DFO Responses November, 2010 to RRPAB recommendations of April 24 2010

Race Rocks Public Advisory Board 2010
Recommendations for DFO April 24, 2010 – DFO Responses November, 2010

For the PDF version See: dforesponsetorrpab

Background

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has reactivated a 1999 proposal to establish Race Rocks as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) under the Oceans Act. As a consequence, a new round of community consultations was launched in September of 2009. The RRPAB is composed of community representatives and Race Rocks stakeholders including Pearson College who presently funds and provides the Ecoguardian at Great Race, private businesses, recreational users, the education sector, research interests, the Ecological Reserve Volunteer Warden and several conservation/environmental protection groups. Various government departments and agencies at the federal and provincial levels are also included.

Community based members of the RRPAB donate their time to the process. Most are volunteers or are obliged to take time off from their regular work to participate. They receive no compensation or expense recovery.

A similar Board was established to advise DFO in the failed 1999-2002 designation process. Many members of the previous Board also sit on the current Board and have gained extensive knowledge of Race Rocks and the MPA designation process over a period of many years. The racerocks.com website is a comprehensive and authoritative repository of information regarding all aspects of Race Rocks and the entire MPA process.

BC Parks, through existing Ecological Reserve (ER) protection at Race Rocks, has been involved for over 30 years. A comprehensive management plan for the ER is in place. While the ER includes the islets and sea floor it does not include the federally controlled water column. It is assumed that DFO and the province are engaged in government to government discussions to link the existing ER and proposed MPA management protocols.

First Nations consultation is being conducted in an entirely separate process by DFO. A First Nations consultant sits on the RRAPB as a liaison. Invitations have been extended by the members of the Board for First Nations to participate directly in the RRAPB process but the consultant reports that these invitations have been declined at this time.

Meetings of the RRPAB have taken place on September 25, 2009, November 26, 2009 and March 24, 2010. The primary focus of these meetings has been on updating a values/use table from the perspective of each RRPAB member and outlining the details of the MPA process. While some comments and advice from RRPAB members have been injected into the discussions there has not yet been an opportunity for the RRPAB to provide comprehensive advice and recommendations to DFO.

On April 19, 2010 an informal meeting of the RRPAB was convened by board members to draft a set of recommendations for DFO staff to consider. The purpose was to gather information to advance the MPA process in a constructive and efficient manner. All members of the RRPAB, including DFO staff, were invited to attend. These notes are intended to outline the written submissions and discussions arising from this effort. These recommendations are in draft form only and subject to revision and further discussion.

1

Procedural Requests

There are three procedure related requests that are relevant to the ongoing process of the RRPAB. These recommendations are provided on the understanding that these requests will be accepted by DFO. For some reason none of these issues were complications in the previous round of consultations in 1999-2002 which occurred under the same legislation.

: We have been told by DFO staff that the management plan cannot be developed until after designation. Some of the recommendations are large picture management issues. It is the view of the majority of the RRPAB, and especially the current users of the area, that these issues must be discussed in advance of designation. It would be unreasonable for those currently engaged in activities at Race Rocks to agree to designation without some understanding of the impact of MPA regulations on long established businesses, recreation, research and education activities. The RRPAB will require a response to each recommendation from DFO with comment and a summary of regulatory intent in advance of designation. The Draft ER/MPA Management Plan adopted by DFO and the RRAB as a result of the pre-designation discussions in 2002 is a good example of appropriate documentation.

  • DFO has started drafting a Management Plan, and where possible, is incorporating RRPAB recommendations into the plan. This draft plan will be shared with the Board, looking for advice and input. (May 28, 2010 RRPAB Meeting Minutes).
  • The Management Plan cannot be finalized until after designation.
  • As is standard practice with regulatory development, an assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposed regulatory approach on Canadians is prepared in advance of designation and can be shared with the RRPAB.A recommendation in favour of designation will be conditional upon reaching an understanding on these recommendations.

    : Some confusion has emerged regarding the DFO policy objectives for an MPA. It is our view that research, education, public awareness and outreach are all important aspects of a successful MPA strategy. This is in accordance with materials the Government of Canada has published as the declared MPA strategy for the past 10 years. If the MPA Strategy has changed we request an explanation and justification.

    • The MPA Strategy being referred to is a federal-provincial draft MPA Strategy in the form of a Discussion Paper, not a DFO document, and was never finalized. The Strategy proposed objectives for a marine protected area strategy for the entire coast, some of which went beyond scope of Oceans Act MPAs, and include objectives related to the mandates of other federal and provincial agencies (i.e. Parks Canada, Environment Canada, BC Parks, etc.). The old DFO website identified the objectives in this Strategy, without clarifying that they were not just DFO objectives. It was therefore misleading because it was unclear that these were not Oceans Act MPA objectives but objectives inclusive of several agencies’/ ministries’ mandates.
    • The new website is clear: Oceans Act MPA objectives are tied to the Oceans Act mandate (in order to protect and conserve commercial and non-commercial fishery resources and their habitats; endangered marine species and their habitats; unique habitats; marine areas of high biodiversity or biological productivity; and any other marine resource or habitat necessary to fulfill the Minister’s mandate.). Nothing has changed with respect to the purpose of Oceans Act MPAs.
    • Oceans Act MPAs are a flexible conservation tool. Those activities that are compatible with the proposed conservation objectives of the MPA will be permitted. A decision regarding whether research, education, public awareness and outreach will be permitted within the proposed Race Rocks MPA will be based on an assessment of their compatibility with stated conservation objectives. The proposed regulatory approach will be determined in consultation with the RRPAB.

• Note that the draft 1998 federal/provincial strategy is currently being updated, with intent to finalize it. (May 28, 2010 RRPAB meeting minutes) : Given the fact the previous designation legislation was changed without the knowledge of the RRAB in 2002 we think it is important that once all consultations are complete, if the designation proceeds, the RRPAB has an opportunity to examine the final version of the legislation before it proceeds to the gazette stage.

  • It is our intention to share the regulatory intent document with the RRPAB; this document informs the Regulation drafting instructions prepared for Department of Justice. (Christie Chute email to K. Conley March 23, 2010)
  • Should legal or constitutional issues arise during formal regulatory drafting that result in changes to the original regulatory intent, the RRPAB will be advised of these changes verbally prior to publishing the regulations in the Canada Gazette Part 1.
  • It should be noted that finalized regulations are considered secret and cannot be shared with external parties.
  • In addition to our commitment to consult on the finalized regulatory intent, and to inform the RRPAB of any changes to the intent during regulatory drafting, there will also be a final opportunity to comment when the regulations are published in the Canada Gazette Part 1.The Next Steps

    We ask that discussion of these draft recommendations be placed on the agenda as a priority item with an adequate time allocation at the next meeting of the RRPAB. As the recommendations are in draft form only it is important that all members have the opportunity to comment, revise and add to the recommendations. The objective should be to produce a comprehensive set of recommendations that are adopted by consensus.

    It is not expected that DFO staff will respond to the recommendations at this meeting as it is likely staff will require time to consider the implications. It would be very worthwhile for RRPAB members to provide clarification for DFO staff at this meeting if there are any questions or concerns.

    Future consideration should be given to a 1-2 day facilitated workshop to wrap up the consultation process. This major investment of volunteer Board member time should only occur once the First Nation’s consultation reaches a satisfactory conclusion.

• Given the timelines associated with preparation of regulatory intent and the need for DFO to solicit valuable Board input on several components that will form the regulatory intent , DFO is planning on having two meetings:

  •  one meeting in the fall to solicit input on the draft Management Plan, draft Ecosystem Overview and Assessment Report, draft Socio-Economic Report, and responses to these Recommendations, and
  • a final meeting in late winter 2011 to review the regulatory intent that will be used to inform drafting of the regulations.
  • Ongoing input on the various components of the Regulatory Intent will be sought via email.
  • As was shared with the Board at the May 28, 2010 RRPAB meeting, DFO does not have funds available to hold a two-day, facilitated workshop.

3

Recommendations
1. General Recommendations

1. a The present level of environmental protection at Race Rocks must not be diminished in any way as a consequence of the MPA designation.

  • To be addressed in Regulations.
  • Also covered by Race Rocks Ecological Reserve designation, Fisheries Act.
  • The 1st Order Conservation Objective is proposed to be: To protect and conserve an area of high biological productivity and biodiversity, providing habitat for fish and marine mammals, including threatened and endangered species.
  • A 2nd Order Conservation Objective is proposed to be: Impacts from human activities in the area will not compromise the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem function of the Race Rocks Marine Protected Area.
  • At the next RRPAB meeting, DFO will be seeking input into the Conservation Objectives.1. b All business, recreation, education and research activities presently occurring at Race Rocks must be allowed to continue within the MPA boundaries and such activities must be allowed to adapt with emerging methods and technologies. Any proposed restrictions on these existing activities in the future may only be implemented once evidence of need is provided and consultation with stakeholders takes place.
    • To be addressed in Regulations and Management Plan.
    • Activities to be allowed in the MPA boundaries must be compatible with the ConservationObjectives (compatible/incompatible activities).
    • Board input/advice to Conservation Objectives will be sought.1. c The MPA management plan must be patterned on and integrated with the existing Ecological Reserve management plan to maximise efficiency, streamline management procedures, avoid overlapping regulations and minimise bureaucracy.
  • The jurisdictions of the Race Rocks proposed MPA and the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve are not the same, and requirements for a management plan for an Ecological Reserve are different than the requirements for a management plan for Oceans Act MPA’s; therefore it is not feasible to amend the existing ER Management Plan as an MPA Management Plan.
  • DFO recognizes that the Ecological Reserve Management Plan was developed in close consultation with the former Race Rocks Advisory Board, and wherever possible, will try and use aspects of the ER Management Plan, if they apply to the proposed MPA.
  • DFO will endeavor to create conservation objectives for the Race Rocks MPA that complement those developed for the Ecological Reserve; the MPA draft Management Plan will be developed to support these Conservation Objectives. Board input will be sought in the development of the draft Management Plan.1. d The key roles of BC Parks and Pearson College and the existence of the Ecological Reserve must be recognised in the future operation of Race Rocks MPA. In addition, there should be an ongoing role for community advisors from the stakeholder groups in the development and evolution of the ER/MPA management plan through a permanent Operations Advisory Board.

