems that our cultures and economies rely on,” said Garrison at a town hall he hosted in May 2018. “So far, the Liberals have been all talk and their actions fall short.”
– With files from Saanich News staff
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