Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. I'm pleased to have been asked to join you for a brief discussion this morning about the use of marine protected areas in the management and protection of Canada's west coast.
As brief background on who we are, the Pacific Pilotage Authority is a federal crown corporation tasked with providing a safe and efficient marine pilotage system on the west coast of Canada. We supply marine pilots to all vessels over 350 gross tonnes. A pilot's primary duty is to take the conduct of the vessel while in compulsory waters and bring it from open water to alongside a dock in a safe and efficient manner. Pilots see themselves as stewards of the environment, and always have the safety of the vessel and the protection of the environment foremost on their minds.
The compulsory pilotage area on the west coast of Canada extends from Washington state in the south to the Alaskan border in the north, and includes all the waters of the Salish Sea and the Inside Passage. Basically, as a rule of thumb, if you extend every major point of land on the west coast by about two miles and join them all together, that's our area of jurisdiction. I have supplied a chartlet with these opening notes. Hopefully the committee can see it.
The advantage of such a large jurisdiction is that we have to be consulted on all new projects or significant changes in operation. This gives us the opportunity to conduct risk assessments and/or simulations—firstly, to ensure that a particular project is feasible from a navigational safety perspective, and secondly, to put in place mitigators if the level of safety required is lacking in some areas.
Over the past several years, the authority has been involved either directly or indirectly in the Pacific north coast integrated management area, or PNCIMA, which everybody knows; in a number of marine partnership initiatives, otherwise known as MaPPs; in the Scott Islands wildlife protection area; and in the glass sponge reefs marine protected area, just to name a few. In addition, there has recently been a Parks Canada initiative to institute a national marine conservation area in the southern Gulf Islands and the Haro Strait area. We were not consulted on this initiative at all.
There is an increasing need for a holistic coastal management system that is open and transparent and that meets both the environmental needs and the goals of international and local trade. For several years now, we have seen a multitude of initiatives being put forward by various groups and departments with very little interaction and synergy between those groups and departments. We were therefore gratified to see that the ministers' mandate letters contained a directive to work together on a number of initiatives.
The Oceans Act refers to Canada's promotion of the “integrated management of oceans and marine resources”. To us, the key word in this is “integrated”. This is really the only way to manage the various competing interests and protect the ecosystems. In our view, integrated means managing the ecosystems as well as the various human activities in the area, which of necessity should include commercial shipping.
The protection of the coastal environment is extremely important, and will only be achieved if there is a balanced approach with all aspects, including Canada's need to trade and keeping gateways to our international markets open. The ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert are the gateways to trade in Canada on the west coast and jointly handle more than 50% of the total trade in the country. As such, they need to be protected just as much as the pristine west coast environment. It is not as easy as some would think to relocate a transportation network.
Part of integrated management should mean conducting risk assessments on the marine traffic corridors, especially if there is pressure being brought to bear to move them as a result of the protection of a particular ecosystem. The assessment should include route planning that considers vessel manoeuvring characteristics, the nature of the geographic area, and the ability of vessels of a particular size to move safely in the new area. It should as well look at spill response planning and reaction times.
We fully expect that the oceans protection plan will include several new planning initiatives that will manage vessel movements, including the possible introduction of navigational corridors that take into consideration the concerns of coastal and indigenous communities.
In closing, I'd like to offer the following thoughts with regard to any marine protected areas under consideration.
First, any decisions to designate a particular area must be made based on factual scientific information, and not as a result of pressure by a particular community or interest group using the process for their own agenda.
Second, the use of technology should be embraced and utilized as a means of addressing specific issues of concern and for the protection of a species.
Third, we must ensure that the integrated management process is fully inclusive and addresses environmental concerns, indigenous and community concerns, as well as the need to ensure that Canada remains an international trading nation with access to the international market through the ports system.
Fourth, all relevant departments must work in an integrated manner in the planning process as soon as an area is considered for designation. There have been failures in the past as a result of federal departments operating in silos. While I do not believe this will happen again, given the various mandate letters, it needs to be kept in mind.
Last, I want to mention that the ports are vulnerable to U.S. competition now more than ever. Any deterioration in our level of service as a result of increased costs due to an MPA implementation could be utilized to erode the Canadian competitive advantage.
Thank you for the invitation to address you. I appreciate the opportunity.