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Gully Marine Protected Area Monitoring: Review of Research Activities, Indicators, and Guidance on Next Steps

Regional Advisory Meeting – Maritimes Region

January 18-22, 2021
Virtual meeting

Chairperson: Tana Worcester


The Gully is the largest submarine canyon off eastern North America, supporting a rich diversity of habitats and species, including cold-water corals and deep-diving toothed whales. The area is acknowledged, nationally and globally, as a unique and important focus for conservation. Available scientific knowledge of the area was first drawn together by Harrison and Fenton (1998) and later updated by Gordon and Fenton (2002), following additional targeted research. In 2004, the Gully became Canada’s first Oceans Act Marine Protected Area (MPA) to be designated in the Atlantic Ocean.

In 2008, a Management Plan was completed, providing support for the MPA regulations and guidance to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), other regulators and users on the protection and management of the MPA. Conservation objectives and sub-objectives specified in 2008 were maintained and recast as conservation goals for the second edition Management Plan (DFO 2017). The overarching goal for the Gully MPA is to protect the health and integrity of the Gully ecosystem. Sub-goals for the MPA are to:

A framework for monitoring the MPA, including 47 proposed indicators, was prepared in 2010 to support the conservation goals and objectives (DFO 2010, Kenchington 2010). Available data, sampling protocols and monitoring programs supporting these indicators were later reviewed in 2012 (Allard et al. 2015). Monitoring and research has since continued in the MPA, helping to expand our understanding of the ecosystems, while also establishing baselines for future work and supporting improvements to the efficiency and efficacy of future monitoring.

A decade after the initial proposal of indicators, there is an opportunity and need to revisit the Gully monitoring program, to examine the utility of the data being gathered, identify gaps in coverage, incorporate new knowledge, document progress towards baselines from which change can be assessed, and interpret any observed trends. Centrally, this review seeks to evaluate whether the MPA is meeting its conservation objectives and to determine whether the current monitoring activities are suitable for this evaluation. The review will be instrumental to the formalization of a feasible monitoring program and practical implementation strategies for the Gully MPA.

As Atlantic Canada’s first Oceans Act MPA, a peer review of the monitoring and assessment of the Gully is expected to provide important lessons and perspectives for the development of long-term monitoring programs at other offshore MPAs and ultimately for Canada’s bioregional MPA networks.


The objectives of this meeting are to review the performance of the Gully MPA in meeting its conservation objectives and to provide advice on how to move forward efficiently with monitoring. These objectives will be accomplished through:

Expected Publications

Expected Participation



Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

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