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October 2005 

Dept of Fisheries and Oceans Hopes to "Work Together"
Five Year Sustainability Plan Launched for Eastern Scotian ShelfNorthern Bottlenose Whales in The Gully, Courtesy DFO

by Gail Martin

This past spring, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) released the first draft of 'The Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management' Plan (ESSIM), an initiative that underscores the need for a coordinated effort by all interested stakeholders.

Under the wing of the Oceans and Coastal Management Division, the initial draft of ESSIM is being presented to the public between October 18th and 26th through a series of community workshops, to insure that 'all perspectives can be reflected' in future revisions of the plan.

The planning area, known as the Eastern Scotian Shelf (see map) begins at Ecum Secum in the west and fans out beyond the 200 mile limit, to the Laurentian Channel which lies to the east of Cape Breton. According to the Planning Office at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, the Eastern Scotian Shelf was given priority for sustainable 'integrated management' because it is an "ecologically complex area with a high degree of biodiversity ... and resources that support our coastal communities and economy".

Notably, the Eastern Scotian Shelf encompasses "The Gully", the largest submarine canyon on the East Coast of North America. Lying 360 km southeast of Halifax, the 2 km deep Gully is widely recognized to be an important ecological region. Sable Island also lies within the ESSIM planning area. Sable, with its super fragile ecosystem is Canada's only island restricted to everyone but scientists and researchers who gain access through special permission. Adding to the complexity of the region, there are substantial offshore oil and natural gas deposits in the Eastern Scotian Shelf.

ESSIM is the offspring of a federal initiative that evolved as a result of the Oceans Act (1997) implemented almost a decade ago. In 1998, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans determined that a 325,000 square km area of the Eastern Scotian Shelf needed a plan that would 'reconcile and avoid conflicts among the various sectors competing for space and resources'. At the same time, he announced that the Gully was to be designated a "Marine Protected Area".

Eastern Scotian Shelf Planning AreaAn increasing number of stakeholder interests in the Eastern Scotian Shelf includes commercial and recreational fisheries, offshore oil and gas, marine transportation and commerce, government marine operations (Coast Guard & Maritime Forces), telecommunications, First Nations, conservation groups, aquaculture, scientific research, technology development and recreation and tourism.

Noting that these competing interests are currently managed through a 'patchwork of regulatory processes' that complicate issues further, DFO hopes that 'collaborative planning and management coordination' can be made to work equitably for all sectors. The intent of the Plan, according to a review document currently being distributed, is to "make sure that everyone who uses or has an interest in the area is on the same page".

For more information or to receive a copy of the "Working Together" overview, call the ESSIM Planning Office at (902) 244-6069 or check the web at:

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Highway7 E-zine, a publication of Hatch Media, is an electronic journal with a focus on commercial, historical, cultural and ecological issues concerning the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in Canada. Topics include a growing resource of currently more than 300 articles. More articles and image galleries are added frequently as new material is brought to our attention. With Highway7.com, our primary aim is to serve, inform and reflect the rural communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, as well as to acquaint new residents, visitors, tourists, and investors with the special beauty and enormous potential of our region.
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