Haida Gwaii is a remote archipelago located on Canada’s north Pacific Coast that is home to a rich abundance and diversity of marine life, lush rainforests, and the Haida people who have lived there for thousands of years. The lands and waters of the southern portion of the archipelago are protected as the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area and Haida Heritage Site, which includes the ancient Haida village site of SGang Gwaay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Its remote location, rugged coastline, variable sea and weather conditions, and rich ecological and cultural heritage, make Haida Gwaii vulnerable to the potential for pollution from shipping breakdowns and accidents. Increasing the distance vessels travel offshore can increase the amount of time available to address propulsion, steering or other issues, and the likelihood of a towing vessel being able to respond to a vessel that is disabled or drifting. This, in turn, reduces the risk of grounding and oil spills. To assess the effectiveness of such a measure, a 14-month trial of a Voluntary Protection Zone (VPZ) for Shipping is being implemented that asks vessels to observe greater distances when transiting on the west coast of Haida Gwaii.