Terms of Reference

Workshop to define the coastal zone and data compilation for Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSA) assessment

Regional Workshop - Gulf

December 14 and 15, 2010
Moncton, (NB)

Chairperson: M. Lanteigne (DFO Gulf)


Canada’s Oceans Act authorizes DFO to provide enhanced protection to areas of the oceans and coasts which are ecologically or biologically significant. Ocean areas can be ecologically or biologically “significant” because of the functions that they serve in the ecosystem and/or because of structural properties. Identifying Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSA) is not a general strategy for protecting all habitats and marine communities that have some ecological significance. Rather, it is a tool for calling attention to an area that has particularly high Ecological or Biological Significance, to facilitate provision of a greater-than-usual degree of risk aversion in management of activities in areas of especially high ecological and biological significance (DFO 2004).

DFO established standards to identify EBSAs (DFO 2004) and applied these to features in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (DFO 2006). Ten EBSAs were identified, all offshore (DFO 2007). There was ample discussion during the 2006 meeting regarding the inclusion of coastal areas in the EBSA evaluation for the Gulf but no consensus was reached on how to consider the ecological and biological significance of coastal and estuarine areas within a classification system that is based primarily upon the relationship with large scale oceanographic features or processes (DFO 2006). The review at that time excluded coastal features such barachois, salt marshes and eel grass beds on the premise that although they may have a high local significance, they may not have an effect overall in the large ocean ecosystem of the Gulf (DFO 2006). The coastal areas were deemed to merit additional management attention because they were locally significant productive habitats. The outstanding question is whether the EBSA criteria apply to the coastal zone and if specific areas within the coastal zone could be defined as EBSAs.

Substantial data collation and analyses are required to determine if the coastal zone meets the EBSA criteria. A two-step approach is proposed. The first step is a workshop to agree on a definition of the coastal zone and to identify and describe the data sets which could be used to apply the EBSA criteria to the coastal zone. The second step is a formal review process of the data and information applied to the EBSA criteria.


The following objectives are for the first step in the process and are specific to the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence:

Expected Publications

The meeting will not generate advice. The meeting is structured as a workshop with discussions and recommendations documented in a proceedings report. Research documents are not expected at this stage. The proceedings document is expected within two months of the date of the meeting.

The final products from the meeting will be posted on the DFO Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat website.


Participation is expected from:


DFO. 2004. Identification of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Ecosystem Status Rep. 2004/006.

DFO. 2006. Proceedings of the Zonal Workshop on the Identification of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSA) within the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Estuary. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Proceed. Ser. 2006/011.

DFO, 2007. Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSA) in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence: identification and characterization. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec., Sci. Adv. Rep. 2007/016.

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