Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Federal government breaks commitment to comprehensive management plan for Pacific North Coast

September 9, 2011
Rejection of funding agreement leaves future uncertain for B.C. coastal communities

OTTAWA – The federal government has torn up a funding agreement that had brought together a diverse cross-section of society, including First Nations, the Province of British Columbia, commercial fishing operators, shipping interests, tourism operators, local governments, environmentalists and the oil and gas sector. These groups came together to design a collaborative ocean management plan for Canada’s Pacific North Coast, an area larger than Portugal.

“After five years of negotiations and meetings, Canada was finally working toward a comprehensive plan for a large ocean area, rather than a hodge-podge of regulations and fragmented management and enforcement,” says Bill Wareham, Senior Policy Analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation. “Now we’re grinding into reverse with an approach that has failed us repeatedly in the past. This does not bode well for the communities of coastal British Columbia that depend on a healthy ocean.”

After consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, Canada, B.C. and First Nations agreed to pursue a public-private funding model for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) initiative. The Moore Foundation -- which has a long track record working with U.S. state governments on multi-use ocean planning -- offered to support the process. This was approved by the federal government in January 2011 after extensive review by government lawyers.

“This leaves us with an empty process that will fail to protect the ocean and the coastal economy,” says Kim Wright, Marine Planning and Protected Areas Manager for the Living Oceans Society. “It appears to be yet another knee-jerk reaction from the Prime Minister’s Office against fair and collaborative decision-making. They have ignored advice from the federal government’s top scientists and policy-makers, and are instead bowing to pressure from influential lobbyists from the shipping sector.”

The marine transportation sector has repeatedly voiced its concerns that this process would come in the way of its interests in moving oil from the Alberta tar sands to Asia. Pressure from big oil and international shipping has undermined this process, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper putting industry’s interests before those of the coastal residents of British Columbia.

“All over the world, governments, businesses, NGOs and communities are moving toward smart, multi-use ocean planning as the best way to protect the health of our oceans and our ocean economies,” said Darcy Dobell, WWF-Canada’s Pacific Region Vice-President. “This was a great opportunity for Canada to show strong leadership in good ocean management. We’re very disappointed to see the federal government walk away from the process.”

“It looks like the forum for discussion about the future of our oceans has moved from coastal communities to the Prime Minister’s Office,” says Bill Wareham. “The people on this coast finally had the capacity and an opportunity to meaningfully engage, and it has all been swept away.”


Contact Information

Bill Wareham, David Suzuki Foundation

Kim Wright, Living Oceans Society



After years of work by conservation groups, the fishing sector, tourism outfitters, First Nations, scientists, and others, the Government of Canada was about to embark on a marine planning process on the Pacific Coast of Canada, commonly referred to as PNCIMA, which would have made us world leaders in oceans management.

The federal, First Nations and provincial governments formed a tripartite government agreement and accepted funding from a third party, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, to ensure this process was well resourced, transparent, and effective. These funds were to support the elements that governments typically have trouble affording: stakeholder engagement and independent science.

After years of work and considerable amounts of money spent making the PNCIMA Process a reality, Prime Minister Harper acquiesced to the pressure to transport oil from the tar sands to Asia and unilaterally (against the wishes of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Privy Council Office) pulled out of the funding agreement, leaving Canadians with an empty process that will fail to protect the ocean and the coastal economy.

What is PNCIMA and why is it important?

PNCIMA is a place. People who live there call it Queen Charlotte Sound, Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance. By land it is referred to as the Central and/or North Coast. The thousands of native and non-native residents call it home.

This region was identified as the priority area on the Pacific Coast of Canada for integrated management (under the Oceans Act) by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and given the name the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area. Now it is simply referred to PNCIMA (pronounced pin-SEA-ma).

