Coastal Programs

The Province of British Columbia (BC) has been involved in the management of coastal resources since the 1800's. Today, the provincial government is responsible for the management of over 29,500 km of shoreline and seabed in the inshore and nearshore waters of BC, and works with other levels of government on the management of resources under federal and local jurisdiction.

BC has developed a number of coastal resource programs in support of initiatives to address economic development and diversification, coastal threats, land and resource conflicts, First Nations issues, and to support informed decision making in the coastal zone.

Many of BC's provincial coastal information and analysis programs are managed by Corporate Information Services of the Integrated Land Management Bureau. Given the multi-jurisdictional nature of coastal environments, Corporate Information Services has been tasked with the coordination of coastal resource information and analysis, and certain policy development programs.

This summary provides a brief overview of coastal resource programs in BC, and where to get further information on each of these programs.

Program Components

1. Coastal Information Management

Information is fundamental in developing any comprehensive coastal planning or resource application. BC has been collecting coastal resource data in a systematic and synoptic manner since 1979. Resource information is collected using peer-reviewed provincial Resource Information Standards Committee which include standards for data management and analysis. Types of environmental resource information collected includes oceanographic, physiographic, and biological data. Examples of human-use information collected includes data on fisheries, traditional knowledge, coastal tenures and land uses, and recreation and tourism use and capability.

Coastal resource information is stored in the Coastal Resource Information Management System (CRIMS). This system is used to provide data and analyses for coastal resource management, conservation, protection and planning applications. Key components of this system include, data management, access, analysis, and the design of resource models to develop products for conservation, planning and resource management. The CRIMS currently consists of several integrated technologies including GIS and image processing software, digital video, and attribute data management system and a trajectory model (for oil spills). These different technologies have been integrated into a single system that is accessed through a custom designed user interface. The British Columbia Coastal Resource Information System is an internet based interactive map for viewing coastal and marine data

2. Oil Spill Planning and Response

The CRIMS system described above is also a key component in BC's oil spill response and countermeasures program. Corporate Information Services works closely with the petroleum industry to develop oil spill response and countermeasure strategies for the BC coast. These strategies include the development of the BC Biophysical Shore-zone Mapping System, which involves the systematic mapping of the coast to document the biophysical character of the shore zone. The underlying concept of the system is that the shore zone can be divided into discrete shore units on the basis of its physical character. The basis of the system is a shore unit, which identifies an area where the morphology (shape), sediment texture and physical process do not vary across or along the shore. Each shore unit can be further subdivided into components that are continuous across- or along- shore and are described in terms of their physical characteristics (morphology, sediment texture, dominant processes etc.). This physical system provides the framework for recording the biological character (e.g. species distribution and abundance) of each shore unit. This approach assumes the physical parameters of substrate, elevation and wave energy, as determined in the physical mapping are the main determinants of species distribution.

Oil spill response and countermeasures atlases have been developed for the west coast of Vancouver Island, the southern Strait of Georgia, and Burrard Inlet (underway) which provide information on coastal biophysical and human use resources and the sensitivity and vulnerability to both oiling and clean-up of these resources.

3. Marine Protected Areas Strategy

BC currently has 104 provincial and 19 federal Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) which comprise about 4.2% of BC's waters less than 1000 m deep. Corporate Information Services has developed a number of planning products to advance efforts to establish new MPAs and provide information for enhanced management planning of existing MPAs. These planning products include;

The British Columbia Marine Ecological Classification (BCMEC), which is a hierarchical marine classification consisting of four nested divisions based on physical properties, and a fifth division based on current, depth, relief, substrate, salinity, slope, stratification, temperature and wave exposure. The fifth division - termed ecounits - was created at a considerably larger scale (1:250,000), and is the first example of a large-scale marine classification applied over a large area (453,000 km2). The ecounits were developed to evaluate the boundaries and homogeneity of the four larger divisions, as well as for the application to coastal management and marine protected areas planning.

BC has also developed a preliminary list of Valued Marine Environmental Features (VMEFs), which are key features of marine environments valued for their conservation (i.e. natural environment), recreational and cultural-heritage characteristics. Identification of VMEFs was based on a detailed and multi-disciplinary literature review along with discussions with experts in marine sciences, recreation and cultural-heritage resources. Examples of the various types of VMEFs include:

  •  Kelp beds - conservation VMEF
  •  Abandoned canneries - recreation VMEF
  •  Archaeological sites - cultural / heritage VMEF

BC has also been working on developing a MPA GAP analysis to identify representative and distinctive potential candidate areas for conservation. This work is based on the BCMEC, the VMEF work, and the identification of biophysical and human use values within existing MPAs. This work is also being used to identify existing provincial protected areas which may benefit from fisheries closures using federal legislation.

4. Coastal Planning, Management, and Monitoring

Since the early 1990's, the province has been using a land use planning framework to resolve land and resource use issues on terrestrial lands, and to assist in implementing the Protected Areas Strategy and Forest Practices Code. A primary emphasis has been on strategic level plans for regions and sub-regions, which then provide direction to more detailed, localized management or development planning.

The province has also initiated a number of integrated, consensus-based coastal management plans at both the strategic and local scales. At present, approximately half of the provincial coastal zone has been zoned by coastal planning, and plans are underway to complete coastal planning throughout the province.

To aid in the ongoing management of coastal environments, the province has initiated the development of a methodology to identify Marine Sensitive Areas (MSAs). MSAs are identified by using systematic intertidal and subtidal inventories to delineate sensitive and vulnerable habitats. The province has currently completed an intertidal MSA methodology and is currently developing a subtidal and offshore MSA methodology.

The province is also developing a trends monitoring program to evaluate environmental trends in the coastal zone as well as the effectiveness of coastal planning and MPA establishment efforts. These efforts are supported by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada and the Department of Natural Resources, Washington State.

Last Updated: 12.06.2006