RACE ROCKS – XwaYeN A Success Story for Community and Stakeholder Involvement

Fisheries and Oceans Canada - News Release


September 14, 2000

A Success Story for Community and Stakeholder Involvement
Located at the eastern entrance of Juan de Fuca Strait, Race Rocks or XwaYeN (pronounced shwai’yen) is an ecologically unique, small and rocky island system with high current subtidal and intertidal areas. The waters surrounding the Race Rocks area support significant biodiversity and biological productivity – a thriving community of marine mammals and birds, subtidal invertebrates, fish, and nutrient-rich kelp forests. Race Rocks was declared a candidate Marine Protected Area in September, 1998. To assist Fisheries and Oceans Canada and BC Parks in working toward the formal designation of Race Rocks (XwaYeN) MPA, a multi-stakeholder Race Rocks Advisory Board (RRAB) was established in 1999. Together, they began a process to develop Canada’s first Marine Protected Area (MPA).

While the current Ecological Reserve provides substantial protection of the natural and cultural heritage and values of the land and seabed, it does not have jurisdiction over the conservation and protection of the water column or for the living marine resources inhabiting the coastal waters surrounding Race Rocks. Implementing a Marine Protected Area will provide for a more comprehensive level of conservation and protection for the ecosystem than can be achieved by either an MPA or an Ecological Reserve on its own. Designating an MPA within the area corresponding to the Ecological Reserve will facilitate the integration and increase the synergy of conservation, protection and management initiatives under the respective authorities of the provincial and federal governments.

The Oceans Act provides for the development and implementation of plans for the integrated management of all activities with other agencies of the Government of Canada, with provincial governments and with affected Aboriginal organizations and coastal communities for the purposes of conservation and protection of Canada’s oceans.

Integrating the management of the terrestrial and marine components of the Race Rocks ecosystem requires a facilitated, coordinated, effective and efficient management of the area. A consensus-based approach proved to be the preferred method throughout the comprehensive consultation process. Candidate activities for cooperative management include marine mammal watching, guided diving, research and education, ballast water management as well as Department of National Defence programs conducted in the area.

The consultative process has identified and galvanized strong support for designation of Race Rocks as an MPA. This process has developed new trust-based relationships. The declaration of the MPA will maintain the level of positive momentum and stakeholder confidence that has now been established.

To facilitate the consultative process, the RRAB was established with representation from:

  • B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Aboriginal groups through the Coast Salish Sea Council
  • Parks Canada
  • Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific
  • Department of National Defence
  • the Scientific community
  • the Friends of Ecological Reserves
  • the Dive community
  • the Georgia Strait Alliance
  • Sport Fish Advisory Board – Victoria representing the recreational fishing community
  • local marina operators
  • Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and
  • The Northwest Whale Watchers Association – Victoria

The role of the Race Rocks Advisory Board role was to:

  • represent key constituent groups or stakeholders;
  • provide advice to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and BC Parks on the consultation process;
  • collate and analyze feedback from consultations;
  • make consensus-based recommendations to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and BC Parks for the establishment of a marine protected area in the waters surrounding Race Rocks; and
  • ensure community involvement in the establishment and on-going management of Race Rocks MPA.

In addition to sectoral consultations with stakeholders, two public sessions were conducted in February 2000. The public consultations were held to provide opportunities for information and discussion with those persons not represented by particular interest groups. With an attendance of 101 persons, the consultations provided useful fora for the discussion of both the MPA and Ecological Reserve aspects of the initiative. Results of these discussions indicated a high level of support for establishment of a Marine Protected Area at Race Rocks to complement the area’s Ecological Reserve status.

Management recommendations submitted to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and BC Parks reflect the outcome of a consensus-based process by the Race Rocks Advisory Board and directions expressed by the public, stakeholders and other partners through consultations conducted over a two-year period. In recognition of the cultural and historical significance of the area, Race Rocks (XwaYeN) will be managed cooperatively by First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and BC Parks in consultation with the RRAB.

The Race Rocks Advisory Board provided an excellent forum for issue identification, discussion and resolution. It has functioned well and guided the development of the proposed cooperative management regime. The resulting commitment to stewardship and cooperation in the protection of this area as an MPA has laid the groundwork for a management regime through voluntary compliance that is unprecedented.

Principal stakeholder groups participating on the RRAB have expressed a keen interest in not only developing “best practices” but also working towards ensuring a high degree of compliance. The development of stewardship initiatives and “best practices” guidelines has already commenced. Overall management will be achieved through a combination of regulatory actions and voluntary compliance guidelines for a number of activities and issues, such as recreational boating, diving practices, whale watching, education and research. Monitoring and assessment of the effectiveness of these guidelines will take place over a two-year period. Depending on the results, activity regulations can then be considered if necessary.