A Steller sea lion dives under the Salish Seas of British Columbia

THE GREAT BEAR SEA

Much like the extraordinary diversity of landscapes that make up British Columbia's terrestrial environment, its marine ecosystems host a diverse array of habitat and species of global significance. A wide variety of habitats, ranging from deep fjords to inlets, and island groups, are owed to the strong tidal currents and deep upwellings. Jagged rocky shorelines and surf-swept coves line the exposed outer coasts of British Columbia. Offshore, continental shelves and seamounts force nutrient-rich water up from the depths, supporting dense concentrations of marine life, including large aggregations of whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and sharks. Species range from the ancient, including 9000-year-old glass sponge reefs in Hecate Strait, to the minuscule, like phytoplankton, to the very largest, like the fin and blue whales. Iconic species from this coast, like the Pacific salmon, Kermode bear, and the orca, are among the most powerful cultural icons in the world.

The extent, beauty, diversity, and productivity of BC’s marine ecosystems also means that they are the source of significant resources and commercial activity. Sadly, the exploitation, disturbance, and pollution associated with activities like logging, fish farming, and industrial activities continue to have detrimental effects on marine biodiversity and habitat. To better conserve marine ecosystems and the biodiversity they house and in hopes of fulfilling Canada's commitment to protecting 10 percent of its oceans by 2020, the scientific community, non-profit organizations and First Nations are increasingly clamoring for the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs). MPAs are parts of the ocean that are set aside and protected by law, to provide enduring and lasting protection for the species and habitats within their boundaries.

As a Party to the Convention of Biological Diversity, Canada has made a commitment to protect at least 10 percent of its oceans by 2020. SeaLegacy, in partnership with Pacific Wild will be working along the entire coast of British Columbia to celebrate the beauty and value of its marine resources and to shine a light on the threats facing it. Given the short time left to achieve 10 percent protection, we believe that a well thought out stakeholder engagement strategy along with an engaging communications campaign can generate the stakeholder support for this effort. Through storytelling, visual communications, social and traditional media, SeaLegacy and its partners can help create the excitement and build momentum to galvanize existing and potential new efforts.