Offshore Pacific AOI
On May 24, 2017, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced a portion of the Offshore Pacific Bioregion (OPB) as an Area of Interest (AOI) for consideration as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) under Canada's Oceans Act.
The Offshore Pacific AOI is located in the southern portion of the OPB extending from the continental shelf break, west of Vancouver Island, to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundary with an area of approximately 140,000 km2. At its closest point, the AOI is approximately 80 km from the west coast of Vancouver Island, but on average is 100-150 km off the coast and extends south to the Canada-United States border.
Science shows that there are benefits linked to protecting large marine areas in a precautionary manner. Large marine areas typically contain several ecosystems and habitats that interact ecologically at various spatial scales, therefore allowing for holistic conservation opportunities. Large marine protected areas (MPAs) may capture one or more examples of significant areas (e.g., Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs)) - while also ensuring that particular elements of biodiversity (e.g., species, communities) and some physical characteristics (e.g., oceanographic properties, geological features) are protected.
Understanding and protecting marine ecosystems relies on bringing together complex sources of multi-disciplinary scientific information. For example, the identification of EBSAs is often the first step in scoping an area that is potentially in need of protection. In 2016, EBSAs, including seamounts and hydrothermal vents, were identified in the OPB by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Science in accordance with a combination of national (DFO) and international (e.g., United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity) criteria for identifying EBSAs. As such, DFO has identified a portion of the OPB as an AOI for consideration as Canada's Oceans Act MPA for the purposes of protecting significant marine areas.
Key Objectives and Approach
The interim conservation objective of the Offshore Pacific AOI is to contribute to the protection and conservation of the unique seafloor features (i.e., seamounts and hydrothermal vents) and the ecosystems they support in Canada’s OPB. This interim objective was established based on discussions with and information obtained from DFO Science. This interim conservation objective will be reviewed and adjusted based on further consultations with DFO Science, the Province of British Columbia, Indigenous groups, and stakeholders, and will guide the development of the Offshore Pacific AOI and potential Canada's Oceans Act MPA.
An Advisory Committee will be established for this AOI. As this process moves forward DFO will finalize the conservation objectives, determine the appropriate site boundaries and develop a management approach for the proposed Offshore Pacific MPA in consultation with partners and stakeholders.
Research and Publications
- DFO Science Research Document: Identification of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) in Canada’s Offshore Pacific Bioregion
- DFO Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat Report: Development of a Framework and Principles for the Biogeographic Classification of Canadian Marine Areas.
- DFO Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat Report: Identification of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) in the Offshore Pacific Bioregion
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