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.
Awareness of the risks posed by current vessel traffic transiting Haida Gwaii waters has increased due to recent events:
- In October 2014 the Russian cargo vessel Simushir lost power about 20 nautical miles off the west coast of Haida Gwaii during a storm and drifted to within 5.6 nautical miles of shore. The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Gordon Reid was able to cross Hecate Strait in heavy weather and tow the vessel away from shore. A tug of opportunity dispatched from Prince Rupert arrived after 40 hours to take the vessel in tow to Prince Rupert.
- On November 24, 2015 the MV North Star lost power 45 nautical miles off the west coast. The CCG vessel Gordon Reid and two tugs were dispatched but returned to harbour after the vessel regained power.
- On December 15, 2015 the MV Eny was directed to MacIntyre Bay as a Place of Refuge in order to make engine repairs. MacIntyre Bay is an area of high cultural, ecological and economic value and close to the communities of Old Massett, Masset and Tow Hill.
Discussions between the CHN and other governments regarding existing shipping and vessel traffic in Haida Gwaii waters are currently taking place through two processes with different levels of First Nations, federal and provincial engagement: Places of Refuge Contingency Planning (CHN, Canada and BC) and Marine Incident Reponses Strategy development (First Nations and BC).
Places of Refuge Contingency Planning
In 2009, Transport Canada released the Places of Refuge Contingency Plan for the Pacific Region. The plan stresses the value of pre-planning to ensure that the best available information is available to decision makers in the event that a ship is in distress and requires a sheltered place to anchor (a “place of refuge”). In 2014 the CHN engaged with federal and provincial governmental agencies to collaboratively identify potential places of refuge in the Haida Gwaii region and augment the information available to decision makers. The process is also being informed by best practices employed in other jurisdictions such as Alaska and Washington.
Previous work by Transport Canada was based only on navigational and logistical information and had not been reviewed with communities. The CHN is ensuring that both traditional and local knowledge, as well as additional ecological and socio-economic information, is considered in this work.
Places of Refuge will be identified for the Pacific region, including the Haida Gwaii area.
CHN, Transport Canada (and other Federal agencies including Parks Canada) and the Province of BC.
Marine Incident Response Strategy
The MaPP partners, including the CHN, are currently in the process of developing a regional strategy for marine incident response that will include direction on regional risk assessments, incident management systems, community engagement, site specific geographic response strategy development, data management and visualization systems, training and capacity development, and resourcing.
The MaPP sub-regional marine plans and Regional Action Framework recognize there are insufficient planning, preparedness and response measures and capacity in place to address marine incidents of any magnitude. Detailed Geographic Response Plans which identify and prioritize sensitive sites and provide logistical information do not currently exist for Haida Gwaii leaving the island unprepared to effectively handle an incident.
The entire MaPP region, including Haida Gwaii.
The MaPP partners, including the Province of BC as represented by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and seventeen First Nations, including the CHN.