Oceans Action Plan

Table of Contents

Foreword

In 2004 the Canadian government committed…

"to move forward on its Oceans Action Plan by maximizing the use and development of oceans technology, establishing a network of marine protected areas, implementing integrated management plans, and enhancing the enforcement of rules governing oceans and fisheries, including rules governing straddling stocks."

Canada’s Oceans Action Plan responds to that commitment – it articulates a government-wide approach to seize opportunities for sustainable development. The Oceans Action Plan rests on four inter-connected pillars:

The Oceans Action Plan serves as the overarching umbrella for coordinating and implementing oceans activities, and provides a framework to sustainably develop and manage our oceans. But this will take time, and we must start with the foundation pieces needed to achieve sustained, long-term change.

The most fundamental of these are new oceans governance arrangements ("integrated management" under the Oceans Act ), and ecosystem science to improve the management of the marine environment.

The Oceans Action Plan takes a phased approach to address key priorities. Phase I includes a series of initiatives that will be completed within 24 months, that build on progress made to date, and set the foundation for achieving the long-term objectives of the Oceans Act and Canada’s Oceans Strategy.

Subsequent phases of the Oceans Action Plan will broaden the geographic scope of oceans management, deepen action across Government and take advantage of lessons learned in Phase I.

Our Oceans

Canada is a maritime nation. We are defined as much by our oceans as by land. Three of the world’s oceans border our coastline, which is the longest in the world at about 244,000 km. Our oceans regions total almost 6 million square kilometers, equivalent to almost 60% of Canada’s land mass. In addition, Canada's extended continental shelf (beyond 200 nautical miles), once delimited through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) process, is estimated to be equivalent in size to three Prairie provinces combined.

Eight out of our ten provinces border on the oceans, as do the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon. The oceans provide recreational, environmental, employment, income and cultural staples to over 7 million Canadians who live in coastal communities – more than twenty percent of Canada’s total population. Our oceans are important and present an opportunity to make a greater contribution to our well-being and to benefit from the protection of critical marine environments.

Living on the land limits our vision of what our oceans look like beneath the surface. Few Canadians have seen our sub-sea valleys, plains and mountains. The Sable Gully off Nova Scotia’s coast is a massive sub-sea canyon, and is now one of Canada’s marine protected areas. Some of our country’s most magnificent vistas are found where the land joins the sea – coastal fjords and inlets, bays and estuaries, arctic ice fields, and archipelagos made up of thousands of islands and countless beaches.

Canada’s marine wildlife numbers in the thousands of species including orcas, polar bears, walrus, sea otters, and bowhead whales, which live for more than 200 years. We have shellfish, finfish, seabirds, marine plants and other seabed animals, including forests of thousand year-old corals and unique glass sponge reefs. These are part of our incredibly diverse oceans.

The role that oceans have played in Canada’s history cannot be overemphasized. They are an inherent part of our environmental, social, cultural and economic fabric. Aboriginal peoples and Canada’s coastal communities have longstanding ties to their oceans and other marine resources. With Canada’s Oceans Act, we have made a commitment to manage them wisely.

[Photo: Kingwell coastal house, dock, boats and water]
[Photo: Fisherman’s hands repairing/sewing fishing net]

Where We Are: the Oceans Act

With the passage of the Oceans Act in 1996, followed by the release of Canada’s Oceans Strategy in July 2002, we established a new legislative and policy framework to modernize oceans management. The Oceans Act is founded on three principles:

  • Sustainable Development
  • Integrated Management, and
  • Precautionary Approach.

Guided by these principles, Canada can continue to develop a dynamic and diverse oceans economy in a way that ensures that we will protect the marine environment on which that economy is based.

Seizing Opportunities for Sustainable Development – the Oceans Action Plan

Modern oceans management arrangements are necessary to enable Canadians to more fully realize the potential of their oceans. Currently, oceans governance arrangements are not designed to deal with the challenges of modern oceans management. The approach is fragmented, exceedingly complex, lacks transparency, and is focused on solving problems after they appear.

The current approach has resulted in:

  • failing oceans health, including some declining fish stocks and increasing fluctuations of stocks, increasing numbers of marine species at risk and invasive species, marine habitat loss, and declining biodiversity;
  • growing oceans user conflicts and administrative, jurisdictional and regulatory complexities, and lost or delayed investments; and
  • an oceans industry sector that is significantly weaker than its potential.
[PHOTO: Man on a boat looking through a scope]

Without a strategy to more effectively manage our oceans and address these challenges, there will be continued environmental degradation and lost economic and employment prospects. This will have serious consequences for coastal and Aboriginal communities that already face the challenge of maintaining healthy environments and providing the necessary infrastructure to support, sustain and grow their communities.

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of action to address these challenges.

  • The Prime Minister has personally tasked the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to lead the development of an Oceans Action Plan, and has appointed a Parliamentary Secretary to assist the Minister in this task.
  • The Prime Minister has also indicated that Canada will play a significant leadership role internationally in promoting modern oceans governance and improved management.

In addition, the Government of Canada committed in the October 2004 Speech from the Throne, to:

"move forward on its Oceans Action Plan by maximizing the use and development of oceans technology, establishing a network of marine protected areas, implementing integrated management plans, and enhancing the enforcement of rules governing oceans and fisheries, including rules governing straddling stocks."

The Oceans Action Plan responds to that commitment and advances the legislation and policy in place as well as the Government of Canada’s commitment to smart regulation. The Oceans Action Plan articulates a government-wide approach to seize opportunities for sustainable development. The Plan serves as the overarching umbrella for coordinating and implementing oceans activities, and as the framework to sustainably develop and manage our oceans.

The Oceans Action Plan is based on four inter-connected pillars:

A Phased Approach Toward Implementation

This will take time, and we must start with the foundation pieces needed to achieve sustained, long-term change. The most fundamental of these are new oceans governance arrangements ("integrated management" under the Oceans Act), and ecosystem science to improve the management of the marine environment.

Phase I includes a series of interrelated initiatives that will be completed within 24 months, which build on progress made to date and set the foundation for achieving the long-term objectives of the Oceans Act and Canada’s Oceans Strategy. Subsequent phases of the Oceans Action Plan will broaden the geographic scope of oceans management, deepen action across the Government and take advantage of of lessons learned in Phase I.

Date modified: