Setting the stage for marine spatial planning: Ecological and social data collation and analyses in Canada's Pacific waters
Canada's Pacific coast is one region where there is a renewed commitment to pursue marine spatial planning (MSP). The British Columbia Marine Conservation Analysis (BCMCA) project aimed to set the stage for MSP, and was designed to provide resource managers, scientists, decision-makers, and stakeholders with a new set of resources to inform coast-wide integrated marine planning and management initiatives. Geographic Information Systems and the decision support tool Marxan were used to develop
... e used to develop two main products: (1) an atlas of known marine ecological values and human uses; and (2) analyses of areas of conservation value and human use value. 110 biophysical datasets and 78 human use datasets were collated and refined where applicable, as identified through five ecological expert workshops, one expert review of physical marine classification and representation, and guidance from the human use data working group. Ecological data richness maps and Marxan results show the importance of nearshore and continental shelf regions. Data richness maps for the six categories of human uses show that all, except shipping and transport, are also closely linked to the shoreline and continental shelf. An example ecological Marxan solution identifying areas of conservation value overlapped human use sector footprints by percentages ranging from 92% (i.e., 92% of planning units selected by Marxan also contain commercial fisheries) to 3%. The experience of the BCMCA project has the potential to provide valuable guidance to regions seeking to jump-start planning processes by collating spatial information and carrying out exploratory analyses.