Marine Ecosystem Reference Guide

collaborative management

Through partnerships with First Nations, governments, communities, and local groups, West Coast Aquatic has gathered over 300 data layers representing the best available traditional, local and scientific knowledge for Barkley and Clayoquot Sounds. The Guide provides recommendations on how to increase the compatibility between human activities and ecological, social and cultural values, and can be used by:

  • Governments to ensure that decision making is ecosystem based and inclusive of cultural, ecological, social and recreational values;

  • First Nations when assessing potential impacts to aboriginal rights during referral management/consultation;

  • Industry to identify appropriate areas for economic development to take place;

  • Academia to access regional information about potential study sites, and to have an online platform where research results can be geospatially referenced; and

  • Interested public to learn more about activities and values in the region, and foster a culture of stewardship.

We're now testing the online site through Feb. 2017! Check it out, and we'd be pleased to get your feedback.

Everyone has a role to play in developing and maintaining the health and wealth of our coastal resources and communities.


Marine Ecosystem
Reference Guide

From 2010 to 2014, West Coast Aquatic and partners worked to gather information concerning local environments and natural resources, economies, social systems and different uses and activities in the Barkley and Clayoquot Sound regions. The goal was to develop a product that would support integrated, ecosystem-based management on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Through interviews, meetings, online surveys and public events, West Coast Aquatic has gathered over 300 data layers from many different communities, groups and individuals, representing a comprehensive body of indigenous, local, and scientific knowledge. The result of these efforts is the Marine Ecosystem Reference Guide (MERG).

Within MERG, each Sound has been delineated into marine units, or ‘neighbourhoods’, that are based on existing administrative boundaries, biophysical characteristics and common uses and activities. The characteristics of each marine unit contributes to a description of its suitability for various uses and activities, and its vulnerability to a variety of stressors. Recommendations for each marine unit have been driven by a number of factors including an assessment of the area’s ecology, any potential conflicts between uses, emerging economic opportunities, and extensive public input on values and trade-offs.

West Coast Aquatic partnered with researchers at Stanford University to help inform the recommendations. Using a tool called Marine InVEST, different scenarios for development within an area were looked at and the potential trade-offs were identified. The intent was to achieve a much greater sense of how the region’s economies can develop and grow without sacrificing the environment, recreation or culture.

West Coast Aquatic also used Marxan, a conservation planning decision support tool. Marxan helped identify areas of high conservation value, while taking into consideration areas that are important to human uses and activities, and avoiding conflicts between the two. Within MERG, Ecologically Significant Areas have been mapped as an outcome of this analysis.

Sector review sessions were held through 2015, and public review sessions were held in the spring of 2016. Final edits were made based on the input received. Esri has developed the online platform through which map layers will be available for interactive viewing. MERG is being beta tested by our partners, and will be online in March 2017! Watch for our announcement.

Implementation of MERG will involve West Coast Aquatic working closely with all levels of government, communities and businesses. Training sessions will be provided so the full value of MERG’s information can be utilized. Discussions will also continue to explore how MERG can be used to support initiatives such as planning, policy development, conservation, economic development, research, and public education.

Information within MERG will be regularly expanded and updated, and a scheduled review process will ensure that recommendations are still relevant, and use designations are adapted as appropriate.