PNCIMA is a priceless biological treasure supporting a diversity of fish, deep sea creatures, inter-tidal life, seabirds and marine mammals. One of five Large Ocean Management Areas (LOMA) in Canada, it extends from Brooks Peninsula on the north end of Vancouver Island to the Alaskan border, this vast region has thousands of kilometres of coastline, from shores of the Great Bear Rainforest to the edge of the continental shelf. This region of 88,000 square kilometers, more than twice the size of New Brunswick, also sustains people by providing a foundation for art, culture, sustenance and recreation inspired by the sea. It is a place where fish, and the generations of people who catch them, are integral parts of a globally significant ecosystem.

What is the PNCIMA Planning Process?

The PNCIMA planning process was designed from the outset to engage the people who work and live on the coast to develop a management plan for the region that ensures conservation of the ocean ecosystem and economic development. This plan would resolve conflict over resource mismanagement and conflict between sectors for access.

The PNCIMA Planning Process is jointly governed by the federal, provincial and First Nations governments. While various governments and agencies joined the process at different times, by the time the process was fully launched, all governments had agreed to the process goals and objectives, governance, and funding arrangement. This is one of the first times in British Columbia—and one of the few times in Canada—that the three levels of government have joined together to govern an initiative of this magnitude.

The Integrated Oceans Advisory Council (IOAC) was formed in 2010 to advise the PNCIMA Process on the development of the plan. The IOAC is made up of sectoral representatives from all the major industries (2 shipping, 1 renewable energy, 1 non-renewable energy, 1 aquaculture, 1 sport fishing, 1 recreation, 1 tourism, 2 commercial fishing), regional governments (5 seats) and one seat for representation from the conservation community.  Each seat has an alternate, and in June 2011 an additional alternate seat was granted to the non-renewable energy sector for Enbridge.

First Nations communities have been developing their own marine use plans to ensure the values and needs of their communities were safeguarded. Completed First Nations marine plans and the separate marine plan from the stakeholders would be presented to the PNCIMA Planning Office to be harmonized in a final, single plan that addresses the needs of all the people on the coast.

The final product of this planning process would be an integrated management plan consisting of several key components to be completed by March 2013 including:

  • An ecosystem based management (EBM) framework for the marine environment including objectives for respecting cultural, social, economic and ecological health of the area;
  • A marine spatial plan that includes a regional network of Marine Protected Areas; and
  • An implementation strategy.

How has the PNCIMA process been funded?

An effective plan requires extensive stakeholder involvement and the integration of activities across many different levels of government ministries and agencies. Since the federal and provincial governments were not willing to provide the funds, a third party interest offered to provide additional funds.  A Memorandum of Understanding (M OU) for an amount of up to $8.3 million with the funding partner, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF), was screened by federal lawyers and approved in January 2011. The funds are channeled through the Tides Canada Foundation who administers the grant in Canada for GBMF.

This funding was dedicated toward enabling more effective stakeholder collaboration (through workshops, regional forums, capacity grants for IOAC sectors, communications and travel support), facilitating access to science (through an independent Marine Technical Advisory Team), and expertise within the planning process (through contracts with technical and administrative staff for the planning office).

In a letter from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to the IOAC in February 2011 Minister Gail Shea writes: “External funds are intended to support effective stakeholder engagement and facilitate access to tools and expertise in the planning process.” At that time, lawyers within the federal government reviewed the MOU with the GBMF and found that there was no ‘conflict of interest’ because the use of any external funds provided was guided by a set of formalized principles designed to preserve existing decision-making authorities and guarantee continued transparency and fairness.

What is happening now?

Since the beginning of the process the marine transportation sector and Enbridge, have argued that the PNCIMA process is really a ploy to put in place a ban on oil tankers, thereby intended to stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project (the Northern Gateway project).

As a result, the PNCIMA Steering Committee has gone above and beyond the call of duty to accommodate demands of marine transportation sector and Enbridge:

  • In June 2010 they advocated for, and received, an additional seat on the IOAC because they felt their sector could not be adequately addressed with one seat. 
  • In June 2011 an additional seat was created on the PNCIMA Steering Committee for the Prince Rupert Port Authority. This was requested by the Prime Minister’s Office because the marine transportation sector had complained to the Prime Minister that they thought the Steering Committee might be biased. (Art Sterritt sits on the Steering Committee on behalf of the Coastal First Nations who are known to be opposed to the Northern Gateway project and oil tankers on the coast.) 
  • Each seat on the IOAC has an alternate, and in June 2011 an additional alternate seat was granted to the non-renewable energy sector for a lawyer from Enbridge, despite the fact that they are not an ocean-based sector. This was the result of Enbridge complaining to the Prime Minister’s Office about wanting to be involved in the PNCIMA process, for fear of it being an anti-tanker initiative.

