Vancouver – Canada’s coastline is as long as six trips around the earth. Marine waters in Canada are vast, home to countless species and relied upon by thousands of coastal communities to work, live and play. With a target of protecting 30 per cent of lands and waters by 2030, Canada must take bold action to ensure marine areas are protected.
To kick-off the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress, IMPAC5, in Vancouver, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, has announced a new policy to guide the establishment and management of national marine conservation areas (NMCAs), helping to advance the Government of Canada’s goal to create ten new NMCAs.
Parks Canada is working to expand the network of NMCAs. Currently, Parks Canada administers five NMCAs like Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site along the northern British Columbia Coast, with active proposals for another seven, including NMCAs in the Magdalen Islands, the Southern Strait of Georgia, the Central Coast of British Columbia, the northern coast of Labrador, and along James and Hudson Bays. Work continues to confirm at least three additional candidate sites.
The new NMCA Policy Framework emphasizes the importance of collaboration and co-management with Indigenous peoples. This policy sets direction for all current and future NMCAs. The Policy will strengthen Canada’s contribution to the qualitative elements of international marine conservation targets, by setting out how NMCAs can be effectively and equitably managed.
The new Policy articulates eight interconnected, mutually reinforcing management goals for the NMCA program. These management goals uphold Parks Canada’s commitment to reconciliation and working in partnership with Indigenous peoples, while prioritizing the protection of marine ecosystems and biodiversity. It also highlights and provides direction around NMCAs contributing to the well-being of Indigenous peoples and coastal communities. The new Policy brings clarity on the management of NMCAs, along with a new zoning framework that is more responsive to both protection and ecologically sustainable use objectives. It identifies a suite of management tools for NMCAs, including regulatory tools to be developed under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.
This announcement comes as international ministers, Indigenous leaders, conservation groups, industry and youth and other decision-makers at IMPAC5 are invited to a high-level segment, the Leadership Forum on February 9, to help chart a course towards achieving the marine conservation targets negotiated at COP15, the United Nations Biodiversity Conference that Canada hosted in Montreal in December 2022.
To create this new Policy Framework, Parks Canada consulted approximately 250 organizations, including industry, fisheries, environmental groups, tourism and recreational users, research experts, and received over 3,000 individual responses from many stakeholders, Canadians, Indigenous governments and organizations and provincial/territorial governments.
Parks Canada is continuing work to develop a first set of regulations for NMCAs. Public consultation on the scope and content of its regulatory proposal will be launched in spring 2023.
“Protecting marine ecosystems in Canada is a critical nature-based solution to the dual challenge of biodiversity loss and climate change. This new policy guidance lays the groundwork for effective collaboration with all partners and gets us closer to our goal of creating ten national marine conservation areas in Canada. It also delivers nature conservation that lives up to our commitment for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback and contributed to the new Policy on the Establishment and Management of National Marine Conservation Areas.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
- Guided by science, Indigenous Knowledge and local perspectives, Canada is committed to conserving 25 per cent of lands, freshwater, and oceans by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030.
- The creation of marine protected areas for long-term conservation is globally recognized as a nature-based solution to address the dual challenge of biodiversity loss and climate change. In 2022, the Government of Canada made international commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity to establish and effectively manage marine protected areas. This renewed policy will be critical in the future management and conservation of Canada’s marine environment.
- The Policy on the Establishment and Management of National Marine Conservation Areas, approved in December 2022, will help strengthen Canada’s contribution to the qualitative elements (effective and equitable management) of international marine conservation targets.
- The new Policy will now better align with the 2002 Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas Act, global commitments to marine conservation, several decades of managing NMCAs, and the current priorities set by the Government of Canada. It will also guide and provide direction on the establishment and management for all current and future NMCAs.
- The National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan divides three oceans and the Great Lakes in Canada into 29 marine regions, each one unique and encompassing a combination of submerged and coastal lands, the water and the species found there. Parks Canada is working towards the long-term goal of establishing at least one national marine conservation area in each of these 29 marine regions. To date, six regions are represented by the five existing national marine conservation areas.
- From February 3-9, 2023, the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress, IMPAC5, will take place in Vancouver. This global forum brings together ocean conservation professionals and high-level officials to inform, inspire and act on marine protected areas. The IMPAC5 high-level segment, the Leadership Forum (on February 9, 2023) has invited international ministers and decision-makers to chart a course towards achieving the marine conservation targets negotiated as part of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Goals.
- The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act requires the Government of Canada to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples to take necessary measures to ensure federal laws are consistent with the Declaration, and to develop an action plan to achieve its objectives. Parks Canada works with Indigenous communities across the country as partners in conserving natural heritage, including the establishment of national marine conservation areas.
Cover image: © Michael Lecchino/Parks Canada, 2022