The idea of providing additional 'layers' of protection for the beautiful, unique and fragile marine environment in and around the Southern Gulf Islands, of the Salish Sea (otherwise known as Southern Georgia Strait) has been around for decades now. It is complicated since the area brings into play a complex web of First Nations, public and private interests and values. And the initiative has found new life since the election of what has been perceived by some as a federal government more 'friendly and receptive' to the idea of a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA).
On Friday evening, at the (nearly finished) newly renovated Community Hall on Saturna Island, in the heart of this area, about 30 Islanders turned up on a rainy evening to hear more information about the proposal and to discuss the values which are important to be acknowledged and preserved in this area. Alexandra Barron from Canadian Parks and Wildlife Society (CPAWS, a Canadian non-profit) stepped in at the last moment due to illness of the first presenter (thank you Alexandra) to help us eat Hubertus' fabulous pizza and to lead the workshop. The Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA, another Canadian non-profit) and our own SIMRES had organized the event.
Those present learned more about CPAWS, the other various governmental and non-governmental entities involved in the process, and the current stressors on this wonderful environment. We also learned about similar initiatives, some very successful, in our own back yard (Gwai Hanas, Saguenay- St. Lawrence River) and some in other parts of the world.
After a break for conversation, cookies and tea and coffee, chairs were placed in a circle and everyone listened attentively to each others hopes, concerns and questions about the NMCA. What will be its impact on fishers, on waterfront property owners, on tourism and a sustainable economy in the area? This is one of a series of such meetings throughout the area seeking to find out what the local concerns and wishes are. The feedback is to be provided by these non-profits to the process which is currently led on behalf of the federal government by Parks Canada.