The marine transportation sector have also been advocating against the funding arrangements with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation since the start of the process on the basis that they believe that GBMF would influence the process in favour of an anti-tanker agenda.

  • At the IOAC meetings the marine transportation sector dominates much of the meeting time with allegations that GBMF and Tides Canada are also funding anti-tanker campaigns and are therefore biased and cannot be trusted.
  • The February 2011 meeting involved a “question and answer” period (at the request of the marine transportation sector) to which both the GBMF and Tides Canada were invited. The marine transportation sector used this time to cross examine the funding partners and tried to discredit them. 

On September 2nd 2011, the Steering Committee members were informed in writing by DFO that the federal government had made a unilateral decision to withdraw from the funding agreement with the GBMF. On September 6th 2011 some of the IOAC members were formally phoned by the acting Regional Director General, Bonnie Antcliffe, at DFO and told that the PNCIMA process was being “realigned” to better fit with timelines and to be consistent with ocean planning on the other coasts of Canada. Private funding was therefore no longer required.

What are the implications of the decision to withdraw from the funding for PNCIMA?

From the information we can gather, the Prime Minister’s decision to pull out of the funding agreement kills any opportunity to build a marine plan that conserves the ecosystem and builds the economy in PNCIMA. More specifically:

  • There will no longer be working groups, a marine technical analysis team, regional forums, capacity grants for stakeholders, workshops or technical and administrative support for the plan.
  • The new PNCIMA work plan will contain a high level EBM framework that will regulate activities that are allowed to occur within PNCIMA, but this EBM plan will not contain a spatial plan or a network of MPAs. The creation of this plan will rely upon one staff member within DFO and no other funds for stakeholder engagement.
  • The network of MPAs is still within DFO’s mandate, but the Protection Working Group within the PNCIMA process that had been tasked with this responsibility will not be forming; the network will have to be designed through a parallel process, which is also unfunded (they were relying on the PNCIMA process to do their work for them).
  • First Nations and the Province of British Columbia wish to maintain their funding relationship with the GBMF but will not have the authority to implement a marine plan. They want to continue with marine use planning at a regional scale, but it will be a separate and parallel process to the work being done for PNCIMA.  It will be informed by the EBM plan for PNCIMA after it is completed in December 2012.
  • One of the most important aspects of the PNCIMA process was the integrated nature of the planning that would allow for the integration of uses, spatially and with regard to cumulative impacts and ecologically and biologically significant areas. This integration will not happen. Instead, there will be layers of planning happening separately at a regional (PNCIMA) and sub-regional (B.C. and First Nation) levels. There will be no funding to integrate these plans.


  • We have been informed that the Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Privy Council Office wrote a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office requesting that the funding partnership be maintained.
  • Therefore, we know that the decision to pull out of the funding agreement was made unilaterally by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with no regard for the government agencies responsible for managing Canada’s oceans.
  • We believe that the Prime Minister made this decision because he is determined to approve the Northern Gateway Project and will remove any barriers that he perceives could get in its way (the Harper Government has already voiced their support for the Enbridge Gateway project despite the fact that it has yet to go through  an environmental review)
  • Past behavior suggests that pressure by Enbridge on the PMO has lead to this decision.
  • This is yet another example which highlights Prime Minister Harper’s relationship with the oil industry; he is willing to sacrifice our oceans, our coastal economies, and our ways of life to accommodate Big Oil’s demands.

