Terms of Reference

Biophysical and Ecological Overview of the Eastern Shore Islands

Regional Peer Review Process – Maritimes Region

March 20-21 2018
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Chairperson: Tana Worcester


The Government of Canada has agreed to a suite of international biodiversity conservation goals and targets (the Convention on Biological Diversity 2011-2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity’s Aichi Targets) and adopted complementary domestic 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada. Both international and domestic targets (Aichi Target 11 and Canada’s Target 1) call for the conservation of 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. Further, to highlight these targets as a priority, the Government of Canada identified an interim target of 5% protection by 2017.

The designation of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Canadian waters has been identified as one part of the national strategy to meet these targets. Under the Oceans Act, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is authorized to provide protection to areas of the oceans and coasts through the establishment of MPAs, where the identification of an Area of Interest (AOI) is the first step in this process. The identification of this proposed Area of Interest (AOI) for potential MPA designation in the Maritimes Region was first informed by:

  • the identification of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (Hastings et al. 2014), which are areas of especially high ecological or biological significance where a greater risk aversion is required in the management of human activities;  
  • analysis of information at the bioregional scale for the identification of areas that could contribute to MPA network design and/or targets; and
  • consideration of the precautionary approach as per Section 35 of the Oceans Act.

Following the conclusion of a regional site selection process, the Eastern Shore Islands were identified as a proposed Area of Interest (AOI)for potential MPA establishment within the Maritimes Region. Currently, conservation priorities identified for this area include the relatively undisturbed and unique archipelago habitat. This area contains significant concentrations of kelp, eel grass, and salt marsh habitat and has been noted as important for several fish species including Atlantic Salmon (Endangered – COSEWIC), Atlantic Cod (Endangered – COSEWIC), White Hake (Threatened – COSEWIC), Atlantic Herring, and significant concentrations of seabirds and shorebirds.

Once an AOI is identified, detailed information on the key biophysical and ecological attributes of the area, especially as it pertains to its potential conservation priorities and their linkages to other key ecosystem components and processes, is required. A review of this scientific knowledge will provide details on these conservation priorities and may also serve to highlight additional conservation priorities.

Furthermore, the biophysical and ecological overview will assist in formulating and/or refining conservation objectives, delineating the proposed MPA boundary (and zones if required), and completing an ecological risk analysis to inform the development of the regulatory approach for the MPA. The information contained within will also inform subsequent advice on monitoring protocols and strategies, identification of information gaps requiring further research, and the development of a management plan for the area.

Areas adjacent to the proposed AOI may need to be considered to capture the necessary breadth and scope of the various components of the ecosystem. Therefore, given the geographic scale at which scientific information is currently collected and reported, the study area that has been deemed appropriate for the Eastern Shore Islands biophysical and ecological overview is the nearshore coastal waters (<100 m depth) along the east coast of Nova Scotia ranging between Halifax Harbour and the port of Canso. A specific focus will be applied to the Eastern Shore Archipelago, which extends along nearly 100 km of coastline between Jeddore Harbour and Liscomb.

The Oceans Management program of the Ecosystems Management Sector has requested DFO Science provide advice and supporting document(s) through this Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat Regional Peer Review to inform the establishment of this proposed AOI as an MPA.

A traditional knowledge study for Eastern Shore Islands will be undertaken separately in spring 2018.


The working paper(s) will be reviewed and provide the basis for discussion and advice on the specific objectives outlined below:

  1. Evaluate, describe and map, where possible, the identified conservation priorities and other key biophysical and ecological features of the study area, including:  
    • predominant and/or unique physical and biological oceanographic characteristics;
    • predominant, unique, and/or sensitive habitat features; and
    • ecologically, socially/culturally and/or commercially significant species; depleted species; and marine mammals and birds

Where appropriate, identify relevance of the study area to the life histories of species of interest, species distribution and abundance (and status and trends where available), and the local abiotic and biotic factors influencing these.

  1. Identify known sensitivities, resilience, and recoverability of habitats and species of interest within the study area. 
  2. Identify key uncertainties and knowledge gaps as it pertains to the current understanding of the existing environment and species of interest within the study area, and recommend measures to address these gaps, where possible.
  3. Where appropriate, based on the best available science, recommend the addition or removal of conservation priorities within the study area.

Expected Publications

  • Science Advisory Report
  • Proceedings
  • Research Document(s)

Expected Participation

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) (Science, Fisheries and Aquaculture Management, and Ecosystem Management)
  • Canadian Wildlife Service
  • Nova Scotia Departments of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Environment, and Natural Resources
  • Environmental Non-Government Organisations
  • Academic researchers
  • Indigenous communities/organizations
  • Fishing associations
  • Nova Scotia Salmon Association
  • Atlantic Salmon Federation
  • Other invited experts


Hastings K., M. King, and K. Allard. 2014. Ecologically and biologically significant areas in the Atlantic coastal region of Nova Scotia. Canadian Technical Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 3107: xii + 174 p.


Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

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