Healthy Oceans

Healthy oceans are needed to sustain healthy Haida Gwaii communities. Haida values teach respect and responsibility for the land and sea, and managing according to these principles ensures that healthy ecosystems are sustained for present and future generations.

Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas
© Sgaann 7iw7waans Allan Wilson

What is an MPA?
“A clearly defined geographical space recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values” (IUCN).

What is an MPA network?
“A collection of individual marine protected areas that operates cooperatively and synergistically, at various spatial scales, and with a range of protection levels, in order to fulfill ecological aims more effectively and comprehensively than individual sites could alone” (IUCN).

MPA networks can achieve many different objectives; for example, they can protect species at risk at various stages of its life cycle, or ensure protection of different types of ecosystems (e.g. reefs, eelgrass beds).

What are the benefits of MPAs?
Benefits of marine protected areas are well documented. They include increased diversity and abundance of marine plants and animals within and beside MPAs; increased ability to withstand the impacts of climate change (e.g. rising water temperatures); and contributing to the recovery of depleted or at-risk species and habitats.

People also benefit from MPAs. They have been shown to enhance marine tourism; promote cultural heritage; and increase research and monitoring opportunities which in turn advance knowledge and understanding of marine systems and their health. Over time, large MPAs with fisheries restrictions that are carefully managed have been shown to provide a “spillover effect” for commercial fisheries in adjacent areas. By providing refugia for commercial species, these protected areas can reduce the risk of future fisheries collapse.

How are MPAs established?
In Canada, marine and coastal areas are protected in a number of different ways, including federal, provincial and First Nations designations. Examples of marine protected areas in Haida Gwaii include the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, the SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area, and the marine portions of the Haida Heritage Sites/Conservancies (CHNBC Protected Areas).

The Haida Gwaii Marine Plan identifies Protection Management Zones within the Haida Gwaii planning area, and will inform the MPA network planning process for the Northern Shelf Bioregion. For more information about MPA network planning in the Haida Gwaii area click here.

Marine Invasive Species

There are over thirty alien marine species in the waters of Haida Gwaii. Fortunately, most of these species have not yet been documented to have a significant negative impact on native ecosystems. However, there are some alien marine species that have already invaded parts of Haida Gwaii and are known to have caused significant ecological destruction in other areas.  These species include the European green crab, which was first detected in 2020, and two species of invasive tunicate (chain tunicate and star tunicate), which were first detected in 2007.  Preventing the spread of these known invaders and mitigating their impacts is a priority for Haida Gwaii.

The European green crab, chain tunicate, and star tunicate are currently the most threatening marine invasive species known in Haida Gwaii, but there are also several other marine alien species of concern.  Alien species that have already invaded Haida Gwaii and could be ecologically destructive include a Diplosoma tunicate, the Japanese skeleton shrimp, Japanese ogonori seaweed, and Japanese wireweed. There are also several alien marine species that have not yet been detected in Haida Gwaii, but are known threats that are likely to be ecologically destructive, including the invasive tunicate Sea Vomit.

Invasive Species
The Chain Tunicate (Botrylloides violaceus) was recently introduced to Haida Gwaii waters.  Invasive species of tunicates may outcompete other organisms for food and space, and pose risks to aquaculture, fishing and other coastal and offshore activities. © Lynn Lee
Invasive Tunicates

While there are some native tunicates in Haida Gwaii, the extensive, gelatinous and brightly coloured organic mats created by the recently introduced Chain and Star tunicates pose significant risks to the marine environment. Both species spread quickly, smothering native seaweeds, barnacles, shellfish and anything else in their path. These species of tunicates are also known to disrupt shellfish aquaculture operations by growing over cages and other infrastructure, creating a significant economic cost.


Invasive Species
The Star tunicate (Botryllus schlosseri) was recently introduced to Haida Gwaii waters. Invasive species of tunicates may outcompete other organisms for food and space, and pose risks to aquaculture, fishing and other coastal and offshore activities.© Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
European Green Crab

The European green crab is a voracious predator with a big appetite and undiscerning tastes, foraging on many different animals, including young Dungeness crabs and soft shell clams. Digging up eelgrass beds in the process, the green crab has been known to transform eelgrass beds, nurseries for young native crabs, salmon and other ocean creatures into barren mud flats. In the three years since the arrival of European green crabs, the Council of the Haida Nation, with support from provincial and federal partners, has launched a multi-pronged approach to dealing with this impervious crustacean. This includes monitoring, assessment, and depletion trapping, executed by both CHN staff and local contractors.

As part of implementation of the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan, the CHN is working with others to develop a strategy to prevent the introduction of new aquatic invasive species and stop the spread of species that are already on Haida Gwaii. This will include an expanded monitoring program, and a survey of vessel traffic (a key vector for introductions).


The European green crab (Carcinus maenas) was first detected on Haida Gwaii in 2020 in different locations in Skidegate Inlet. It’s most characteristic, identifying feature are the 5 spines, lateral to each eye. Please make sure to not confuse it with native crabs, that are green in colour, such as the native shore crab. © Gaëtan Lamarre








What We’ve Accomplished So Far

Assessment and depletion trapping efforts for European green crab have been ongoing since 2021. See what was accomplished over the span of the 2021 and 2022 Field Seasons here.






