Three new potential marine conservation measures announced off the coast of Nova Scotia
In support of the Government of Canada’s commitment to protect 10% of Canadian waters by 2020, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has identified the Eastern Shore Islands and Fundian Channel-Browns Bank as Areas of Interest (AOIs) for future designation as marine protected areas (MPAs) designation under the Oceans Act. Additionally, an area known as the Eastern Canyons has been proposed as a new conservation area under the Fisheries Act. These areas were selected from a larger MPA Network Design for the Maritimes Region, which will be released for public consultation in the coming months.
About Eastern Shore Islands AOI
Located along the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, the Eastern Shore Islands AOI is approximately 2,000 km2, and encompasses a dense archipelago of hundreds of islands stretching from Clam Bay near Jeddore Harbour to Barren Island near Liscomb Point. The site extends seaward roughly 25 km from the mainland, reaching depths of approximately 100 m. This highly natural area includes rich beds of eelgrass, kelp, and salt marsh that provide important habitat for many marine species. The area includes spawning habitat for Atlantic herring and juvenile areas for groundfish, and coastal habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon. The islands and surrounding waters also provide important nesting and foraging ground for many colonial seabirds and shorebirds, including at risk species such as Harlequin duck and Roseate tern. Throughout the AOI, lobster and other fisheries provide a strong economic foundation that supports the communities along the Eastern Shore. The area also has a growing ecotourism sector, and many of the islands are protected through provincial and private conservation efforts, including current efforts by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust’s “100 Wild Islands Legacy Campaign”.
About Fundian Channel-Browns Bank AOI
The Fundian Channel-Browns Bank AOI is located approximately 120 km south of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and includes two geographically separate components. The western section of this AOI is centred on Georges Basin while the larger eastern section encompasses the Northeast Channel and part of Browns Bank. Fundian Channel-Browns Bank is approximately 7,100 km2 and includes important oceanographic processes, diverse bottom habitats, several depleted groundfish species, and deep sea coral and sponge habitats. The channel is also the largest entrance to the Gulf of Maine from the open Atlantic Ocean and many species, including basking sharks, use it as a migration corridor. Several important fisheries are active in and around this area including Atlantic cod and cusk, tuna and offshore lobster.
Next steps in the MPA designation process
The selection of an AOI signals the intention of the Government of Canada to work together with federal and provincial government departments, First Nations, Indigenous groups, the fishing industry, local communities and other stakeholders towards the designation of an MPA.
One of the first steps in this collaborative process is to establish a multi-sector advisory committee to ensure the necessary input into the design of each site and development of the proposed regulations. Ecological and socioeconomic overviews and a risk assessment are also conducted. The information gathered at this stage will inform the development of conservation objectives, boundaries and zones and the specific management measures required for the MPA.
An area is officially designated as an MPA through the establishment of site specific regulations under the Oceans Act. Once the regulations are finalized, ongoing site management will ensure the conservation of the Eastern Shore Islands and Fundian Channel-Browns Bank ecosystems.
The purpose of an MPA
Marine protected areas are established by Fisheries and Oceans under Canada’s Oceans Act for a variety of reasons including; to protect and conserve important fish and marine mammal habitats, endangered marine species, unique features and areas of high biological productivity or biodiversity. They have a critical role to play in the protection and conservation of Canada's rich and varied marine environments and contribute to the improved health, integrity and productivity of our oceans. By preserving Canada’s oceans, we are protecting the future of those who depend on them.
About Eastern Canyons proposed conservation area
Eastern Canyons is located approximately 60 km east of Sable Island off Banquereau and is approximately 36,000 km2. The dense corals found in the canyons and along the shelf edge warrant protection under DFO’s Policy for Managing the Impact of Fishing on Sensitive Benthic Areas. This site is extended into the deep-water to foster connectivity among the shelf, slope, and abyssal plain, as deep-sea ecosystems are known to be vulnerable to disturbance.
This measure will contribute to the 2020 commitments as an “other effective area-based conservation measure”.As Eastern Canyons is a conservation measure being designated under the Fisheries Act using a policy intended to protect vulnerable benthic areas and deep sea communities from the impacts of fishing, prohibited activities will focus on bottom contact fishing activities that have the potential to impacts on the conservation features of that area. The consultation process for this proposed closure will be initiated following information gathering on the ecology and fisheries of this area.
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