Initiative for Ocean Protection, Sustainable Development & Climate Change
September 1, 2016 [Vancouver Island] – With the world in mind a local campaign has begun on Canada’s west coast to have the Salish Sea declared a World Heritage Site.
“The Salish Sea is a unique inner sea with a long history of providing food and sustenance, habitat and biodiversity for marine species, and a wealth of resources to all those living alongside its shores,” stated Laurie Gourlay, the interim director of the Salish Sea Trust that’s in charge of the new campaign. “The Salish Sea’s historical, cultural and natural heritage is rich and reflects the highest tenets and objectives of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.”
In August Prime Minister Trudeau invited Canadians to submit applications to UNESCO, the first time in a decade that Canadians have had such an opportunity. Both Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama have made promises to substantially increase marine protection areas, with President Obama recently declaring the largest marine protected area in the world, in the Hawaiian ocean waters.
“Thinking globally and acting locally we are doubly pleased to note today’s announcement by Pope Francis, that the environment’s health is a critical mission for us all,” Gourlay added. “And with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) beginning it’s ten-day conference in Hawaii, the health of the planet’s oceans being prominently addressed, we look forward to working in tandem with world leadership as sustainable development comes to the forefront.”
The election promise of Prime Minister Trudeau, to increase Canada’s marine protected areas by 5% by 2017 and 10% by 2020 also suggests that new approaches and partnerships will be welcome in meeting the needs of all sectors and interests in the country. Locally the federal government, in concert with past promises by BC’s government, has recently renewed discussions to establish a southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area Reserve (NMCAR).
“We are heartened by the opportunity offered as Canada’s 150th birthday begins, and the legacy we can leave our children,” Gourlay adds. “At the same time we are also mindful of the interests and rights of the First Nations peoples who have lived here by the Salish Sea for thousands of years.”
First Nation leadership on BC’s north coast this past summer saw a precedent-setting Marine Area Protection Plan put in place with the Province of BC. “Federal government infrastructure funding for Haida Gwaii and its NMCAR, as well as the World Heritage Site which is presently under UNESCO consideration offer the language and means by which a Salish Sea World Heritage Site designation might reflect the best aspirations and interests of First Nations peoples and all who live here,” Gourlay added.
The Salish Sea is also fortunate in that it extends across the US/Canada border and has been the subject of many studies, conferences and proposals – including measures that respect jurisdictional, governance and international treaties. The background work and identification of interests has been thoroughly addressed, preparing the way for this proposal to designate the Salish Sea as a World Heritage Site.
“Designating the Salish Sea as a World Heritage Site, with all of the expectations to maintain ecological systems and sustainability will meet the promises, wishes and obligations which Canadians have as global citizens,” according to Gourlay. ” The cooperation and partnership building that leads to the Salish Sea being designated a World Heritage Site will extend across a decade, and in the process will build strong communities – providing a significant contribution to our local economies as well as meeting Canada’s global obligations as stewards of the environment.”
The Salish Sea Trust has been registered as a non-profit society, and is now beginning a four-month campaign to submit an application that will be reviewed by Parks Canada before being submitted to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site program in late January 2017. Partnership across all sectors and interests is welcome - click here to learn more.
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