See something? Say something! 

If you come across any of these listed invaders in a new area of Haida Gwaii, please report the location and if possible a picture, to Your information will reach all management partners on Haida Gwaii.

2021 CHN EGC Infographic

2022 CHN EGC Infographic


Species at Risk

Several marine species that breed, live, or migrate through Haida Gwaii waters are considered to be at risk. These include several whale species, seabirds such as pink-footed shearwater and marbled murrelets, several species of rockfish, and northern abalone.

Section 6.3 of the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan provides additional information on human uses and activities that threaten these species, and objectives and strategies to support their protection and recovery. For a comprehensive list of species at risk in Haida Gwaii waters, see Appendix 4 of the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan.

For more information about current research and monitoring of Haida Gwaii species at risk, see the Haida Gwaii Marine Stewardship Group website. The HGMSG is made up of community and conservation organizations, individuals and government agencies, including the CHN Fisheries Program.

Iinang Pacific Herring

Pacific Herring

Pacific Herring, known in Haida as iinang, are an important prey species in the coastal ecosystem. Their wellbeing is essential to many other animals in the foodweb. Their eggs, for example, are consumed by gulls, diving ducks, starfish, snails, and grey whales, while the larvae are eaten by filter feeding fish, zooplankton, amphipods, and jellyfish. Juveniles and adults are eaten by marine mammals such as harbour seals, fur seals, and sealions, and fish such as Pacific cod, dogfish, Pacific hake, lingcod, sablefish, and salmon.

Iinang are also a species with important cultural significance. The arrival of herring into the bays and inlets of Haida Gwaii each spring signals the beginning of a seasonal cycle of food gathering. K’aaw, herring roe-on-kelp, is a staple Haida food and is eaten fresh, dried, or salted for trade or storage.

Haida fishermen have also participated in commercial fisheries for iinang and k’aaw. However, stock levels in Gwaii Haanas have been chronically low since 1995 and size-at-age has been decreasing since the mid-1980s. The Haida Gwaii herring roe fishery was closed in 1998 and has had very limited openings since then, with the last opening in 2002. Commercial spawn-on-kelp fisheries in southern Haida Gwaii have been closed since 2005.

DFO opened commercial fisheries in Gwaii Haanas in 2014 but the CHN reached an agreement with the industry not to proceed with a fishery. The following winter, the Haida Nation successfully sought an injunction to stop the 2015 roe herring fishery on Haida Gwaii. In December, 2015 DFO announced that Haida Gwaii would remain closed to commercial herring fisheries for the following season.

Work on developing a local EBM fisheries framework and the renewal of the regional herring management framework is ongoing through the Gwaii Haanas integrated management planning process and coastwide management processes. In addition, the CHN Marine Planning Program is currently partnered with a number of research initiatives seeking to learn more about herring, including:

Want to learn more? Watch Haida Gwaii: Restoring the Balance for more information about Haida concerns about iinang.

Sustainable fisheries

The Haida Gwaii Marine Plan focuses on the long-term sustainability of fisheries in Haida Gwaii waters, with the goals of preventing negative trends and restoring degraded fish populations and habitat.

On Haida Gwaii, there are three general types of fisheries:

Haida traditional fisheries

Fishing for food and trade occurs throughout Haida Gwaii and is an important aspect of Haida culture. Continuity of traditional fishing and cultural fishing practices and activities are critical to the future of Haida communities.

Section 6.5 of the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan provides additional information on Haida traditional fisheries, and objectives and strategies for protecting traditional use activities for present and future generations.

Recreational fisheries

Recreational fishing is a significant tourist activity in Haida Gwaii and is also an important source of food for many island families throughout the year. The growth of the recreational fishing sector on Haida Gwaii has resulted in a number of social and economic concerns, including limited local economic benefits, potential impacts on Haida traditional use of marine resources, and access to marine areas by island residents.

Section 6.5 of the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan provides additional information on the social and cultural impacts associated with the recreational fishery on Haida Gwaii, and objectives and strategies for addressing these impacts.

Commercial fisheries

Commercial fisheries on Haida Gwaii are an important part of the broader marine economy: they contribute an average landed value of more than $80 million to the provincial economy. On average, the value of Sablefish, Pacific Halibut, and Dungeness Crab landings currently account for approximately 80% of the value of all landings in Haida Gwaii waters. The long-term sustainability of these and other fisheries is a priority for the Haida Nation, as are increasing local benefits from commercial fishing activities that occur around the archipelago.

Section 6.4 of the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan provides additional information on objectives and strategies that will address some of the ecological issues related to the fisheries economy in Haida Gwaii waters.

Climate change

The continued release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is contributing to global climate change. Rising sea levels and changing ocean circulation patterns will lead to regional and local effects that have ecological, economic, social and technological consequences.

Haida Gwaii has several low-lying coastal communities that are vulnerable to sea level rise and extreme weather events. All communities on Haida Gwaii depend on goods delivered from the mainland via transportation linkages that are also susceptible to interruption due to intense storm events. Similarly, on-island transportation routes and power and communications transmission are affected by weather. Island-wide, communities would benefit from proactive planning to prepare for, mitigate, and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Section 6.8 of the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan provides additional information on the potential effects of climate change, and associated objectives and strategies for Haida Gwaii.