In 2009, Canada implemented the Beaufort Sea Integrated Ocean Management Plan (IOMP), a collaborative planning process aimed at achieving ecosystem, social, economic and institutional preservation.
The Beaufort Sea, entirely frozen for most of the year (the ice breaks up in August and September), is an outlying sea of the Arctic Ocean, located north of Canada and Alaska. Its low-lying coasts are almost entirely covered with tundra. The sea, home to an abundant biodiversity, has long supported the livelihood of multiple indigenous communities, including the Inuvialuit people, an Inuit population originally settled on the western Canadian Arctic coast.
However, this pristine subarctic environment is facing increasing multiple threats, for example through offshore drilling (which has taken place since the 1970s), and more recently, global warming. In order to address these challenges, Canada implemented in 2009 the Beaufort Sea Integrated Ocean Management Plan (IOMP), covering 1,750,000km2 and including the coastal and estuarine components of both the mainland and the islands.
The IOMP emphasizes a balanced approach to governance and economy, cultural and social issues, as well as traditional local knowledge, and ecosystems goals. It is aimed at increasing cooperation between stakeholders, providing better integrated responses to cross cutting issues, assessment of actual effects of policies, projects or operations. Built upon a participatory approach, the IOMP has compiled inputs from diverse stakeholders (such as Aboriginal, Territorial and Federal government departments, management bodies, costal communities, or industries). Furthermore, an ecological assessment of the planning area was conducted in order to identify Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs). The inclusion of both Inuvialuit vernacular knowledge (local communities’ valuable inherited traditional knowledge) and traditional science has also been a key element in the creation of the IOMP.
The IOMP for the Beaufort Sea, aimed at initiating Marine Spatial Planning in the region, is a good example of a cross-sectorial marine planning initiative with a community-based process. The plan aims to support the sustainable development of communities and their economies, by notably enhancing the conservation of marine ecosystems to ensure healthy wildlife populations and fish stocks.
Photo credit: Mark Brandon