Evaluation of Proposed Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas in Marine Waters of British Columbia

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  • Using the DFO criteria for defining ecologically and biologically significant areas (EBSAs), 18 EBSAs are proposed in the northern shelf ecoregion (Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area; PNCIMA), 7 EBSAs are proposed in the southern shelf ecoregion (west coast of Vancouver Island), and 8 EBSAs are proposed in the Strait of Georgia. On the spatial scale of the British Columbia coast, the entire Strait of Georgia is proposed as a single EBSA.
  • Identifying areas which are important for species or groups of species based on uniqueness, aggregation, fitness consequences, resilience, and naturalness (“Important Areas”) is a key step in the EBSA identification process. The use of physical oceanographic features, geographic bottlenecks, and unique areas that overlap with species-specific Important Areas is an acceptable approach to identifying EBSAs in Canada’s Pacific marine waters. Any physical oceanographic features or geographic bottlenecks that are not associated with species’ Important Areas are not considered as EBSAs.
  • Information on species’ Important Areas must be retained in an available and accessible form. This information may be important for some management and spatial planning issues. Updates on information related to Important Areas or physiographic features may also lead to future updates in the EBSAs which reflect these Important Areas and physiographic features.
  • Guidance is needed for marine resource managers on how best to use EBSAs in management decisions. Such guidance should include how to deal with the uncertainty surrounding the exact location of boundaries of the identified EBSAs.
  • The process of identifying ecologically significant species (ESSs) should be completed to provide complementary information to spatially-explicit EBSAs.
  • EBSAs in any one ecoregion should be re-evaluated and updated with new information approximately every 5 years.
  • Significant aspects for improvement in the process for identifying EBSAs in Pacific Region include expanding the fish species considered beyond those of primarily commercial interest, expanding the range of experts surveyed to identify species’ Important Areas (and expanding the use of literature sources when available), and improving the consideration of nearshore areas (e.g. estuaries, river mouths, beaches and other shallow subtidal areas). At present, all estuaries and river mouths supporting anadromous species have been defined as EBSAs, although they are not mapped due to their small spatial scales.