Milestone for Coastal Conservation and Community Development

Photo caption: Heiltsuk Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt shakes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s hand before the announcement of the closing of the Great Bear Sea Project Finance for Permanence on June 25, 2024. Photo by Emilee Gilpin



Vancouver, BC – Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative, Na̲nwak̲olas Council, and Coast Funds, along with the federal and provincial governments and philanthropic investors, are celebrating the closing of the Great Bear Sea Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) initiative. The Great Bear Sea PFP, led by 17 participating First Nations, launches a new era of collaborative governance in marine conservation and stewardship. A total of $335 million for the PFP —$200 million from the Government of Canada, $60 million from the Province of BC, and $75 million from philanthropic investors — ensures our communities will now have access to durable, long-term funding to care for our marine territories and support sustainable economic development on the coast.

First Nations across the North Pacific Coast/Great Bear Sea have cared for and governed these lands and waters since time immemorial. The Great Bear Sea (also known as the Northern Shelf Bioregion) extends from northern Vancouver Island to the Canada-Alaska border. The region is one of the richest and most productive cold-water marine ecoregions on Earth, home to marine life from herring and salmon to whales, dolphins, seabirds, and kelp forests. Stewarded and cared for by our Nations for tens of thousands of years, the Great Bear Sea is a source of sustenance, culture, and livelihoods for all who call the coast home.

“Almost 18 years ago, we announced the completion of a new conservation finance model for the Great Bear Rainforest, which is recognized as a world-leading success. We protected vast areas of ancient temperate rainforests, created nearly 1,300 jobs, launched over 130 new businesses, and raised household incomes across the region. And we were just getting started,” said Dallas Smith, President of Na̲nwak̲olas Council. “Our intent was always to protect land and sea. Today, we have followed through on this commitment to our ancestors, our Elders, our communities, and our future generations. The Great Bear Sea PFP is the model we need to protect marine ecosystems and restore biodiversity, all while supporting prosperous economies and healthy communities.”

PFPs are a proven tool for conservation finance that blend public and private investment to deliver long-term conservation and economic benefits. This investment will help protect important marine ecosystems while creating thousands of new jobs and supporting healthy communities over the coming decades.

The Great Bear Sea PFP will provide ongoing funding for the collaborative implementation of both the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network Action Plan and the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP). These two initiatives, which represent over a decade of work between our Nations, Canada, and British Columbia, along with local governments and stakeholders from commercial fishing, tourism, energy, and other sectors, have yielded multi-use marine plans along with a proposed network of marine protected areas that combines existing and potential new MPAs for an anticipated total of approximately 3M hectares or 30 percent of the Great Bear Sea. These co-developed plans will support healthy fisheries, protect and conserve ecosystems and important cultural sites, enable sustainable marine economies, improve food security, and increase coastal resilience.

“We believe that if we take care of the land, the land will take care of us and if we take care of the ocean, the ocean will take care of us. These are our breadbaskets,” said K̓áwáziɫ (Marilyn Slett), President of Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative. “The Marine Protected Area Network is designed to protect and conserve these important resources from a place of co-governance that honors our expertise and our jurisdiction over our territories. Together, we have created a model that will support the conservation goals the world needs – protecting locally and globally significant ecosystems and species – and ensuring our communities have the resources, training and equipment for durable and collaborative management.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about the federal government’s investment into the Great Bear Sea Project Finance for Permanence initiative at the Convention Centre in Vancouver on June 25, 2024. Photo by Emilee Gilpin
Chief Councillor of Nuxalk Nation Sam Schooner, Chief Councillor of Wuikinuxv Nation Danielle Shaw and her daughter, Executive Director of Na̲nwak̲olas Council Merv Child and Heiltsuk Hereditary Chief Frank Brown. Photo by Emilee Gilpin

Coast Funds, the world’s first Indigenous-led conservation finance organization, will manage these funds on behalf of the participating First Nations. Over the next 20 years, Coast Funds expects the PFP will support more than 3,000 new jobs and 200 new businesses in marine stewardship, transportation and renewable energy, sustainable fisheries, eco-cultural tourism, and manufacturing and processing.

“With today’s announcement, First Nations are extending a successful model of collaborative stewardship, backed by durable conservation financing, from the rainforest to the sea,” says Eddy Adra, CEO, Coast Funds. “We look forward to continue working closely with First Nations, supporting them to invest in their community prosperity and marine stewardship programs which, in turn, will strengthen coastal communities and economies.”

Our Nations also recognize the role private investors have played in reaching this important milestone. By working together with our philanthropic partners, both in Canada and across the world, we have created the model we need to ensure the viability of our coast for generations to come.

“The Sitka Foundation celebrates the collaborative efforts that have led to today’s Great Bear Sea PFP announcement,” said Carolynn Beaty, Executive Director, Sitka Foundation. “As a B.C.-based funder we strongly support the vision of interconnected marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the Great Bear Sea and Rainforest. We feel proud to know that community, government, and private sector commitments have helped to create a “made in B.C.” model that provides a healthy, sustainable future for this unique and beautiful coast.”

The 17 First Nations participating in the Great Bear Sea PFP are the Haida Nation, Gitga’at First Nation, Gitxaała Nation, Haisla Nation, Kitselas First Nation, KitsumkalumBand, Metlakatla First Nation, Heiltsuk Nation, Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation, Nuxalk Nation, Wuikinuxv Nation, Da’naxda’xw-Awaetlala Nation, K’omoks First Nation, Kwiakah First Nation, Mamalilikulla First Nation, Tlowitsis Nation, and Wei Wai Kum First Nation.

Coastal First Nations CEO Christine Smith Martin opened the floor ahead of the Great Bear Sea PFP announcement. Photo by Emilee Gilpin
Kwakwaka’wakw drummers led the procession of First Nations Chiefs, followed by representatives of the provincial and federal governments, at the GBS PFP announcement on June 25, 2024. Photo by Emilee Gilpin


Associated Links: 

Tripartite News Release[CT1] 

Our Great Bear Sea:

Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative:

Na̲nwak̲olas Council:

Coast Funds:
MPA Network:

For more information or to request interviews please contact:

Media Contacts 

Coastal First Nations
Emilee Gilpin:
(514) 701 9093

Na̲nwak̲olas Council
Caitlin Thompson:
(250) 305 8756 

Coast Funds
Stephanie Butler:
(604) 715 1926

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