Enhancing the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Process in the British Columbia Northern Shelf Bioregion MPA Network to Improve Indigenous Participation
The development of marine protected areas (MPAs) in Canada is increasing in order to maintain and conserve important fish and marine mammal species and habitats. However, with protection comes certain regulations that affect the use of marine spaces. Regulations can restrict access and use of the marine environment, including certain fishing practices or the harvesting of specific species and some are designated to be no-go and no-take areas. While MPAs are important for the conservation of marine ecosystems, it is important that the rights and values of Indigenous peoples are not being violated with their implementation. This study examines the British Columbia Northern Shelf Bioregion (NSB) MPA network to identify opportunities and constraints in the current process to identify governance mechanisms that can be incorporated to enhance MPA effectiveness and uphold Indigenous inherent and Treaty rights. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with First Nations staff and individuals, and federal and provincial government representatives to understand the perception of Indigenous participation in the MPA network process. Analysis of the interviews, along with evaluations of current MPA network strategies being used in the NSB have identified capacity building, respect and trust and past NSB initiatives as opportunities while existing governance structures and the non-inclusivity of all relevant First Nations in the NSB were highlighted as constraints. These findings have been used to inform management recommendations for the MPA process.