Canada's Pacific North Coast is a marine biologists dream. From the beaches to the greatest ocean depths, from microscopic creatures to the world's biggest animals, and from the life undersea to the things we can see, this ocean region supports a richness, abundance and diversity of life that is truly spectacular.
Read amazing stories about Canada's North Pacific Coast that include whale and dolphin encounters, along with other ocean wonders, from people who love the area, submitted to our Best Pacific Ocean Stories Ever campaign.
In September 2011, scientists, local participants, fishermen, environmental groups and First Nations were shocked when the federal government rejected previously approved funding for an integrated marine use plan.
This truly expansive and complex ocean region is similar in size to the Great Bear Rainforest, its spectacular land-based neighbour. The region includes the areas commonly known as the Queen Charlotte Basin, Hecate Strait, Central Coast, and northern Vancouver Island. Over half of the region's areas have been identified as ecologically and biologically significant by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The Canadian government named the area the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) in 2002 when, as part of its commitment under Canada's Ocean Act, it officially recognized the need for integrated management planning processes in five of Canada's most vulnerable ocean areas. It remains to be seen how the Canadian government will meet this commitment now that they have rejected independent funding for scientific analysis and community involvement.
The Pacific North Coast Integrated Management area is one of five federally designated Large Ocean Management Areas, or LOMAs. The other four LOMAs are the Eastern Scotian Shelf, Placentia Bay, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Beaufort Sea. These areas are supposed to undergo a planning process that aimed at improving management, developing conservation strategies and ensuring long-term ecosystem health.
Why is the Pacific North Coast special?
Check out this short video — an incredible underwater glimpse of this mysterious and seldom-viewed part of beautiful B.C.
The Pacific North Coast has a combination of complex oceanographic conditions and seafloor characteristics. With its channels, banks, deep troughs, eddies, upwellings, estuaries and depths ranging from zero to over 2,000 metres, it creates a wide range of ecological niches and in turn supports a diverse array of species.
About 45,000 square kilometres have been identified as ecologically and biologically significant areas by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The PNCIMA covers approximately 22 per cent of the total marine jurisdiction in Pacific Canada and includes major water bodies within the region such as Queen Charlotte Sound, Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance. About 34,000 people live in the area, with roughly a third of the population coming from First Nations communities.
The region is home to 9,000-year-old reefs of glass sponges. These reefs are gigantic, growning to the height of a five-storey building and covering 1,000 square kilometres of the seabed. Seabirds nest and raise their young in Canada's North Pacific in globally significant numbers, with a full eighty per cent of the world's Cassin's auklets found on a small group of islands known as the Scott Islands. Twenty-seven different types of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea lions can be found the region.
This rich biological foundation is critical to commercial fishing, which is conducted across the North Pacific seascape, presenting economic opportunity and ecosystem pressures.
Currently, fifty-five per cent of B.C.'s salmon farms are located within the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Areas, and there are many concerns about their impact on the ecosystem, especially on wild salmon.