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Design Guidance for a Network of Marine Protected Areas in the Scotian Shelf Bioregion (Part 1)

Regional Peer Review – Maritimes Region

July 6-7, 2016
Dartmouth, NS

Co-Chairs: Tana Worcester and Tanya Koropatnick


Canada has made various domestic and international commitments to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), including the current Government’s commitment to protect 5% of coastal and marine areas by 2017 and at least 10% by 2020Footnote 1. As the lead department for national MPA network planning, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is working with other federal, provincial and territorial departments and in collaboration with other interested parties to design and establish a Canadian network of MPAs in accordance with Decision IX/20 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (UNEP 2008).

The development of Canada’s MPA network is guided by the 2011 National Framework for Canada’s Network of MPAs (Government of Canada 2011). DFO Science has also provided general guidance regarding the design of MPA networks (DFO 2010), considerations for how to achieve representativity in the design of MPA networks (DFO 2013), and more specific guidance on MPA network objectives, data, and methods for the Scotian Shelf Bioregion (DFO 2012). A working group comprised of experts from DFO, Canadian Wildlife Service and Parks Canada has offered guidance on the technical aspects of MPA network development in the DFO Maritimes RegionFootnote 2 since 2014. Feedback from other government agencies, Aboriginal groups, stakeholders, and academics has also helped shape the MPA network development process in this region.

From this guidance and feedback, Strategic Objectives for the MPA network in DFO Maritimes Region have been developed, as follows:

  1. Protect unique, rare, or sensitive ecological features in the bioregion
  2. Protect representative examples of identified ecosystem and habitat types in the bioregion
  3. Help maintain ecosystem structure, functioning and resilience within the bioregion
  4. Contribute to the recovery and conservation of depleted species
  5. Help maintain healthy populations of species of commercial, recreational and/or Aboriginal importance

Due to differences in information and data availability for the coastal and offshore waters of DFO Maritimes Region, two distinct planning areas have been identified for MPA network development: 1) the coastal planning area (Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia and Bay of Fundy);  and 2) the offshore planning area (Scotian Shelf, slope and abyssal plain). Different approaches for network planning will be undertaken in each of these planning areas.  Conservation Priorities and Operational ObjectivesFootnote 3 have been drafted for each area to more specifically address the overarching Strategic Objectives for the region.

To address National requirements for MPA network design, science advice is needed on network Design StrategiesFootnote 4. A Science Advisory Process is required to determine, for each Conservation Priority: 1) the types of areas to be conserved (e.g., aggregations, nursery, spawning, etc.) and 2) the relative target (amount) for each of those areas. It is recognized that a general lack of empirical evidence will prevent the development of scientifically supported, objective targets for regional Conservation Priorities (e.g., Hillborn, 2012). As a result, this Science Advisory Process will aim to provide feedback on the logic of the approach used to develop design strategies and associated targets.

This is the first of two meetings to provide science advice on proposed Design Strategies and associated targets for protecting Conservation Priorities, addressing Strategic and Operational Objectives, and guiding MPA network design in the region.


The objectives of Part 1 of this Science Advisory Process are to review design strategies and associated targets for developing a network of MPAs in DFO Maritimes Region. Specifically:

  1. Review the proposed approach for setting targets for Conservation Priorities identified in the coastal and offshore planning areas.
  2. Review proposed design strategies and associated targets for each of the Conservation Priorities in the coastal and offshore planning areas. For the offshore planning area, exploratory Marxan outputs using the proposed design strategies and associated targets will be considered.
  3. Develop the work plan and Terms of Reference for Part 2 of this process.

Expected Publications



DFO. 2010. Science Guidance on the Development of Networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2009/061.

DFO. 2012. Marine Protected Area Network Planning in the Scotian Shelf Bioregion: Objectives, Data, and Methods. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2012/064.

DFO. 2013. Science Guidance on how to Achieve Representativity in the Design of Marine Protected Area Networks. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Advis. Rep. 2012/083.

Government of Canada. 2011. National Framework for Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa. 31 pp.

Hillborn, R. 2012. The Role of Science in MPA Establishment in California: A Personal Perspective. Environ. Conserv. 39(3): 195-198.

UNEP. 2008. Decision Adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its Ninth Meeting (UNEP/CBD/COP/DEC/IX/20), Decision IX/20 (CBD, 2008).

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