Marine refuges: Working with fish harvesters to protect Canada’s coasts and oceans

News Release

New York - The Government of Canada is making progress on its commitment to increasing the amount of protected marine and coastal areas to 5% by 2017, and to 10% by 2020 to safeguard the health of our oceans for future generations. At the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in December 2016, Canada recommitted to reaching these targets by establishing Marine Protected Areas and making marine ecosystem decisions based on science to increase conservation and protection in Canada’s oceans.

During the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, spoke to international delegations about how effective conservation of our oceans contributes to a sustainable economy for communities who depend on their abundance. Minister LeBlanc also reiterated that Canada is taking a leadership role by presenting its operational guidance and criteria for identifying other effective area-based conservation measures that contribute to Canada’s marine conservation targets.

There are five criteria that these conservation measures must meet in order to contribute to Canada’s marine conservation targets: geographic location must be clearly defined; stock management or conservation objective need to directly relate to an important species or habitat; the area must contain an important species and important habitat; the measure must be long-term; and, the measure needs to protect the important species and its habitat from both existing and foreseeable pressures.

Based on these criteria, some existing areas in Canadian waters where fisheries management measures provide marine refuge to protect fish, mammals and habitat have been identified. Other fisheries management measures will be evaluated and may contribute to Canada’s conservation targets as well.

Minister LeBlanc and Fisheries and Oceans Canada officials will continue to collaborate with Provinces and Territories, Indigenous groups, the fishing industry, and other interested parties and discuss the important role fisheries management measures can play in conserving marine biodiversity and helping to achieve Canada’s marine conservation targets. 


“Canada is taking an international leadership role in the establishment of the criteria that will contribute to protecting more ocean space along our own coastline and around the world. We are proud to recognize the contribution of our fisheries in conserving the resources and protecting sensitive ecosystems that are so important to the environment and the health of all oceans.” 

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“Canada has made important steps in protecting sensitive marine ecosystems – including restricting bottom fishing in some areas dominated by fragile sponges and cold water corals. Reducing the greatest threat is a first step towards stronger protection. Fishermen know the value of long-lived seafloor species and fish habitat and have been instrumental in identifying areas to be protected. ”

Susanna D. Fuller, PhD. Senior Marine Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre 

Quick Facts

  • The marine refuges are located off the coasts of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Canada’s operational guidance for identifying “other measures” is based on recommendations provided through Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS).

  • Emerging guidance from the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Task Force has also been considered.

  • Canada developed these criteria in advance of final international guidance, expected in 2018, in order to address its domestic target.

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Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Laura Gareau
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister
Fisheries and Oceans Canada



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