MPA Network Partners Endorse Plan to Protect Great Bear Sea

The blueprint for the Great Bear Sea MPA Network was unveiled at the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Vancouver, on February 6, 2023.



Creating a Marine Protected Area Network

Learn more about the collaborative effort to create the Great Bear Sea MPA Network.


For the past two decades, CFN member Nations and other First Nations have been working collaboratively with federal and provincial governments in long-term planning to advance conservation and ecosystem-based management throughout the North Pacific Coast.

Planners are engaged in an unprecedented effort to create a Marine Protected Areas (MPA) network that would protect the region’s ecosystems and abundant marine life, including salmon, eulachon, herring and other culturally important species, while ensuring a variety of resource uses and activities that sustain coastal livelihoods.

Led by 15 First Nations, Canada and BC, the Great Bear Sea MPA network planning effort is breaking new ground in terms of Indigenous co-governance. The MPAs will protect marine biological diversity, including some threatened and ecologically significant species and habitats, as well as First Nations’ cultural priorities and traditional harvesting uses.

Northern Shelf Bioregion

The Northern Shelf Bioregion is one of 13 ecological bioregions identified for protection across Canada.

The MPA network planning process covers the same geographic area as two other marine planning processes in our traditional waters:

The ultimate goal of this planning effort is to establish an ecologically comprehensive, resilient and representative network of marine protected areas that protects the biological diversity and health of the marine environment for present and future generations.

What is a Marine Protected Area?

Marine Protected Areas can help address human impacts on our oceans from overfishing, pollution and climate change.

Just like protected areas on land, MPAs set aside important ocean areas—from sea floor to surface—for conservation, safeguarding these areas from disruptive activities, such as commercial fishing, shipping and industrial activity. MPAs will ensure marine ecosystems stay productive and resilient, supporting food security and protecting coastal jobs into the future.

When used with other marine management tools, such as fishing closures and species protection, MPAs help protect, restore and replenish marine resources.

Marine areas already under protection include two conservation areas co-managed by the Council of the Haida Nation with Canada:

First Nations community marine use plans have identified specific areas to protect based on the values our communities want to see protected. These Protection Management Zones (PMZs) and Special Management Zone (SPMZs) will range from full closures for all activity, to community use only, to exclusion zones that prohibit only specific activities.

Benefits of the MPA Network

  • Protect cultural or historical features and First Nations’ traditional harvesting
  • Restore endangered or threatened species, such as abalone and eulachon
  • Economic benefits from population spillover to nearby fishing grounds
  • Opportunities for research, education and monitoring of human impacts
  • Support for local tourism and conservation initiatives
  • Make marine ecosystems more resilient in the face of climate change and natural disaster
  • Preserve abundant biodiversity for coastal species and ecosystems
  • Safeguard long-term food security for coastal communities