• DFO recognizes the significant role that partners (including BC Parks and Pearson College) play in the designation of the Race Rocks MPA, as well as providing advice for the management of the MPA.

  • Board input to the draft Management Plan will be sought.
  • Following designation of the MPA, the pre-designation Advisory Board will be dissolved and an MPA Advisory Board (comprised of key partners and stakeholders with interests in the management of the MPA) will be formed.1. e The continued human presence of an Eco-Guardian in residence on Great Race Rock is an essential requirement for continued protection of the MPA. DFO should also commit to additional enforcement resources through DFO officers and RCMP.

• •

As funding is allocated by appropriation every fiscal year, we cannot commit to this. Requirements for additional and/or necessary monitoring and enforcement are identified during the regulatory process
“Surveillance, Enforcement and Compliance” is also a section of the Management Plan; Board input will be sought in development of the draft Management Plan.

1. f DFO should share in the on-site costs of maintaining the Eco-Guardian at Race Rocks as a key element of the enforcement plan. It is important that this funding be applied to enhance the programs on the ‘ground’ within the MPA.

  • As funding is allocated by appropriation every fiscal year, we cannot commit to this.
  • “Surveillance, Enforcement and Compliance” is a section of the Management Plan; Board input will be sought in development of the draft Management Plan.
  • A challenge common to all MP A ’ s is monitoring; the role played by the Eco-Guardian provides a great opportunity for partnering to help achieve monitoring goals.1. g Given the high priority placed on the precautionary principle in the Oceans Act a permanent moratorium should be put in place on all harvesting of any resources within the MPA. First Nation’s treaty rights to harvest should be respected provided adequate levels of research first show clear evidence such harvesting is ecologically sustainable and will have negligible impact on the MPA baseline inventory. If First Nations conduct any harvest all take should be reported.
    • To be discussed in the context of regulatory intent development and addressed in Regulations.
    • Activities to be allowed in the MPA boundaries must be compatible with the Conservation Objectives (compatible/incompatible activities).
    • Board input/advice to Conservation Objectives will be sought.
    • All MPAs permit First Nations Food, Social and Ceremonial fisheries, consistent with the provisions of the Constitution Act.
    • DFO is working towards agreement with local First Nations to assist DFO in the effective management of the MPA1. h It should be recognised that the sports fishing community as represented by the Sports Fishing Advisory Board voluntarily gave up the opportunity to fish in the MPA as part of their commitment to preservation of ecosystems and regeneration of stocks through the concept of refuges as valued sources of high productivity.
  • The draft Management Plan for the Race Rocks MPA will include a section on the “Management Framework”. This management measure can be outlined within the Management Plan.
  • Board input/advice to the draft Management Plan will be sought.
  • DFO recognizes and is appreciative of the commitment to conservation shown by user groups within the proposed MPA.

1. i The MPA should remain open to public users with reasonable limitations on appropriate use defined in the management plan in consultation with the Operations Advisory Board.

  • To be discussed in the context of regulatory intent development and addressed in Regulations.
  • Activities to be allowed in the MPA boundaries must be compatible with the Conservation Objectives (compatible/incompatible activities).
  • Board input/advice to Conservation Objectives will be sought.1. j If possible, personal watercraft and hovercraft should be banned from the MPA. If this is not possible they should be subject to strict speed and proximity limits.
  • To be discussed in the context of regulatory intent development and addressed in Regulations.
  • Activities to be allowed in the MPA boundaries must be compatible with the ConservationObjectives (compatible/incompatible activities).
  • Board input/advice to Conservation Objectives will be sought.1. k Given the financial constraints facing government, the RRPAB should be consulted before future contracts are awarded to consultants. Some of the past work DFO has contracted related to Race Rocks is inadequate and considerable data and expertise based on local knowledge is available from members of the RRPAB.
    • Most of the contractual work required for satisfying the Regulatory Intent requirements for Race Rocks is complete, with the exception of the Socio-economic Report. Pearson College has been awarded a small contract to update the socioeconomic report, which will require significant input from RRPAB members.
    • DFO is appreciative of the Board’s willingness to provide knowledge and expertise to this report.2. Science and Education Recommendations

      2. a DFO should support ongoing research within the MPA to advance the understanding of the ecosystem. This should include such basic practices as monitoring baseline inventories, permanent plots or observation sites and a commitment to long term studies.

  • Following development of the Conservation Objectives for the MPA, a scientific monitoring program for the MPA will be developed in conjunction with DFO Science.
  • The program will be comprised of the following: