Laurentian Channel Proposed Marine Protected Area
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has proposed the Laurentian Channel, located off the southwest coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) under the Oceans Act. The designation is part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to developing a national network of MPAs and to reaching its domestic and international targets by increasing the proportion of Canada’s protected marine and coastal areas to 5% by 2017 and 10% by 2020.
The Laurentian Channel contains sensitive benthic habitats and is described as having one of the highest sea pen concentrations within the entire Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves Bioregion. The area provides critical habitat for a variety of marine species, including a large population of Black dogfish and juvenile smooth skate. Porbeagle sharks move into and reside within the proposed MPA throughout various seasons, and one of only two known Porbeagle mating grounds in the Northwest Atlantic exists within the proposed boundaries. Two species at risk, the Northern wolffish and the Leatherback sea turtle, have been found in the area as well. The proposed Laurentian Channel MPA is also a critical feeding ground and migration route into and out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. As a result, at least 20 species of cetaceans have been observed in the area.
The primary objective of the Laurentian Channel MPA is to conserve biodiversity through the protection of key species and their habitats, ecosystem structure and function, and through scientific research. The proposed MPA regulations aim to foster biodiversity conservation in the Laurentian Channel by reducing risk and harm posed by human activities.
The proposed Regulations would establish two management zones that provide varying levels of protection within the designated area, offering the most stringent protection to areas that need it most. Together these zones would ensure the conservation and protection of biological diversity, habitat, and biological productivity of the Laurentian Channel. Only activities that are determined through an ecological risk assessment to be compatible with the conservation objectives of the proposed MPA would be allowed to continue.
The proposed Laurentian Channel MPA would provide protection to an additional 11,619 km2 (approximately 0.2%) of Canada’s oceans and ensure the long-term protection of this productive ecosystem.
Designating a Marine Protected Area
The area was identified as ecologically and biologically significant through a peer-reviewed science process lead by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and was selected for protection in 2010 following an extensive public consultation process. Knowledge of the area was then further refined through consideration of ecological assessments and traditional and local knowledge, consultation, and a socio-economic analysis of the area. An advisory committee composed of representatives from industry, academia, environmental groups, provincial and federal governments, and First Nations and Indigenous organizations participated in the development of the conservation objectives, management measures, and the delineation of the proposed MPA boundaries and zones.
The Regulations to establish the proposed Laurentian Channel MPA will be pre-published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on June 24, 2017, launching a 30-day public consultation period. The Government of Canada will consider all input provided during the consultation period when formulating the final regulations that will establish and govern the new MPA. Once established as an MPA, ecological monitoring, surveillance of activities, and stewardship projects would be part of its ongoing management.
Committed to Marine Protected Areas and Our Oceans
This new proposed MPA demonstrates the Government of Canada’s commitment to collaboration and to increasing environmental protection of Canada’s marine and coastal areas. Budget 2016 included $123.7 million over five years to support marine conservation activities, which includes the designation of new MPAs under the Oceans Act and continuing work on developing new national parks and national marine conservation areas.
Through this investment, the Government of Canada will work with partners to increase the proportion of Canada’s protected marine and coastal areas to 5% by 2017 and 10% by 2020. The Government will continue to work with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous peoples, industry, academia, and environmental non-governmental organizations to meet its 2020 commitments.
The proposed Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area Regulations are available at the following link: Canada Gazette Part I. Read the proposed regulations and submit your comments by July 24, 2017 here: Oceans-NL.XNFL@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
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