Marine Trail Code of Conduct


Updated Jan. 29, 2021

The Marine Trail Code of Conduct is the culmination of four years of effort by BCMT involving consultations, research, peer review and public input. The Code was approved by the BCMT board on January 28, 2021, and will go through annual reviews. The Code of Conduct will be supported by a public education program to help people understand the intent, methods and implications of all aspects of the Code. Three versions exist: the short-form suitable for signs and quick reading, the long-form with additional information on the how and why of each subject covered in the short-form, and a pocket version for quick reference.

The Short Form Code

Click to print: 

Code of Conduct printable

Download a printable version of the short-form Code of Conduct.

Long-form Version

Download or view a booklet presentation form.

Pocket Version

  • You are on sensitive First Nations traditional land. Disturb nothing, take nothing.
  • Campfires below high tide line only. Adhere to fire bans.
  • If a toilet is unavailable, pack out human waste, or, in suitable locations, use tidal flush.
  • Stay to the campsite area to avoid trampling.
  • Do not dispose of gray water in freshwater or in the upland. 
  • Avoid disturbing and maintain regulated distances from all wildlife.
  • Leave a site in its natural state and leave nothing behind.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need a Code of Conduct?

BC Marine Trails (BCMT) wants to ensure minimal environmental impact by users at marine trail sites. Because sites are so widely dispersed and cannot have direct oversight, it is incumbent upon users to practice habits and behaviours that achieve minimal impact. By following the elements of this Code of Conduct, users can be assured their use of marine trail sites will lead to minimal environmental degradation. BCMT wants people to adopt practices leading to environmental sustainability for recreational uses of the British Columbia coast. We need to shift some generally accepted behaviours and rethink our habits. By carefully considering the consequences of our behaviours, understanding the implications of what we do and the ways in which we need to change, all users understanding and voluntarily adhering to the Code, are acknowledging their role and responsibility as marine stewards.

What's at stake?

There are obvious benefits to the environment, but it goes much deeper, and ultimately affects the public's ability to access the coast. BCMT has been working diligently with landowners, First Nations, land managers, neighbourhood groups and other stakeholders to ensure access to locations for marine trail use and public recreation. If users are not respectful of these locations, these permissions might be revoked and made more difficult for BCMT to obtain in the future when new sites are needed. The Code is intended to be proactive rather than reactive to avoid issues before they arise. If unsuccessful, retroactive measures will be necessary to restore habitats and protect environmental features. The Code, if successful, means restricted and intensely managed camping locations shouldn't be necessary.. 

What if I disagree with an aspect and I don’t want to comply?

Compliance to the Code is voluntary. Most best practices are based on the principle that site degradation is gradual and invisible, and so while your single use in violation of the Code may be of little to no consequence, it is the cumulative damage the Code is attempting to address. Nature has a threshold to absorb impacts, naturally, but since that limit cannot be measured or monitored in most cases, the best practice is to ensure your individual use cannot in any way contribute to the cumulative damage that can and does result. Notably, aspects such as trampling are shown to cause damage at low levels of use, and so the case for one person being of no significance does not necessarily apply. The Code’s recommended best practices are backed by scientific research, as laid out in the supporting documentation. BCMT will review the Code annually, so if you believe any element of the Code is flawed or requires review, please contribute to that process.

I use Leave No Trace principles. Why should I use the Code of Conduct?

The Leave No Trace (LNT) principles are not designed for the British Columbia Coast or a marine environment in general. This means that principles that LNT uses may be suitable for alpine environments or along lengthy land trails, but are not the best practices for concentrated small-footprint coastal locations involving marine ecologies and sensitive nearshore terrestrial ecosystems. BCMT chose not to modify LNT principles but rather starts from scratch to address “subject areas” where recreational use would have impact. The BCMT approach was to research the underlying principles affecting those subject areas to establish best practices applicable to the BC coastal environment. 

It’s silly to presume my visit won’t have an impact. It is inevitable even with the Code.

BCMT is acting on the principle that adverse effects, while inevitable, can be contained within a small and appropriate footprint, and largely minimized through proper use of the location. The BCMT goal is for sites to remain in as natural a state as possible. If users control wood burning, human waste, trampling and other behaviours that can lead to site degradation, as outlined in the Code, we can achieve that goal.

Where does the Code apply? 

The Code is applicable to any coastal visit to a location outside of a managed or regulated structure, such as a provincial park, where the park rules would apply instead. This means hundreds of marine trail sites on Crown (public) land that have no formal designation and so are outside of any management, maintenance or oversight structure to ensure that site’s wellbeing. The Marine Trail Code of Conduct is meant to fill that gap through directing proper behaviour.

I don’t understand a part of the Code of Conduct. 

The Code is the general outline. BCMT will be supporting the Code with a robust Public Education Program to provide additional resources to help coastal visitors successfully implement the various aspects outlined in the Code. Please be patient -- this is a huge project, and we have only just begun to tackle how to go about helping everyone rethink how to approach recreational use of the BC coast. 


If users are respectful of the sites, these permissions might be revoked or more difficult to obtain for future sites.

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