For Immediate Release
The Council of the Haida Nation and Government of Canada mark nearly 3 years of collaboration to improve safety and environmental protection since the establishment of the Voluntary Protection Zone for Shipping on the west coast of Haida Gwaii
June 20, 2023
Haida Gwaii and Vancouver, BC
In September 2020, the Council of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada announced a 14-month trial Voluntary Protection Zone (VPZ) for Shipping. The VPZ is part of the Proactive Vessel Management initiative under the Oceans Protection Plan. The goal of the VPZ is to increase the likelihood for a towing vessel to respond to a disabled or drifting vessel, or for a vessel to conduct repairs, thereby reducing the risk of grounding and oil spills by asking vessels 500 gross tonnage or greater transiting along the west coast of Haida Gwaii to remain a minimum 50 nautical mile distance from shore, with the following exemptions:
- Cruise vessels, who are asked to observe a minimum 12 nm distance from shore;
- Vessels transiting between Pacific Northwest ports (Washington, British Columbia, Alaska), who are asked to observe a minimum 25 nm distance from shore;
- Tugs and barges (includes pushing and towing alongside) and fishing vessels are fully exempt.
The VPZ is a result of partnership between the Council of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada and formal commitments under the Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Bioregional Oceans Management and Protection (RFA) to work together to protect the marine environment and improve marine safety, and is also the result of a significant collaboration with Canadian and US shipping industry associations.
Following the completion of the trial, the Council of the Haida Nation, Transport Canada and industry associations agreed to extend the VPZ to remain in place while long-term solutions are explored, including a potential submission to the International Maritime Organization for an Area to be Avoided designation on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. The Council of the Haida Nation have advocated for a safe distance offshore since the Russian cargo vessel, Simushir, lost power during a storm in October 2014 and came dangerously close to grounding on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. A vessel traffic analysis found that 50 nautical miles would allow adequate response time to prevent accidents with the presence of two dedicated emergency tow vessels.
The Council of the Haida Nation and Transport Canada continue to closely monitor the VPZ and traffic on the west coast of Haida Gwaii using Automatic Identification System (AIS) data gathered from the Enhanced Maritime Situational Awareness System. In 2022, 94% of vessels transiting the west coast of Haida Gwaii observed the VPZ. This represents a 5% increase in vessel remaining outside the VPZ compared to 2021.
“The Council of the Haida Nation acknowledges the ongoing efforts by industry and partner organizations to support the continued success of the Voluntary Protection Zone for Shipping on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. The VPZ represents an important first step towards long-term protection, and is an integral component of various collaborative initiatives that are ongoing to protect Haida Gwaii and the livelihoods that have long depended on the unique cultural and biological diversity of this area.”
Gaagwiis Jason Alsop
President of the Council of the Haida Nation
“The Haida Gwaii Voluntary Protection Zone for Shipping is a key measure to keep Haida Gwaii’s coasts and waterways safe. Partnerships and collaboration are core components of the Oceans Protection Plan and of this Voluntary Protection Zone project. Together with the Council of the Haida Nation, and with thanks to the many vessel operators participating in these voluntary measures, we are ensuring our oceans and coastlines will be cleaner and safer for generations to come.”
The Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport
- The Voluntary Protection Zone is part of the Proactive Vessel Management initiative under Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan. The Proactive Vessel Management initiative reduces conflicts between local waterway users and protects environmentally and culturally sensitive areas.
- The Voluntary Protection Zone supports realization of commitments made by Canada and the Council of Haida Nation in the Gwaii Haanas Gina ‘Waadluxan KilGuhlGa Land-Sea-People Management Plan.
- Council of the Haida Nation and Government of Canada announce 14-month trial Voluntary Protection Zone
- Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Bioregional Oceans Management and Protection
- Shipping traffic analysis and risk mitigation measures for the west coast of Haida Gwaii
- Enhanced Maritime Situational Awareness Initiative
- Haida Gwaii Voluntary Protection Zone for Shipping 2022 Report
Communications and Cultural Director
Council of the Haida Nation
Transport Canada, Ottawa