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$25M funding boost to better protect and clean North and Central Coast waters

Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative rec.’s $4M under Clean Coast, Clean Waters program
Waters of the B.C. north and central coasts, as seen in the Khutzeymateen and near the Great Bear Rain Forest, will be better protected and clean after a part of a $25 million investment boosts the Coastal First Nations - Great Bear Initiative to offer stewardship under the Clean Coast, Clean Waters program. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Waters along the B.C. North Coast will be cleaner and more protected with part of a $25 million boost to the Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative, announced the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy on May 30.

The Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative, under the latest funding, is helping to protect and restore B.C.’s marine environment with projects to remove derelict vessels and clean up marine debris along the 4,600 kilometres of shoreline. The program is creating more than 1,700 jobs. The financial boon will more than double the provincial investment to $50 million, a media statement reads.

“These shoreline cleanup projects are not just important for keeping coastal territories clean, they also support the transfer of Indigenous knowledge and practices to a younger generation,” said Christine Smith-Martin, CEO of Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative.

“By sharing their success stories, best practices and challenges in marine debris collection and monitoring, First Nations across the North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii continue to work together as stewards of the land and sea.”

The Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative is an alliance of nine First Nations along B.C.’s North and Central Coasts and Haida Gwaii. They include the Council of the Haida Nation, Skidegate, Old Massett, Metlakatla, Gitxaala (Kitkatla), Heiltsuk (Bella Bella), Nuxalk (Bella Coola), Gitga’at (Hartley Bay), Kitasoo/Xai’xais (Klemtu), and Wuikinuxv.

The allied Nations aim to restore and protect ecosystems through sustainable resource management practices, which promote self-sufficiency and improve the quality of life for people in these communities.

More than $4 million of the complete funding will be directed at the Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative, bringing its total funding under the program to $7.5 million since 2020. The remaining $21 million will be awarded to successful funding applicants through a merit-based assessment process administered by PwC Canada.

Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen, MLA for Stikine, said the Clean Coast, Clean Waters initiative has removed more than 1,500 tonnes of marine debris to date, including 118 derelict vessels.

“Preventing and cleaning up marine pollution is essential to a healthy and productive coast and is one aspect of our vision for B.C.’s future as we develop a Coastal Marine Strategy in partnership with First Nations,” Cullen said.

Clean Coast, Clean Waters is part of the CleanBC Plastics Action Plan. Its goal is to reduce plastic waste and pollution. The government is developing B.C.’s first Coastal Marine Strategy to govern and plan for securing vast marine ecosystems and blue economy in the long term. The strategy guides improved stewardship of coastal marine environments, advances reconciliation with First Nations and fosters coastal community resilience.

Under the program, marine debris is collected and managed with the goal of recycling as much as possible to reduce the amount of material going to landfills. To date, 64 per cent of shoreline materials have been recycled or upcycled. Recyclable items are sent to the Ocean Legacy Foundation facility in Steveston for processing into new products, such as pellets that can be used to create new plastic materials.

“I am honoured to stand with First Nations and partner organizations who are taking a leadership role in cleaning up marine debris and plastic pollution. The Clean Coast, Clean Waters projects have and continue to help protect and restore the health of our marine ecosystems. All British Columbians deserve access to a healthy environment,” said George Heyman, minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

“As part of our government’s broader CleanBC Plastics Action Plan to reduce plastic waste and pollution, these projects are protecting our coastlines for the benefit of our communities now and for the future.”

READ MORE: Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation creates their own Marine Protected Area in Great Bear Rainforest

READ MORE: Coastal First Nations hope black bear hunting ban revives Spirit bear populations

K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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