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National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada

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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan

Vancouver Island Shelf

The Water

The continental shelf varies in width from 20-80 km and slopes gradually offshore. Large portions of the shelf have been influenced by glaciation, leaving behind shallow banks, deep basins and troughs. Currents create upwelling as they encounter these features, while prevailing winds generate upwelling along The Coast in spring and summer. These upwellings create an environment ideal for plankton growth which supports dense concentrations of fish as well as marine birds and mammals.

The Coast

A combination of uplift and erosion has created a complex and rugged coast — inlets, headlands, islands, reefs, sea caves, vertical sea cliffs bordered by flat stone benches, shallow bays, rocky intertidal zones, small deltas and extensive, though isolated, sand and gravel beaches are all part of this wave-battered coast.

The Wildlife

Productivity throughout this region is high. A variety of intertidal and subtidal habitats ensures a corresponding assortment of benthic communities. Important salmon and steelhead trout rivers are present throughout the region, while a variety of commercial fish species spawn off The Coast. Elusive six-gilled sharks, normally living at depths of over 1200 m, come into the shallow waters of Barkley Sound every year. The largest groupings of breeding seabirds in British Columbia are found in this region, mainly on Triangle and Sartine Islands. About 900,000 pairs breed in the region, dominated overwhelmingly by Cassin's auklets. The inlets along The Coast are used widely by tens of thousands of grebes, diving ducks and gulls. In the spring, more than 21,000 migrate along the West Coast to summer feeding grounds in the north, though several dozen individuals spend the summer in the region. colonies are flourishing.


This region is partly represented by the marine component of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve(155 km²). The boundaries of Pacific Rim extend to the 20 m line offshore the Long Beach and West Coast Trail units of the park, while another portion surrounds the Broken Islands Group. Studies have indicated that the park's marine component could serve as the "nucleus" of an outstanding national marine conservation area at some future date, although boundary modifications would be necessary to improve its overall representativeness. (For details on the establishment process, see The NMCA Program.)

Last Updated: 2013-05-10 To the top
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