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Terms of Reference

Identification of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSA) in the Canadian Arctic

National Science Advisory Process

June 14-17, 2011
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Chairperson: Jake Rice


Canada has committed domestically and internationally to sustainable development of the Arctic marine environment and also to building a network of marine protected areas.

Under Canada’s Oceans Act (1997), “conservation, based on an ecosystem approach, is of fundamental importance to maintaining biological diversity and productivity in the marine environment”. This Act provides the legislative framework for an integrated ecosystem-approach to management in Canadian oceans, particularly in areas considered ecologically or biologically significant.  DFO has developed guidance for the  identification of ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSA) and has endorsed the scientific criteria of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for identifying ecologically or biologically significant marine areas as defined in Annex I of Decision IX/20 of its 9th Conference of Parties.

In support of domestic integrated management efforts, EBSA have already been identified in each of DFO’s five Large Ocean Management Areas (LOMA), including the Beaufort Sea in the Canadian Arctic. In addition, EBSA have also been identified in the northern Foxe Basin.

The identification of EBSA in the Canadian Arctic will serve as a key component of the knowledge base for: i) the development of the Arctic component of Canada’s network of marine protected areas (MPA) under the Oceans Act; and ii) facilitating the implementation of DFO’s Sustainable Fisheries Framework under the Fisheries Act. In addition, this information will be of direct use to other federal Departments, as well as Canadian provinces, territories, and Aboriginal organisations, who are responsible for the management of activities in the north within their mandate (e.g. resource extraction, marine shipping, ocean dumping, spill response, cable laying, land use planning, etc.).

A national Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) science advisory process will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba from June 14-17, 2011 to provide science advice on the identification of marine EBSA in the Canadian Arctic using the EBSA criteria defined by the CBD. EBSA will not be identified in the Beaufort Sea and the northern Foxe Basin as this exercise has already been completed for these areas.

This science advisory process will focus on the identification of EBSA within the following Canadian marine biogeographic units: the Hudson Bay Complex, the Arctic Basin, the Western Arctic, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and the Eastern Arctic.

Working Papers and Meeting Objectives

Working Papers

Working papers submitted for review by meeting participants will comprise the primary information sources that will be considered at this science advisory process.

Participants will discuss the following questions with regard to the working papers:


The primary objective of this science advisory process is to identify EBSA in the Canadian Arctic.

In order to achieve this objective, meeting participants will address the following:

  1. Using the best existing, available information (including scientific data, experiential knowledge and/or Aboriginal knowledge) identify areas in the Canadian Arctic considered EBSA using the criteria defined by the CBD in Annex I of Decision IX/20.
  2. For each of the identified EBSA:
    1. Provide a justification outlining why the area is considered ecologically or biologically significant; and
    2. Indicate the level of confidence in the delineation of the area, as well as any sources of uncertainty.
  3. Prioritise the identified EBSA based on their level of ecological or biological significance in the ecosystem and consistent with the guidance provided in  Guidance Document on Identifying Conservation Priorities and Phrasing Conservation Objectives for Large Ocean Management Areas. Societal values and potential threats will not be considered in this science advisory process.
  4. Of the activities expected to occur in the Arctic (e.g. fishing gears, seismic, ballast water exchange zones, oil and gas, etc.), are there any for which scientific advice on their potential impacts do not already exist? If so, what are they and how imminent are these activities? For activities where scientific advice has already been provided, are there reasons to expect the potential impacts of these activities will be particularly different in the Arctic compared to other areas?
  5. Produce maps indicating where EBSA are located in the Canadian Arctic and where analysis was not possible owing to a lack of information.

Expected Publications

Publications from the meeting will include a CSAS Science Advisory Report, a CSAS Proceedings to document the discussion of the meeting, and CSAS Research Document(s) based on submitted working papers that provide the basis for the science advice.


This national science advisory process will include experts from DFO Science and other sectors of the Department, as well as a broad range of invited external participants who can contribute to the scientific discussions.  The invited experts will be selected for objectivity and credibility among peers and balanced across the diverse perspectives.


Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

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