Canada reaches important 5% marine conservation milestone

News Release

October 28, 2017

Victoria, British Columbia – Canada’s oceans have been part of our history, our culture and our way of life from coast to coast to coast since time immemorial. Climate change and human activity are affecting our oceans and coastlines, and humanity has a duty to protect them.

The Government of Canada committed to increase the protection of marine and coastal areas to 5% by the end of 2017, and to 10% by 2020, to ensure a healthy and sustainable marine environment now and for future generations. Today, Canada is proud to celebrate the achievement of that first major milestone.

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced that Canada has now surpassed our target to protect 5% of our oceans and coastlines by 2017.

New marine refuges off the coast of British Columbia and in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence in Quebec together contribute an additional 1.59% of protected ocean area to Canada’s coasts, bringing us past our domestic 5% target and closer to our international target. These refuges were created thanks to close collaboration with partners and stakeholders.

The marine refuge in the Pacific coast is located within the boundaries of the new large

Offshore Pacific Area of Interest, and protects underwater seamounts and several hydrothermal vents by prohibiting all bottom-contact commercial and recreational fishing activities within the refuge.

In addition, 11 new marine refuges in the Gulf of St. Lawrence will make a lasting contribution to marine conservation in Canada. They aim to protect cold-water coral and sponge communities and prohibit the use of bottom-contact fishing gear, whether it be for commercial, recreational, or Aboriginal subsistence fishing.

This summer, Minister McKenna and Minister LeBlanc announced a proposed national marine conservation area in Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound that more than doubled the area of Canada’s marine protected waters, and will contribute about 1.9% of Canada’s total marine estate towards the 5 % protection goal announced today.

Both Ministers agreed that while Canada has made progress toward meeting these targets since announcing Canada’s plan on World Oceans Day in June of 2016, there is more work needed to ensure that marine and coastal areas are protected for future generations.



“I am so proud that we are delivering on our mandate commitment to protect our oceans for future generations, which is important for all Canadians. We would not have been able to reach this ambitious target without working in close collaboration with Indigenous communities, Provincial and Territorial governments, industries and environmental groups. We continue to work hard on our commitment to protect 10% of our oceans by 2020.” 

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

“Protecting our oceans is critically important. By reaching our marine conservation target today, we are helping preserve a rich legacy for tomorrow. We are creating a buffer against the threats of climate change, and protecting against the stressors of human encroachment. As we work towards our next goals together, we invite everyone to join us in advancing our collective efforts to conserve Canada’s biodiversity, now and for the future.”

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

Quick Facts

  • In less than two years, the percentage of protected marine and coastal areas in Canada has increased from 0.9% to 5.22%.  

  • Since November of 2016, the Government of Canada announced the designation of three new Oceans Act Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam in Darnley Bay, Northwest Territories, followed by Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs in British Columbia, and St. Anns Bank in Nova Scotia. 

  • Minister LeBlanc introduced Bill C-55 on June 15, 2017, to help speed up the designation process for MPAs, without sacrificing science, or the public’s opportunity to provide input.

  • Working with Indigenous and Northern partners, Canada will support and protect the future of the “last ice area” in the Arctic Ocean, where summer ice remains year round.

  • Consultations, science and Indigenous traditional and local knowledge will continue to play a key role in determining what protection is needed where.

  • On May 24, 2017, a new large Offshore Pacific Area of Interest was identified off the coast of British Columbia, representing approximately 140,000 km2 of ocean space. It is intended to be one of the largest MPAs in Canada once it is designated.

  • Canada will continue to work at the international level on identifying guidelines and a process for considering other effective area-based conservation measures like fisheries area closures. In February 2018, Canada will host an international technical expert workshop as part of this process.

Associated Links


Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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


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