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Health of the Oceans Initiatives

The Health of the Oceans (HOTO) Initiative was established to protect unique and vulnerable marine areas, prevent degradation by countering pollution and strengthening preventive measures, and facilitate collaborative oceans management. This Initiative, which was funded as part of an overarching National Water Strategy announced in Budget 2007, supports 22 initiatives undertaken by five federal departments and agencies for a five-year investment. In March 2012, the budget announcement included a one year extension of funding for HOTO. This extension includes 19 distinct initiatives aimed at advancing efforts initiated under HOTO 2007-2012 by the five federal partners.

An important goal of the HOTO Initiative is to understand and protect the most vulnerable parts of our oceans. We also need to promote co-operation with our international partners. Such co-operation will work towards the ultimate goal of ensuring healthy and prosperous oceans for the benefit of current and future generations of Canadians.

There are several important issues and challenges affecting Canada’s marine environment, including:

  • declining fish stocks;
  • changes in the structure of marine ecosystems, especially in the upper layers of the food web;
  • introduction of pollutants (such as oily bilge water) and invasive species (such as zebra mussels and green crabs);
  • increasing numbers of marine species at risk;
  • habitat alteration and degradation;
  • contamination of traditionally harvested resources; and
  • declining biodiversity and productivity.

Canada’s Health of the Oceans Initiative is designed to address a number of these challenges. The Initiative will protect fragile marine environments, counter pollution and strengthen preventive measures by:

  • strengthening pollution prevention at source (conservation of natural resources);
  • increasing capacity to lessen the effects of pollution when and where it occurs;
  • increasing protection of ecologically significant marine areas through the establishment of nine new marine protected areas (MPAs);
  • investing in science to better understand the oceans; and
  • co-operating more closely with domestic and international partners for more integrated oceans management.

Who is involved?

List of initiatives
Description of federally-funded Health of the Oceans Initiatives.

Results Achieved

Between 2007 and 2012, HOTO which was federally supported with $61.5M, has been the source of 22 federally-driven projects focused on the ecological and economic health of oceans.  All of these began under the responsibility of one of the following five participating departments or agencies: Transport Canada (TC); Environment Canada (EC); Parks Canada Agency (PCA); and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC)).  Since their inception, these 22 HOTO projects have addressed priority needs in three areas: marine protected area establishment; pollution control; and collaboration.

In 2011-2012, an evaluation of the Health of the Oceans Initiative was conducted. The evaluation study concluded that there is an ongoing need for attention to the health of Canada's oceans, the Initiative aligns with federal government priorities, and that the federal government makes an appropriate and important contribution to oceans programming, in collaboration with other levels of government and other stakeholders.