SAANICH — Calls for the creation of a marine conservation area reserve for the southern Strait of Georgia surfaced during a town hall Monday night at Prospect Lake.
“The Liberal government must take meaningful action to protect the coastal ecosystems that our cultures and economies rely on in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke,” said MP Randall Garrison, who hosted the town hall at Prospect Lake Community Hall.
The Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP said that the southern Strait of Georgia is a vibrant and ecologically sensitive area which also sees high volumes of human activity.
“With adequate regulations and protections, human use can continue in sustainable ways in the Saanich Inlet,” he said in support of the proposed marine conservation area.
The meeting drew a crowd of close to 100 people, who were provided with updates from Parks Canada and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).
Representatives from both organizations told attendees that a marine conservation area reserve in the Southern Strait of Georgia would provide protection for the sensitive and diverse ecosystem, while allowing human use to continue.
The Southern Strait of Georgia, which includes the Saanich Inlet, is one of the busiest waterways on the Pacific Coast of North America and is home to numerous First Nations. Despite the complexities finding a path to implementation of the marine conservation area is both crucial and achievable.
“The southern Strait of Georgia, found between Vancouver and Victoria, is home to Canada’s most endangered orca whales and more than 3,000 other marine species, including the world’s largest octopus, 100-year-old rockfish, and millions of sea birds. These species deserve to be protected through a national marine conservation area reserve,” said Ross Jameson, ocean conservation co-ordinator with CPAWS.
Garrison told the crowd that with only 76 southern resident killer whales remaining, he is more insistent than ever that the Liberal government take concrete action to protect the coastal environment.
“So far, the Liberals have been all talk and their actions fall short. I am calling on the Liberal government to provide swift and comprehensive environmental protection for the Southern Strait of Georgia,” he said.
Garrison isn’t the first politician to get behind the idea. Former NDP MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, Gary Holman, was a strong advocate to the concept — which had been first floated years ago.
Holman in 2016 called on Ottawa and Victoria to resume talks on the conservation area, after they started more than 20 years ago.
“It has been a concept for around 20 years,” Holman said in an interview. “And it’s seen as a compliment to the (existing) Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.”
— Black Press, with files from the Peninsula News Review