50 Stories: A conservation milestone – The Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement

By Darcy Dobell
Vice President, Pacific Conservation
[This post was originally written on the day that the Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement was signed over a year ago on 7 June 2010 – an exciting day indeed!]
Those eagles may have been here just to enjoy the low tide at nearby Spanish Banks.  Or they may have been here to remind us all that conservation work takes both strength and vision.  It depends how you look at it, which can be said too for the Marine Agreement itself.
Today’s agreement does not actually designate the proposed Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve. Nor does it say what might or might not happen to protect the stunning ecological and cultural heritage of the Gwaii Haanas marine environment. Read literally, it is simply a statement of intention and process.  So why is WWF-Canada congratulating the Haida Nation and Government of Canada?
We see this as a significant milestone in a journey that began in 1985, when the Haida Nation declared Gwaii Haanas to be a Haida Heritage Site. In the past 25 years, the Haida have led the way to enormous successes in conservation and sustainability. These include the joint Haida/Canada designation of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in 1993, and the joint Haida/BC land use agreement in 2007. These agreements attest to the Haida’s determination to work with other governments through management agreements that break down artificial distinctions between ecology, community, heritage, and economy.
“Our Haida Heritage Site designation always included both the land and the sea,” Guujaaw (President of the Council of the Haida Nation) told me this morning. Today’s agreement is, in fact, a promise by the Haida Nation and Canada to extend conservation management from the mountaintops to the deep sea. And that is cause for celebration.
There is still a lot of work to do to finalize the Marine Conservation Area Reserve designation. WWF-Canada’s Pacific Region staff will continue to work closely with the Haida Nation, Canadian government agencies, and others to help bring the world’s best conservation and ecosystem management science into the process. For today, however, we point at the eagles and applaud the strength and vision that make this work possible.

(c) WWF-Canon/C.M. Bahr