Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Canadian Government made an exciting announcement on June 8th, World Oceans Day, on the finalisation of the official boundaries of the St. Ann’s Bank Marine Protected Area (MPA). This 4,364 km2 MPA is found off the coast of Nova Scotia, and is an important feeding ground for endangered species such as the leatherback sea turtles, and is an key area in migration of blue whales and Atlantic cod.
This is an exciting announcement as this area was designated as an ‘Area of Interest’ for preservation back in 2011, and after consultation with local fishing industries, the public and NGOs a final decision for an area to protect has been established.
Another important feature of this MPA is that this area is now completely off limits for oil and gas exploration and exploitation as well as bottom trawling. The MPA is divided into four zones, the largest, zone one is completely off limits to commercial fishing, and only research, and aboriginal fishing will be permitted. After the consultation, the area of zone two was expanded which will allow for more lobster and halibut fishing area. International marine protection standards require that all oil and gas development are forbidden within a protected area, but there have been some exceptions to this rule in recently proposed Canadian MPAs. It is good to see that the St Ann’s Bank MPA will have a complete moratorium on oil and gas exploration and exploitation.
What are Marine Protected Areas you might ask, and why are they important? They are specific areas of a national’s ocean which are designated for protection and monitored by the Canadian Government and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. They are – similar to parks on land – places important sites for conservation and maintaining biodiversity in certain ecosystems as they protect them from human activities. In fully protected areas, species and ecosystems have the space to recover from exploitation in that area, and they provide the necessary conditions for growth of endangered and at-risk populations. In the long term, they allow for sustainable fisheries, significant and efficient carbon storage and shoreline protection, as well as pristine areas for ecotourism and recreation.
The announcement of the finalization of the St Ann’s Bank MPA last week was significant as it shown further motivation of our current government in its game of catch up the conserve and protect marine and terrestrial areas. Canada made the commitment to establishing protection for 17 % of land and 10 % of marine and coastal areas by 2020 as part its commitments to the Nagoya Protocol which came out of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2010. Currently, about 1 % of Canada’s oceans are protected. Though the St Ann’s Bank MPA only accounts for 0.08% of this target, the current government is moving on these targets significantly more than the previous government. Another recent announcement coming at the end of May 2017 from the opposite coast, is for new area of interest for creation of a MPA off the west coast of Vancouver Island which is 140 000 km2. This would account for 2.57 % of Canada’s target. With an intermediary target of 5 % of marine and coastal areas protected by the end of 2017, the government is making good progress, but still has work to do!
I learned a lot about the importance of creations of both marine and terrestrial protected areas last summer when I delved into the SNAP Quebec’s (Societé pour la nature et les parc/ Canadian Parks and Wilderness Foundation) Nagoya + report which accessed whether Quebec was keeping up with CBD commitments. However, from growing up on the east coast, playing as a kid in the forests and Ottawa river where my dad grew up when we visited and in finally getting to see the west coast rainforests and pacific landscape last year, I also know in my heart the importance of conserving Canada’s wild spaces.
Too see the full story on the this MPA and some impacts on the Nova Scotia fishing industry, see full article published on CBC.
For more information on the importance of the designation of this particular area see comments on the announcement by Chris Miller, National Conservation Biologist of Nova Scotia’s branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
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