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May 13, 2019

Canada announces new standards for marine protected areas and designates first area under new guidelines

Last month, the Government of Canada announced that all newly created marine protected areas (MPAs) will now prohibit oil and gas, bottom trawling, mining and dumping within their limits, marking an important step for marine conservation.

Canada, which has the longest coastline of any country, has committed to protecting 10% of its coasts and ocean by 2020, in line with international biodiversity targets.

While many new MPAs have been created since the target was set, there have been numerous concerns about the quality of protection, and the fact that harmful activities may still be allowed within protected areas.

In order to reach its protection targets, Canada has used powers under the Fisheries Act to protect 4.48% areas contributing to the 10% target. Known as “marine refuges,” these areas are distinct from MPAs, which are designated under the Oceans Act. Until now, Canada has been counting these refuges towards its protection target even though they remained open to harmful industrial activities such as oil and gas extraction. A case-by-case approach will be applied for allowances for industrial activities, with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans having the ultimate say in the matter. With this announcement, Canada has also clarified that marine refuges where oil and gas is allowed will not count towards conservation targets.

“Overall, this is a major step forward for marine protection in Canada,” says Marine Conservation Specialist, Jordy Thomson of the Ecology Action Centre. By imposing a strong set of standards for MPAs, as well as clarifying what counts towards the 10% target, Canadians can now have more confidence that these protections are meaningful and keep destructive activity out of important areas and away from sensitive and vulnerable marine species.

Canada has now also officially designated the Laurentian Channel as an MPA under Canada’s Oceans Act. The Channel is an important migratory passage for right whales, leatherback turtles and many other species. This 11,580–square-kilometre submarine valley will become the largest protected area in Atlantic Canada, bringing Canada’s total marine protection to 8.27%.

In 2017 and 2018, public outcry about oil and gas development in the Laurentian Chanel resulted in more than 70,000 Canadians urging the Federal Government to improve protection and bar oil and gas. “Over the last couple of years, concerned citizens sent thousands of emails to the office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which is now resulting in stronger protections for Canada’s wildlife.” Said WWF-Canada President, Megan Leslie. “This is proof that when we speak up for wildlife, we can make a difference. This important first step in protecting critical habitats will give marine species safe havens that are free of seismic blasting and drilling.”

The Canadian government is now in the process of modernizing its Fisheries Act and amending both the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. When passed into law, these reforms will provide a strong backbone for protecting both marine species and the Indigenous and coastal communities that depend on them.

January 23, 2019

Canada’s marine refuges need an upgrade, says new SeaBlue Canada report

Photo: Nick Hawkins

HALIFAX, January 22, 2019 A new report from SeaBlue Canada reveals that more than half of Canada’s marine refuges, a form of marine protected area in Canada, do not meet international standards. While Canada has made significant progress to protect its marine and coastal environment, the report shows stronger standards are required to effectively conserve biodiversity.

Since 2015, Canada has designated 7.9 per cent of the ocean as protected areas. However, with more than half of that protected under Fisheries Act measures areas referred to as marine refuges many harmful industrial practices can still continue. Fisheries Act measures restrict fishing impacts and some other harmful activities but cannot protect against many other significant threats to the marine environment.

“We want to ensure that Canada’s efforts to protect marine wildlife are meaningful and effectively preserve biodiversity and habitats,” says Susanna Fuller of Oceans North, a co-author of the report. “Right now, there are several areas where improvements need to be made and we urge decision-makers take our recommendations seriously.”

Using publicly available information, the report reviewed all 51 areas protected through the Fisheries Act and assessed how these areas met criteria set out by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as well as guidance recently adopted at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to which Canada is a signatory. Meeting CBD criteria determines if sites can count as “protected” at an international level. Canada has committed to revisiting its marine refuges following the adoption of international guidance.

The majority of current fisheries closures prohibit all bottom fishing activities and have been put in place to protect fragile sponge and coral communities. Some were designed to protect a single species or prohibit only a single type of fishing gear.

“When assessed according to new international guidelines, only 40 per cent of the total area closed under the Fisheries Act met this guidance,” says Travis Aten, lead author of the report. “The remaining 60 per cent need a variety of improvements to meet globally accepted standards, and we provide specific recommendations for these improvements.”

“The bulk of Canada’s protected ocean areas, known as marine refuges, are at risk from oil and gas exploration and development,” says Sigrid Kuehnemund, vice president of oceans conservation at WWF-Canada. “These activities cannot be prohibited by the Fisheries Act, and as a result, supposedly protected sensitive habitats remain vulnerable to oil and gas impacts such as disturbance of the seabed, exposure to drill muds and of potential oil spills. We need minimum standards for all protected ocean areas. Biodiversity depends on it.”

