A variety of initiatives are underway involving the Council of the Haida Nation and other governments with regard to existing shipping and vessel traffic in Haida Gwaii waters.
These initiatives are being driven by the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan, which provides management direction to prevent accidents and spills and respond if there is an accident. In addition, discussions are taking place with Canada as part of a broader process, established through the Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Bioregional Oceans Management and Protection (RFA). This process involves CHN and fourteen other First Nations and uses an ecosystem approach to work on marine planning, marine shipping and safety, and oceans management and protection. Initiatives that are being completed through the RFA process include implementation of the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA), Marine Protected Area (MPA) network planning, as well as several projects related to oceans protection and management and marine shipping and safety, and oceans protection that are outlined below.
- 2022 Marine Shipping and Safety Initiatives Booklet
- 2020 Marine Shipping and Safety Initiatives Booklet
A Safe Distance Offshore
In 2014, the Russian cargo ship Simushir came dangerously close to going aground and causing a major oil spill on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. This near miss was a stark reminder of the need for ongoing planning and action to protect our coast and marine resources over the long term.
Since early 2018, CHN has been working with the federal government and others to determine how far from shore commercial ships need to be in order for an emergency rescue tug to reach them before they drift ashore. Since implementing the 14-month trial Voluntary Protection Zone(VPZ) on the west coast of Haida Gwaii, vessel traffic has moved further offshore. Due to its success, the VPZ was extended and remains in place while CHN continues to explore options for a permanent measure.
Ensuring transiting large ships stay a safe distance offshore of the west coast of Haida Gwaii is one component of incident prevention, which is CHN’s main priority. The Tang.Gwan Pacific Ocean on the west coast of Haida Gwaii was selected as the first area to address traffic issues, before Siigee Dixon Entrance and Siigaay Hecate Strait because of the area’s remoteness and associated challenges with response.
Tang.Gwan Pacific Ocean on the west coast of Haida Gwaii.
CHN and the federal government are working with the marine shipping industry and research groups, including Nuka Research and Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Shipping, on this initiative.
In progress. 14-month trial completed in October 2021. VPZ extended and remains in place while options for a permanent measure are being explored.
Haida Gwaii Marine Awareness Project
CHN, federal and provincial governments are collaborating in the Haida Gwaii Marine Awareness Project to monitor marine shipping around the Islands and increase awareness of traffic issues. The project aims to implement preventative marine shipping and safety objectives in Haida Gwaii marine plans and build on local capacity to prepare for, and respond to marine emergencies. As part of the project, CHN is working with Transport Canada to pilot the Enhanced Maritime Situational Awareness (EMSA) System — an interactive, web-based Geographic Information System that shows near real-time vessel traffic data and other marine and coastal information.
The purpose of the Haida Gwaii Marine Awareness Project is to improve understanding of marine traffic and the risks posed by current and potential increases in traffic around Haida Gwaii using near realtime and historic data. This project aims to improve information sharing to enable collaborative decision-making by CHN with other governments and improve capacity to respond to marine emergencies and Haida oversight in accident prevention and preparedness.
The Haida Gwaii Marine Awareness Planning Office is located next to the CHN office in HlGaagilda Skidegate, where a computerized monitoring system is being used by CHN Marine Planning staff to identify and manage vessel traffic. The office also serves as an Incident Command Post in case of an emergency and a space for training exercises.
CHN, federal and provincial governments, with municipal government involvement.
In progress. The 3-year pilot project ends in March 2022. CHN and Transport Canada are in discussions around the next phase of this project to ensure continued, long-term access and capacity to monitor marine shipping around Haida Gwaii.