About the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project

Enbridge Inc. has applied to construct and operate two parallel pipelines, each 1,170 km long, routed between an inland terminal at Bruderheim, Alberta and a marine terminal near Kitimat, British Columbia. The project, which they have named the Northern Gateway Pipelines Project, would cross nearly 1,000 rivers and streams in Alberta and B.C., cross the Rocky Mountains and the Coast Range, and bisect the Great Bear Rainforest. One of the pipelines will carry 525,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Alberta tar sands west to Kitimat. The other line will carry 193,000 barrels of condensate per day east to Bruderheim. The pipelines will be serviced by an average of 220 oil tankers per year which will ply the waters of PNCIMA en route to markets in Asia and the west coast of the U.S.

The proposal has been met with significant opposition:

  • 130 individual First Nations in Western Canada have publicly stated their opposition to the Northern Gateway Project – from Haida Gwaii to the Northwest Territories.
  • Polling consistently shows 75-80 percent of British Columbians in support of a permanent ban on oil tankers on British Columbia’s North Coast.
  • A permanent ban is supported by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), all federal opposition parties, and the commercial fishing and tourism sectors in British Columbia
  • Enbridge initially claimed to care about the views of the First Nations and communities along the proposed pipeline and tanker routes through PNCIMA:
  • From the early days, Enbridge stated that they wanted to work with the people in the region and engage in meaningful dialogue about this pipeline.
  • In a meeting with prominent members of the environmental community in 2009 Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel said “If people do not want this then we won’t build it.”
  • However, Enbridge has since changed their tune and very evidently do not support local opinions: Enbridge’s messaging has changed into: we will take your “No” and turn it into a “Yes” despite the widespread and vocal opposition to the proposed project.
  • They continue to lobby the federal government to approve the proposed project despite the fact that an environmental review has yet to be completed.
  • They refuse to acknowledge First Nations’ declarations prohibiting the proposed Northern Gateway Project from crossing their traditional territories.
  • They continue to pressure First Nations communities to buy equity stakes in the proposed project – a move seen by many as trying to “buy out” First Nations communities in dire need of financial resources in order to gain support.
  • They refuse to participate in community-run forums in which they are not the Chair. The University of Northern British Columbia planned a participatory dialogue series for community members in northern B.C. to gain knowledge about the proposed project in the spring of 2011. Enbridge initially agreed to participate. At the last minute, they withdrew. They have consistently refused to participate in any community-run forums, or invitations to visit communities along the proposed route, since.
  • Enbridge had fought the PNCIMA process by questioning the transparent funding arrangement and obtaining an unproportionally high number of seats in the process. They are not even an ocean-based industry.

For more information


  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Neil Davis: (604) 666-8437
  • Coastal First Nations, Art Sterritt: (604) 696-9889
  • Government of British Columbia, Charlie Short:  (250) 413-7911

IOAC Representatives:

  • Marine Transportation, Stephen Brown: (604) 681-2351
  • Renewable Energy, Matt Burns: (604) 631-4484
  • Non- Renewable Energy, Kim Johnson: (403) 609-0944
  • Aquaculture, Richard Opala: (250) 850-3276 ext 7260
  • Environmental NGO, Kim Wright: (604) 696-5044
  • Tourism, Evan Loveless: (250) 336-2862
  • Recreation, Nick Heath: (604) 417-3447
  • Recreation Fisheries, Urs Thomas: (250) 557-4325
  • Commercial Fisheries, Jim McIssac: (250) 360-1398
  • Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District, Des Nobles: (250) 627-1859
  • Kitimat-Stikine Regional District, Bob Corless: (250) 615-6100
  • Mt Waddington Regional District, Al Huddlestan: (250) 956-3301
  • Strathcona Regional District, Jim Abram: (250) 285-3355
  • Central Coast Regional District, Brian Lande: (250) 799-5291

ENGO Sector Contacts

  • Kim Wright, Living Oceans Society: (604) 830-8611
  • Darcy Dobell, WWF Canada: (604) 734-3426
  • Bill Wareham, David Suzuki Foundation: (604) 740-4318
  • Sabine Jessen, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society: (604) 657-2813
  • Colin Campbell, Sierra Club B.C. : (250) 361-6476


  • Kim Wright