Coastal management in B.C. relies on a combination of laws, regulations, policies and programs overseen by many different governments and departments. The Province does not have a comprehensive strategy to guide coastal management. This approach has made it difficult to coordinate between local, provincial, federal and Indigenous governments. A Coastal Marine Strategy will improve stewardship and protection of marine and coastal areas. A healthy, clean coast will support community well-being and a viable ocean economy.
The potential benefits of British Columbia’s ocean-based economy are enormous. We need to transform coastal management and governance because of rising ocean temperatures, acidic waters, pollution and declining fish and wildlife populations to ensure that future generations can enjoy the benefits we enjoy today. In 2021, the Province committed to developing a Coastal Marine Strategy. This strategy will lay the groundwork for investments that will preserve coastal ecosystems, advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, improve livelihoods and jobs, support a thriving and climate-resilient coastal economy, and secure the long-term health and wealth of our coastal marine environment, economy, and people. The Coastal Marine Strategy will span a 20-year horizon, reflecting on where we are today, and address future needs, priorities and emerging trends.
The Province of British Columbia holds considerable authority over the marine and coastal zone. The Coastal Marine Strategy will concentrate on activities, uses and values that the Province is accountable for while recognizing that we also need strong collaboration and cooperation with other orders of government. B.C. is responsible for managing and authorizing activities and uses that require access to structures fixed or over the seabed, such as aquaculture, docks, clean energy, marinas, and underwater utilities. The Province also has accountability for tourism operator licensing, land use planning (e.g., marine parks and protected areas), climate change mitigation and adaptation (including ocean acidification and sea level rise) and environmental assessments for large projects. Seafood development, aquatic plant harvesting, habitat conservation and restoration, and emergency management are other important ways that the province takes care of the coastal marine environment.
The Coastal Marine Strategy will focus on the coastal waters from the Alaskan border south to the Washington State border (see map). When we refer to the coastal marine environment, we are talking about the transition area that connects the open ocean with the coastline and terrestrial watersheds – the intertidal zone, tidal wetlands, estuaries, bays, inlets, fjords, straits, channels, island archipelagos, shallow near-shore waters, pocket coves, and in-shore reef systems.