Economic Development, Fisheries, Lands, Resources and Stewardship, Mayor and Council|

June 7, 2024

What: Lax Kw’alaams will be in federal court next week due to concerns over a Marine Protected Areas network which may impact our commercial fisheries. Members are invited to come together and join us at the courthouse to show support.

When: Court is in session from June 10th-14th starting at 9:15am. Arrive at 9:00am to get through security on time.

Where: The Federal Courthouse, 701 West Georgia Vancouver BC (intersection of Georgia St. and Granville St.)

Members of the nine Allied Tribes are meeting at 8:30am on June 10th at the Starbucks at 720 Granville St, Vancouver. Any members who plan to attend the hearing are encouraged to join. 

Contact: Bill Shepert at [email protected] or call Torrye Wheaton at 1-250-991-9424


What is the court hearing about? 

From June 10th to 14th, the Federal Court will be hearing Lax Kw’alaams’ application for judicial review of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans’ decision to endorse the Network Action Plan (referred to as the NAP) for the Northern Shelf Bioregion Marine Protected Areas Network (NSB MPA Network). A judicial review is a request for the court to review the decision of a decision-maker—in this case, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans—to ensure its decisions or actions were lawful. 

Lax Kw’alaams is going to court because we do not feel that the Minister and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) properly consulted us and accommodated our interests with regard to the development of the plan for the MPA network. We are concerned that the development of the MPA network will seriously impact our commercial fishery, fish plant and community.

The plan for the MPA network was officially endorsed by the Minister in February 2023, and by 15 of the 17 governance partner Nations who participated in its design: Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Haisla, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Metlakatla, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo Xai’xais, Nuxalk, Wuikinuxv, Mamalilikulla, Kwiakah, Tlowitsis, and Wei Wai Kum First Nations; and the Council of the Haida Nation. The NSB MPA Network is now in the implementation phase, and establishment of protected sites is moving ahead.

What is the NSB MPA Network and why are we concerned?

The NSB MPA Network is a proposed network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that would stretch from North Vancouver Island to the Alaskan-Canadian border across an area of 102,000km2. The plan for this network proposes hundreds of different marine protected zones with various harvesting restrictions and protections. Some zones are scheduled to be implemented as soon as 2025. While there are no new MPAs slated for establishment in Lax Kw’alaams’ territorial waters, our commercial fishers routinely fish in areas where MPAs or Marine Refuges will be implemented—for instance, in the Hecate Strait. We are concerned the NSB MPA Network will restrict where and how our commercial fishers can harvest and our ability to trade quota with other areas.

However, our biggest concern is that a vast and complex MPA network has the potential to seriously impact our commercial fisheries, and we were not provided with enough specific information to accurately predict outcomes and mitigate impacts. 

We will likely be unable to measure the impact of the NSB MPA Network until the sites have already been implemented—when the damage may already be done. This is one of the key reasons we are going to court: the network is going ahead before a thorough assessment of economic, social and cultural impacts has been completed. 

 What happens next?

The plan for the MPA network was endorsed in February 2023, and is now in the implementation phase. This means that dozens of proposed sites are going through their own governance and engagement processes with different government agencies, depending on the type of protections proposed for each site. It is not clear to Lax Kw’alaams how we can bring our concerns to all these different tables and be properly consulted and accommodated.

There will be further update to members later in the summer to share the outcome and progress of the hearing, as well as next steps.

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