The fishing industry has worked with government and conservation organizations to set aside areas for protection. SeaBlue Canada recommends that in order to maintain the trust of the fishing industry and Canadians, it is imperative these areas be protected from other industrial activities that threaten fish and fish habitat, including oil and gas.

Major recommendations of the report include:

  • Update national guidance to align with international standards, particularly as Canada can set an example for other countries by improving marine refuges to more fully align with international standards.
  • Pass the amended Fisheries Act, currently in second reading at the Senate of Canada, to ensure these areas become permanently protected through ecologically special areas provisions.
  • Clearly identify monitoring and management for each marine refuge to ensure biodiversity is being effectively conserved.
  • Smaller areas that only protect a single species should be removed from consideration as marine refuges when they do not contribute to the overall protection of biodiversity, despite being important fisheries management measures.
  • Review the Atlantic Offshore Accord Agreements so that oil and gas exploration and development is restricted from areas closed to protect fish and fish habitat.

A report summary is also available.

About SeaBlue Canada

SeaBlue Canada is a coalition of six national conservation organizations including Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, Oceans North, West Coast Environmental Law, and World Wildlife Fund Canada. Together, they are working to ensure that Canada’s marine and coastal protected areas are well protected and set an example for ocean conservation globally.

 

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For more information contact:

Susanna Fuller, Senior Project Manager, Oceans North

susannafuller@oceansnorth.ca

902-483-5033

 

Antonella Lombardi, communications specialist, WWF-Canada

alombardi@wwfcanada.org 647-668-4613

 

Photos: Nick Hawkins

February 19, 2018

The problems with the new Canadian Navigable Waters Act

The Canadian government recently introduced Bill C-69, claiming that this legislation delivers on a campaign promise to “restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards” in several environmental statutes. Continue reading

February 8, 2018

An international plastics treaty could avert a “Silent Spring” for our seas

Global problems – like our plastic-choked seas – need global solutions.

It was welcome news when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will use its year-long G7 presidency to turn the global spotlight on ocean plastics and pollution.

Read more on wcel.org

February 6, 2018

New Fisheries Act Restores Lost Protections and Adds Modern Safeguards

Fisheries Act amendments show promise, but true test will be in implementation

Today, the Government of Canada tabled a new Fisheries Act, with the goal of upgrading the Act to restoring protections that were lost as part of the 2012 Omnibus budget Bill as well as add modern safeguards. The Fisheries Act hasn’t seen tangible improvement since it was created in 1868 and has not included a purpose section since amendments were made in 1996.

Read more on EcologyAction.ca

February 1, 2018

Emergency order aims to protect resident orcas

Canada is losing a lot of its wildlife. The World Wildlife Fund’s 2017 Living Planet Report Canada found half the monitored mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species declined from 1970 to 2014. Threatened and endangered species continue to disappear despite federal legislation designed to protect them and help their populations recover. What’s going wrong?

Read More at davidsuzuki.org

January 25, 2018

Plankton over plastic: Citizen support for strong laws to reduce ocean plastics

Plastics permeate all aspects of our daily lives. Now plastic pollution plagues the planet. Marine plastic debris is pervasive, persistent, and has grave consequences for marine ecosystems.

Read more on wcel.org

January 23, 2018

East China Sea supertanker disaster shows dangers of carrying toxic substances in open water

It could have been a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie: billowing black smoke, a growing oil slick 16 kilometres long and the remnants of a half-sunken super oil tanker in the middle of one of the world’s busiest waterways. But this was real life.

Read more at davidsuzuki.org

December 21, 2017

New Fisheries Closures Mark Progress in Canada’s Ocean Protection Agenda

Today, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced seven new fisheries closures stretching from the Newfoundland Shelf all the way to the Eastern Arctic and totaling 145,598 km squared. All bottom fishing activity, including traps, longlines, gillnets and bottom trawls will be prohibited. These measures protect just over 2.5% of Canada’s ocean habitat and bring us closer to reaching our international commitment of 10% by 2020.

Read more on EcologyAction.ca

December 20, 2017

BC’s Glass Sponge Reefs added to Canada’s Tentative List for World Heritage Sites

The holidays are looking brighter this year with the announcement that British Columbia’s Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound glass sponge reefs are being added to Canada’s tentative list for World Heritage Sites.

Read more at cpaws.org

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