The Cree Communities of Eeyou Istchee and the Cree Nation Government have taken the initiative to develop a conservation strategy to meet our goals and achieve our vision of keeping our lands healthy for future generations. Eeyou Istchee is not limited to the mainland; the coastal communities are connected to the shores and waters of James and Hudson Bays. The Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement recognizes the rights of the Crees in the offshore region of Eeyou Istchee. Under federal jurisdiction, this agreement provides for the creation of marine protected areas within the offshore area.
The Eeyou Marine Region refers to a vast marine area located along the eastern coast of James Bay and the southern coast of Hudson Bay in Quebec, Canada. It is predominantly inhabited by the coastal Cree communities of Whapmagoostui, Chisasibi, Wemindij, Eastmain and Waskaganish who have traditionally relied on the land and waters of the region for sustenance and cultural practices.
Inland communities of Mistissini, Ouje-Bougoumou, Nemaska, Waswanipi have historically travelled to James Bay for trading as well, using historical travel canoe routes to descend to the shore of James Bay for trading.
The Eeyou Marine Region covers approximately 61,270 square kilometers and is known for its diverse marine ecosystems, including coastal wetlands, estuaries, and shallow bays. These habitats support a variety of plant and animal species, including fish, marine mammals, and migratory birds.
The Eeyou Marine Region holds significant cultural and economic importance for the Cree Nation. It supports traditional activities like hunting, fishing, and gathering, which are essential for the Cree way of life. The region's natural resources also contribute to the local economy through fishing, ecotourism, and other sustainable economic activities.
For many decades, the Cree Nation Government have been supporting Cree communities in protecting terrestrial and marine areas deemed important for cultural and environmental reasons.
As in the case of Wemindji’s 2009 Tawich proposal that drove the interest and discussion of marine protected areas with the Federal Government.
This proposal is what led Cree Nation Government to begin this conservation initiative for the Eeyou Marine Region with the signing of the 2019 Memorandum of Understanding with Parks Canada to conduct a National Marine Conservation Areas Feasibility Assessment.
The feasibility assessment study area covers 28,000 km2 which stretches south from Chisasibi’ s La Grand River to the Quebec-Ontario border near Waskaganish. This area is also known as the “Cree Zone” within the Eeyou Marine Region Lands Claim Agreement.
The Agreement Relating to the Cree/Inuit Offshore Overlapping Interests Area, between the Cree Nation and the Nunavik Inuit, addresses overlapping and shared interests in the area located north of the La Grande River, to the area north of the Nastapoka River. It is envisioned that the Cree and the Inuit will work collaboratively on marine protected areas planning in this area in the joint and overlap zones.
The MOU between the Cree Nation Government and Parks Canada lays out the parameters to carry out a feasibility assessment for creating a National Marine Conservation Area off the coast of James Bay. It addresses the need for increased capacity for the Cree Nation to work on the assessment, and to provide opportunities for full Cree participation in the feasibility study.
A Steering Committee has been formed to guide the assessment process. The Steering Committee will produce a final recommendations report which will cover issues such as: Goals, objectives, purpose of an NMCA, a final or conceptual boundary, summary of results of studies and consultations (What we heard report), key issues identified and recommended actions.
- Cree Nation Government
- Parks Canada
Alternate: Martin Desrosiers, Special Advisor, Office of the Executive Director for Québec and Nunavut, Quebec
- Support staff
It is imperative we have the full involvement of the coastal communities in the Feasibility Assessment, to provide their knowledge and expertise of the marine environment, and to be able to express their concerns, support and recommendations concerning governance, economic benefits, environmental and cultural protection related to the establishment of a National Marine Conservation Area in eastern James Bay.
The Cree Nation Government along with Parks Canada will be holding various information session and community engagement activities beginning summer 2023, with the goal of completing the feasibly assessment by 2025.
More information about the Eeyou Marine Region
Eeyou Marine Region Map – Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board (emrwb.ca)
EMRLCA - Eeyou Marine Region Impact Review Board (emrirb.ca)
Eeyou Marine Region Planning Commission – (eeyoumrpc.ca)