West Coast Aquatic marine plan looks at bigger picture

West Coast Aquatic’s marine spatial plan will aid with more holistic decision making: executive director.

West Coast Aquatic management association executive director Tawney Lem hopes that the marine spatial plan will help with marine decision making.

Coexistence in the waters surrounding Port Alberni is about to get a lot simpler thanks to West Coast Aquatic’s marine spatial plan.

“What it does is it brings together the best available information,” said West Coast Aquatic management association executive director Tawney Lem. The group has released draft marine spatial plans for Barkley Sound and Clayoquot Sound.

“We’ve taken 300 data sets into 200 map layers,” Lem said.

The data sets include ecological values, social and recreational values, cultural values and the various uses of marine areas.

“Whether it’s fishing or marine transportation, kayak guiding, that kind of thing,” Lem said.

“By having all of the uses and all of the values mapped we can start to see how those things intersect. Essentially what this is, is a decision support tool.”

Key activities down the Alberni Inlet include sport and commercial fishing, marine transportation, First Nations, recreation and community development, Lem said.

Data sets were assembled using existing information; the marine spatial plan was then introduced to the public in a series of coastal and Alberni Valley meetings. Public input was invited to shape how the information will ultimately be presented.

The plan isn’t meant to lead development or recreation or industry in any particular direction; instead, it’s meant to provide more information to governments, first nations, businesses and organizations, she said.

“It’s to help them inform their decisions by seeing how all that information comes together.”

While marine spatial plan is currently named as it is, Lem said that the name will likely change before it is finalized to properly reflect its usage.

“It’s not a ‘plan’ in the sense that it tells you what to do. It is just a tool of information for decision makers. It’s important because it allows decision makers to look at things in a more holistic, ecosystem based way, instead of just thinking of one activity impacting maybe one area or value. We see how all the activities and values come together.”

The marine spatial plan could be used by a business like Pacific Seaplanes before making the decision to land in the Inlet.

Lem looked at Nahmint Bay as another hypothetical: “Here’s Nahmint Bay. Say if somebody was proposing a log boom for example or a shellfish tenure, what you could do is take a look at this and see that in Nahmint Bay we have mapped out areas of ecological significance, both for fish habitat and eel grass. By looking at that, you would then ask yourself ‘if we were to do a log boom or shellfish tenure, how might that impact those values?” Lem explained.

“Anywhere in the Barkley or Clayoquot sounds you could consult the maps and then start to think about the impact of an activity on a value.”

The plan isn’t meant to prioritize one value over another; it’s mean to simply inform.

“It’s not to exclude activities, it’s really meant to increase the compatibility of an activity by putting it in the right place and considering the values of communities and others.”

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