July 13, 2017

Growing Concern Over Proposed Marine National Wildlife Area


Recently COPA was made aware of a proposed Marine National Wildlife Area (NWA) centered on the Scott Islands off the north coast of Vancouver Island. The proposed regulations, posted to the Government of Canada’s official journal, the Canada Gazette, on Dec. 31, 2016, would cover an area over 11,000km2 including the Scott Islands and surrounding waters. As proposed, the National Wildlife Area poses a significant impact to aviation, as it would restrict overflight of the area to altitudes of no less than 1,100m (3,600 feet AGL).

Interestingly, Environment Canada has proposed the project under the Canada Wildlife Act and not under the Aeronautics Act & the Canadian Aviation Regulations through which Canadian Domestic Airspace is regulated. The proposed restrictions to the airspace in the proposed area would significantly hamper the safe conduct of flights in the area, particularly in times of inclement weather. Moreover, in pursuing this approach, Environment Canada has completely avoided the established process through which Transport Canada consults industry and other relevant stakeholders on changes to Canadian airspace.

COPA is extremely concerned about the lack of consultation with affected stakeholders, notably with the aviation community in British Columbia and across Canada. The area contained within this proposal is large – to the point where a significant portion actually extends beyond the 12-nautical mile limit of Canada’s domestic territory. COPA has not seen any scientific data to support the arbitrary requirement that overflights be conducted above the 1,100m limit. Additionally, Environment Canada’s own documentation does not list aviation as a threat to the wildlife in or around the Scott Islands.

The precedent that such actions set could have far-reaching implications for other projects or other areas where Environment Canada deems such measures necessary. In the spirit of openness and transparency that we expect from our government, we encourage Environment Canada and Transport Canada to collaborate on a legitimate consultation process with industry and stakeholders. There is no doubt that, working collaboratively, a proposal can be created that preserves aviation safety while protecting the environment and where airspace restrictions are required, and that they are done in accordance with the existing provisions of the Aeronautics Act and the Canadian Aviation Regulations.

COPA members who wish to be kept up to date as this file develops are encouraged to contact our office at takeaction@copanational.org. Operators and other affected parties who want to make their concerns known to Environment Canada can write to Minister Catherine McKenna at ec.ministre-minister.ec@canada.ca. We encourage you to copy COPA on your correspondence.