A Regional Shipping Plan

British Columbia’s north Pacific coast is one of Canada’s most important trade corridors. It is also home to the Great Bear Region – a global ecological treasure.

Coastal First Nations, Canada and the Province of BC have invested in world-leading ecosystem-based management for both land and sea in the region.

Now Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative is working to put in place a regional plan for commercial shipping plan that will:

  • Increase safety and certainty for commercial shipping and all marine users
  • Secure the long-term health of marine and coastal ecosystems
  • Protect important coastal economies, cultures and community values
  • Support ongoing government-to-government planning and decision-making about regional shipping activity

Why a Plan for Shipping in Our Waters?

A shipping strategy is one of the big missing pieces in marine planning for our coast. A plan is needed to:

  • Protect a Spectacular Ocean Ecosystem
    Our traditional waters are one of the world’s most biodiverse coldwater seas – rich in First Nations cultures, unique marine species and ecosystems, and spectacular beauty.
  • Prepare for Unprecedented Development of Our Traditional Waters
    Port expansion in Prince Rupert, Kitimat and Vancouver and other industrial developments will contribute to a significant increase in shipping on our coast.
  • Manage Shipping Impacts
    A wide range of far-reaching impacts present threats to fragile marine ecosystems, coastal economies, First Nations cultures and governance.
  • Support Collaborative Governance
    A collaborative management strategy would give First Nations a say in commercial shipping decisions and recognize First Nations Rights, Title and stewardship responsibilities.

Shipping Impacts

The growth in shipping activity on BC’s North Pacific coast presents potentially significant threats to coastal ecosystems, economies and cultures.

Diverse and far-reaching, shipping impacts put at risk Coastal First Nations interests with no avenue for input by our communities.


  • Underwater ocean noise that affects whales and other sound-dependent marine species
  • Air and water pollution
  • Invasive species transported in ballast water or on hulls of ships
  • Risk of spills, including spills of hazardous cargos or bunker oil
  • Damage to intertidal zones, eel grass beds, and other important habitat from ship wake and anchorages


Crowded waterways will have an impact on commercial fishing, a growing sport fishery, and ecotourism.


Large vessel traffic can interfere with fishing by smaller boats as well as community access to coastal areas for seaweed harvesting, gathering roe-on-kelp, and other cultural activities.


No one is looking at the big picture. There is no system in place for environmental stewardship of the cumulative regional impacts of shipping.

Emergency Response

A good emergency response system is not yet in place in case of accidents. Regional emergency response plans are not yet complete, and there is an urgent need for more emergency response vessels, equipment, and training.