B.C. resident nominates Salish Sea for consideration as World Heritage Site

National Geographic photojournalists rally in support

[Wednesday, February 1, 2017] Vancouver Island - The Salish Sea is one step closer to becoming a designated World Heritage Site by way of an application to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), submitted by long-time Vancouver Island resident, Laurie Gourlay, on behalf of the Salish Sea Trust

“When Prime Minister and cabinet invited Canadians to nominate and apply for World Heritage Site designations, I couldn’t think of a place more worthy of designation,” explains Gourlay, who founded the Salish Sea Trust to kickstart the effort that could take as long as 10 years. “This designation offers B.C., Canada, and the world a framework to protect and sustainably manage the coast’s most precious economic, cultural, and environmental resource.”

Gourlay’s application, was pulled together with the help of other Salish Sea residents and neighbours, and is “dedicated to all who call the Salish Sea home”. The move is being applauded by National Geographic photographers and Salish Sea residents, Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen, who are working with Gourlay to support “phase two”: working with First Nations, economic and environmental interests, residents of B.C., and the global public to generate feedback on the application.

Nicklen and Mittermeier founded SeaLegacy in 2014, an organization dedicated to supporting grassroots movements to establish or enhance marine protections. The duo, who are both National Geographic photojournalists, see the application as an important step in the right direction for the Salish Sea, and have committed to helping him engage a diverse coalition to support and inform the application as it moves through the relevant channels.

“The Salish Sea is home to more than 3000 species of marine based wildlife and 8 million people,” comments Mittermeier. “The future of our home and its place in the broader marine and terrestrial environment, local and international economy, as well as local cultures and society could be a great deal more secure if this application is successful - but it won’t be without input from the people who live and work here.”

The Salish Sea, named in 2010 for the Coast Salish peoples, extends from the north end of the Strait of Georgia and Desolation Sound to the south end of the Puget Sound and west to the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, including the inland marine waters of southern B.C. and northern Washington. If successful, the Canadian portion of the area will carry a similar designation to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the Great Wall of China and Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump here in Canada. 

“When you see it every day, it’s easy to forget the Salish Sea is a global treasure, right up there with the Great Barrier Reef and Galapagos Islands,” comments Nicklen. “This process and the designation it leads to, can shine a light on the beauty in and around this culturally and naturally significant area and, for decades to come, provide a platform for on-going conversations around how to balance economic, cultural, and environmental considerations.”

With the Salish Sea World Heritage Site application successfully submitted, SeaLegacy and the Salish Sea Trust are inviting First Nations, municipal, provincial, and federal government representatives, along with special interest groups to contact salishsea@sealegacy.org with questions or comments about the initiative. 

“Commercial and harvesting activities, especially fishing, is fundamental to life on the coast,” commented Gourlay. “This application, via Parks Canada, asks that the core values of the Salish Sea - social, cultural, environmental, and economic - be protected so that those same social, cultural, environmental, and economic activities can continue and evolve for generations to come.” 

Members of the public are strongly encouraged to sign on to a letter voicing their support for the Salish Sea application OR write their own letter. All letters submitted through the website by Earth Day (April 22nd, 2017) will be included as an addendum to the original application. 

Contact information

For more information or to arrange an interview with Laurie Gourlay, Cristina Mittermeier, or Paul Nicklen, please contact:

Kait Burgan
p. 250-816-0046
e. kait (at) sealegacy (dot) org