Canada announces new standards for protecting our oceans
April 25, 2019
Montréal, Quebec — Canada is an ocean nation. With the longest coastline in the world, Canadians rely on healthy and sustainable oceans. Marine ecosystems support good jobs as well as a vast amount of marine biodiversity including fish, whales and sea birds. That is why the Government of Canada is taking action to ensure the conservation and long-term protection of our oceans.
Last year, Fisheries and Oceans Canada appointed an independent National Advisory Panel of experts to consult Canadians about marine protection standards. Following extensive consultations in all regions of the country, the Panel delivered its report to the Government on September 26, 2018.
Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced that the Government of Canada will be adopting new standards to strengthen the conservation and protection of important marine habitat.
As recommended by the Panel, Canada’s approach to our marine conservation networks going forward will include two distinct forms of protection – marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, such as marine refuges.
Marine protected areas will function somewhat like national parks and will provide a high level of environmental protection by prohibiting four industrial activities within all of these areas: oil and gas activities, mining, dumping and bottom trawling. This approach is consistent with the recommendations from the National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards.
With respect to other effective area-based conservation measures, including marine refuges, economic activities within these areas will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. These will be allowed if they are consistent with the conservation objectives of that specific area. This standard is also in accord with the National Advisory Panel’s recommendations to the Government. This recommendation was crafted to ensure that economic activities that are not harmful to the things being protected in a specific area can and should continue.
However, the Government of Canada’s new standards regarding marine refuges and other effective conservation area-based measures go beyond the National Advisory Panel’s recommendation in one respect. Our new standard provides that any areas within a marine refuge (or any other effective conservation area-based measure) in which oil and gas extraction takes place will not be counted towards Canada’s international marine conservation target.
The approach being announced today is a balanced one – an approach that will provide high levels of environmental protection while also recognizing and providing for the continuation of economic activities that are not harmful to conservation objectives. This approach recognizes that, in the modern world, environmental sustainability and economic progress can go hand in hand. The new standards being announced today will provide the type of strong protections Canadians wish to see in areas of ecological significance. They will also provide enhanced clarity and certainty for fish harvesters and other industry stakeholders.
Going forward, the Government of Canada will work in collaboration with provinces and territories, Indigenous peoples and stakeholders as we look to evolve and grow our existing marine conservation networks.
Today, Minister Wilkinson also announced the designation of the Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area off the south coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. The area will be closed to all oil and gas activity and is the first to apply the new protection standards. This new marine protected area is Canada’s largest established under the Oceans Act to date and will help to conserve an extraordinary range of marine habitats and species, including sensitive seafloor corals. It also provides additional protection to the endangered North Atlantic right whale. This brings Canada’s protected ocean spaces to 8.27% - a significant increase from less than 1% in 2015. This announcement brings Canada one step closer to achieving our international marine conservation target of 10% by 2020.
“Canadians expect us to take action to protect unique ocean ecosystems while ensuring coastal communities thrive. The new standards for marine conservation we are announcing today will provide for high levels of environmental protection in a manner that is sensitive to important economic actors such as fish harvesters.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
"Canada is an oceans country. We are the stewards of the longest coastline in the world. Protecting Canada’s nature and the health of our oceans benefits our communities, our ecosystems, and our wildlife.”
The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures are tools that play an important role in maintaining sustainable fish stocks, as well as protecting ecologically significant habitats for marine mammals and other species.
In federal marine protected areas, the new standards will prohibit the following four industrial activities: oil and gas activities, mining, dumping and bottom trawling.
The new protection standards for marine protected areas will be applied to all federal marine protected areas including Oceans Act Marine Protected Areas established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, National Marine Conservation Areas established by Parks Canada, and marine National Wildlife Areas and marine portions of Migratory Bird Sanctuaries established by Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The designation of the Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area provides an additional 11,580 km2 of protection to Canada’s oceans.
The Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area is the first conservation area to apply Canada’s new protection standards. Therefore, oil and gas activities, as well as mining, dumping, and bottom trawling is prohibited in the entirety of the area.
The proposed Regulations for the Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area were pre-published on June 24, 2017, launching a public consultation period. The Department received tens of thousands of comments, which were taken into consideration when drafting the final regulations for the area, along with new scientific information and the recommendations from the National Advisory Panel.
For other effective area-based conservation measures, such as marine refuges, activities will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Activities may be allowed to proceed if they do not pose a risk to the conservation objectives of the area.
Proposed industrial activities in marine refuges will continue to be subject to Canada’s environmental assessment rules.
The National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards was tasked with providing guidance on categories and standards for all federal marine protected areas and Canada’s other effective area-based conservation measures, including marine refuges.
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans
and the Canadian Coast Guard
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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