Council of Haida Nation and Government of Canada Announce Management Plan to Protect Seamounts Near Haida Gwaii
August 27, 2019
Gaw Tlagee Old Massett, Haida Gwaii — 180 km off the edge of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia is an underwater mountain called SGaan Kinghlas. This supernatural being rises from the ocean floor scratching at the surface of the Pacific ocean. An incredible abundance of marine life is found here, supported by nutrient rich ocean currents. The seamount is home to juvenile rockfish, brightly coloured anemones, sea stars and rare and sensitive corals and sponges.
The Haida Nation and the Government of Canada are protecting this marine wilderness and today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, and Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, President of the Haida Nation, unveiled the Co-Management Plan to safeguard the SGaan Kinghlas–Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area.
This co-management plan is an example of working together on a nation to nation basis. It is the product of more than 10 years of cooperative work and illustrates a shared commitment by the Council of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada to conserve and protect this part of the ocean and its marine life.
Haida have a historical, spiritual and cultural connection with the SGaan Kinghlas–Bowie Seamount area. It is said to be the home of a supernatural being known as SGaan Kinghlas, which in the Massett Haida dialect means “supernatural being looking outwards.”
The SGaan Kinghlas–Bowie Marine Protected Area Management Plan identifies goals, strategic objectives, and operational objectives for the MPA and describes how they will be achieved. It identifies management tools, addresses surveillance, enforcement and user compliance, and highlights education and outreach. Four implementation priorities are identified for the MPA: cooperative governance and adaptive co-management; research to support conservation outcomes; monitoring; and education and outreach.
“SGaan Kinghlas is a special place for the Haida Nation with spiritual significance, unique species, and sensitive habitat that is protected and will now be managed for future generations. The management plan was developed to embody Haida values and provides a respectful path for management and protection of the area consistent with the Haida Nation Constitution.”
Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, President of the Haida Nation
“Canadians expect us to take action to protect unique ocean ecosystems that surrounds Canada while ensuring coastal communities thrive and that is what we’re doing. The establishment of the SGaan Kinghlas–Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area Management Plan is a very important step towards ocean conservation and a renewed relationship between the Government of Canada and Indigenous Peoples. It shows what can be accomplished when interested parties work together for effective ocean management and marine conservation. Together, we will protect this incredible natural wonder for future generations.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
According to Haida oral tradition, Haida connection to the SGaan Kinghlas–Bowie Seamount stretches through generations to the time of glaciers. K’aygang.nga, The Haida canon of oral histories, record details of its long-term cultural and spiritual significance.
The SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA is located 180 km offshore of Haida Gwaii and is one of the shallowest seamounts in the north Pacific, rising from a depth of 3,000 meters to within 24 meters of the ocean’s surface. The seamount is an underwater mountain formed by volcanic activity that results in unique oceanographic interactions which enhance the biological productivity of the area.
Recent research at the seamount has resulted in the discovery of four rare benthic species, including three new species of glass sponges
The SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA and the surrounding area have been designated by both the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) and DFO as a protected area. In 1997, the CHN designated SGaan Kinghlas or Supernatural Being Looking Outwards as a Haida marine protected area. In 1998, DFO identified Bowie Seamount as an Area of Interest and the area was designated as a MPA under Canada’s Oceans Act in 2008.
The purpose of the MPA is to conserve and protect the unique biodiversity and biological productivity of the area’s marine ecosystem, which includes the SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie, Hodgkins and Davidson seamounts and the surrounding waters, seabed and subsoil.
A Management Board for the SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA was established through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in April 2007 between the Government of Canada and the CHN. The MOU confirms the commitment to facilitate the cooperative management and planning of the MPA and establishes the shared goal of DFO and the CHN to protect and conserve SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount for present and future generations.
In 2011, the Management Board established the SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount Advisory Committee to collaboratively provide advice regarding development of the management plan. The Advisory Committee included representation from commercial and recreational fishing, conservation, academic, and other marine sectors.
In 2018, the Haida Nation and Canada increased protection at the SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area by closing all bottom contact fishing to protect sensitive benthic habitat including sensitive cold-water corals and sponges.
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Council of the Haida Nation
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