Vancouver – During the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5), the Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced key developments that continue the momentum towards Canada meeting its ambitious targets of conserving 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.
To start, Canada unveiled its 2023 Marine Protected Area (MPA) Protection Standard, which is endorsed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Parks Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Crown-Indigenous Relations, and Transport Canada. The 2023 protection standard builds on and clarifies the original 2019 policy, which was based on recommendations from the National Advisory Panel on MPA Standards and applies to federal MPAs established since April 25, 2019. MPAs are an essential part of achieving marine conservation goals, and the protection standard will help safeguard new federal MPAs from the potentially harmful effects of some industrial activities. It will also provide greater consistency and clarity for industry on activities subject to the standard in federal MPAs.
The MPA Protection Standard is founded on a whole-of-government approach and prohibits:
- Oil and gas exploration, development and production;
- Mineral exploration and exploitation;
- Disposal of waste and other matter, dumping of fill, and deposit of deleterious drugs and pesticides; and
- Mobile, bottom contact, trawl or dredge gear. Trap-based fisheries are excluded.
Transport Canada will also be consulting with stakeholders on how to enhance restrictions on certain vessel discharges that occur within MPAs.
In addition to the protection standard announced, Canada also released new details on key areas where it is exploring marine conservation, in support of the ambitious target of conserving 25 per cent of our ocean by 2025. This builds on announcements earlier this week that underscore Canada’s commitment to advancing its targets, and include the Northern Shelf Bioregion Network Action Plan, a marine refuge at Gwaxdlala/Nalaxdlala – also known as Lull Bay and Hoeya Sound, and the collaborative management and upcoming pre-publication of the proposed regulations for the Tang.ɢwan – ḥačxwiqak – Tsig̱is Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Canada Gazette, Part I for a 30-day public comment period.
While proposed future sites are at different stages of readiness, the Government of Canada is working closely with key partners and stakeholders including provinces and territories, Indigenous governments, organizations across the country, who understand the critical importance, now more than ever, of safeguarding our ocean for the future, while enabling sustainable economic development opportunities.
This announcement is an important step towards the conservation and long-term protection of our marine ecosystems, and furthers Canada’s position as a world leader in marine conservation. Having well-understood standards will help boost conservation efforts while at the same time provide industry with the clarity it needs to create sustainable jobs in the marine sector.
“Canada is a proud ocean nation, with the longest coastline in the world. The ocean plays a central role in climate regulation and are vital to our way of life. Canadians expect us to protect the environment, and today’s announcement does just that. With a strong protection standard, and an ambitious plan for new sites that will help us reach Canada’s targets to conserve 25 per cent of our oceans by 2025, we are well positioned to preserve oceans effectively for generations to come.” –The Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
“Today’s announcement marks a key milestone on our path to reaching thirty percent protection of Canada’s oceans by 2030. When Canada stepped up to host the U.N.’s COP15 biodiversity conference in Montreal last fall, we played a lead role in getting the whole world to agree to the 30 by 30 targets that we are striving for here in Canada. Protecting healthy ocean ecosystems protects the future of thousands of coastal communities and thousands of marine species. The new protection standard announced today will go a long way to strengthen the level of protection in marine areas.” –The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
- A marine protected area, commonly called an MPA, is part of the ocean that is legally protected and managed to achieve the long-term conservation of nature. MPAs and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) contribute to a healthy marine environment and offer a nature-based solution to help address the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss by protecting marine ecosystems, habitats, and species.
- In July 2020, Canada joined the Global Ocean Alliance which is advocating to protect at least 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030.
- In December 2022, Canada stepped up to host 195 members of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, COP15, the largest biodiversity conference of its kind. Canada played a pivotal role in brokering a historic agreement to safeguard the world’s nature and to protect 30% of lands and waters by 2030.
- Canada announced its Protection Standards for MPAs and Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs) at the Nature Summit in 2019 following work of the independent National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards. The Panel provided its recommendations in a final report to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard in September, 2018. The announcement pertains to the MPA standard only.
- The Protection Standard for OECMs remains unchanged; proposed activities in OECMs continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis and may be allowed to proceed if the risks to the area can be effectively avoided or mitigated.
- On February 23, 2022, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Minister responsible for Parks Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the President of the Nunatsiavut Government to examine the feasibility of establishing an Indigenous Protected Area along the northern coast of Labrador, under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.
- On June 8, 2022, the Eastern Canyons Marine Refuge was established, adding 0.76% for a new total of 14.66% of our ocean conserved.
- On December 9, 2022, DFO published the Government of Canada’s 2022 Guidance for Recognizing Marine Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECM).
- On February 5, 2023, the Government of Canada, the Mamalilikulla First Nation, and the Province of British Columbia announced fisheries closures and the establishment of a marine refuge, to help protect the ecologically and culturally significant area of Gwaxdlala/Nalaxdlala in Knight Inlet on the coast of British Columbia.