Coastal Jurisdiction

Management of coastal and marine resources is an area of complex, shared jurisdiction between all orders of government, including First Nations and local governments.”

That statement is from the publication  Maintaining Natural BC for our Children
In the report to the Metchosin Council, MEASC  summarized the issue of Coastal jurisdiction as follows:

Appendix 1: Jurisdiction: Who Owns the Shoreline Features of Metchosin?

Marine shorelines are governed by a number of jurisdictions. (See The Green Shores Technical Working Group document for further information. (

The Provincial Government

owns the ocean floor and the foreshore (the area between the low water level and the natural boundary) along Metchosin’s Coastline as well as the beds of inland seas such as the Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait and Johnstone Strait. The Integrated Land Management Bureau (under the Ministry of Forests and Range) administers these aquatic lands and issues permits, licences or leases for a wide range of uses – private and public moorage, wharves, marinas, aquaculture, and log storage to name a few. The Province also establishes regional coastal zone plans where these are needed.

The federal government

has jurisdiction over offshore waters – from the low water mark out to 12 nautical miles along the outer coast. The federal Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for managing and protecting fish populations and fish habitat under the Fisheries Act, including shoreline “riparian” habitats, as well as for maintaining maritime safety through the Coast Guard. Local governments

Local governments

(municipalities and regional districts) hold the authority to plan and regulate land use within their respective boundaries, which may extend over foreshore and nearshore areas. They do this through official community plans, zoning, development permits, subdivision authority, building permits, and a variety of regulatory bylaws that affect land development.

First Nations

have authorities similar to provincial and local governments over upland and aquatic lands within Indian Reserves. Outside Reserves, traditional rights to marine resources are the subject of ongoing Treaty negotiations for many of the First Nations along BC’s coast. The provincial and federal governments have a duty to consult with First Nations on any shoreline tenure applications to ensure that they do not significantly affect aboriginal or treaty rights.

Waterfront property owners

hold “riparian rights” in association with their upland property. Based on “common law” these rights include:

  • unimpeded access from their property to deep water for navigation. Waterfront improvements cannot interfere with the right of access for neighbouring properties.
  • protection of property from erosion or flooding  by installing protective structures on the property holders land. Actions below the current natural boundary require approval of the Province.


The public is permitted to the use of foreshore and other aquatic lands held by the Crown. When the Province issues tenures, a leaseholder may restrict public access to the leased area; a permit or license of occupation does not allow the holder to restrict access.

Land Ownership

Under Common Law, the Crown is the absolute owner of the land. The person holding title to land holds an “estate”, something less than absolute ownership. Fee simple is the largest estate acknowledged by law. Easements and Covenants represent other rights and interests, lesser than a fee simple or lease of the land, but which affect the rights to and enjoyment of the land. (Little et al. 2004. Fasken Martineau)

For further post references: link to the Coastal Jurisdiction Posts category