CHN has been working with the Canadian Coast Guard to train Haida citizens, CHN staff and Islands partners in marine environmental emergency response. Training has included:
- Incident Command System (ICS)
- Essentials of Marine Oil Spill Response Training
- Basic Oil Spill Safety
- Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique
- Geographic Response Strategy Development
- Aerial Observations for Coastal Oil Spills from a Vessel
- Aerial Photography Drone Operator
Since 2019, CHN has hosted two tabletop exercises with over 30 participants from five federal government agencies, Skidegate Band Council, Old Massett Village Council, and municipal governments. Participants used skills gained through training to respond to hypothetical scenarios, including a container ship losing cargo and spilling oil and noxious substances, as well as a Places of Refuge scenario.
CHN is prioritizing prevention initiatives, such as the Safe Distance Offshore initiative. However, Haida Gwaii is next to major international shipping routes and vulnerable to accidents, so it is necessary to be prepared for a possible response. Through these training activities, the CHN is preparing to take a lead role alongside other levels of government in coordinating emergency response. Increased local capacity will reduce the time it takes to respond to an environmental emergency, which may help to reduce impacts to Haida Gwaii’s ecosystems and way of life.
XaaydaGa Gwaay.yaay | Xáadaa Gwaay Haida Gwaii
CHN, Pacific North Coast First Nations, the provincial government, the Canadian Coast Guard and other federal agencies.
In progress. CHN continues to prioritize marine safety training to build capacity to lead and support coordinated marine emergency response in Haida territories.
Marine Environmental Emergency Response Planning
CHN is working with First Nations, the provincial government, Canadian Coast Guard, and other federal agencies to develop a Northern Shelf Bioregion Marine Incident Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Frame-work. The Framework will guide the development of sub-regional response plans, including one for Haida Gwaii, which clarifies roles and responsibilities and the process used for joint decision making. CHN has completed surveys for 120 Areas of Concern on Haida Gwaii, which are sensitive sites that are particularly vulnerable to oil spills. CHN is now developing site-specific oil spill Geographic Response Strategies and is working with Gwaii Haanas and MaPP to identify response equipment and training needs. MaPP is an initiative for the north Pacific coast, involving BC and First Nations through which the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan was completed in 2015.
The MaPP sub-regional marine plans and Regional Action Framework recognize there are insufficient planning, preparedness and response measures, and capacity, in place to deal with marine incidents of any size. Detailed Geographic Response Plans which identify and prioritize sensitive sites on Haida Gwaii and provide logistical information to support an environmental response are now being worked on with local experts, including Haida traditional knowledge holders, in order to prepare the communities to better handle an incident.
The Northern boundary includes Siigee Dixon Entrance and extends south to Quadra Island and Brooks Peninsula. West to east, the area extends across Siigaay Hecate Strait to the base of the continental shelf in Tang.Gwan Pacific Ocean.
CHN, federal government, other First Nations and the provincial government, including MaPP.
Places of Refuge Contingency Planning
After the M/V Simushir near-miss incident in 2014, the CHN started working with other governments to ensure that a coordinated and effective emergency response system was established for Haida Gwaii. The coordinated work between the Council of the Haida Nation and the federal government resulted in the release of a Places of Refuge Contingency Plan for the Pacific Region in 2017. The Haida Gwaii Annex in this plan was co-developed and identifies potential Places of Refuge around Haida Gwaii, which are sheltered places where a ship in distress can anchor to sta-bilize its condition and undergo repairs or await towing assistance.
In the past, the federal government would determine a Place of Refuge for a ship in distress solely based on the avail-able navigational and operational information. The co-developed revised version of the Places of Refuge Contingency Plan, including the Haida Gwaii Annex, ensures that the CHN will be part of this decision-making process, and that both traditional and local knowledge, as well as additional ecological and socioeconomic information, are considered in this process.
Several Places of Refuge are identified around the coastline of Haida Gwaii: three between K’iis Gwaay Langara Island and Née Kun Naikoon, one on Daawuuxusda | Duu Guusd the west coast and three in Gwaii Haanas.
CHN, federal and provincial governments.
The plan was completed in 2017 and is now being implemented.