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Eastern Shore Islands: Area of Interest (AOI)


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Map: Eastern Shore Islands AOI

Video: Eastern shore Islands: A coastal gem


The Eastern Shore Islands AOI includes the nearshore waters surrounding the dense archipelago on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. The site stretches from Clam Bay near Jeddore Harbour to Barren Island near Liscomb Point and extends approximately 25 km from mainland in the Scotian Shelf bioregion.

Approximate Size (km2)

2,000 km2

Approximate % of Canada’s ocean territory


Date identified

February, 2018

Proposed Overarching Goal

To conserve and protect the ecological integrity of the area, including biodiversity, productivity, ecosystem components, and special natural features.

Environmental Context

This highly natural area includes rich beds of eelgrass, kelp, and salt marsh that provide important habitat for many marine species, including commercial species that use these habitats as juveniles. Estuaries associated with several rivers that drain into this site are considered important habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon. The dense archipelago of hundreds of islands has been identified as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area (EBSA) that provides important nesting and foraging ground for many colonial seabirds and shorebirds. Many of the islands are protected through provincial and private conservation efforts, including current efforts by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust’s “100 Wild Islands Legacy Campaign.”

Ecological Importance

Ecological Importance

Eastern Shore Islands is a highly natural area encompassing a dense archipelago of hundreds of islands that is regionally unique in size and density. The area includes rich beds of eelgrass, kelp, and salt marsh that provide important habitat for many marine species. Estuaries associated with several rivers that drain into this site are considered important habitat for Atlantic salmon. The archipelago also provides important nesting and foraging ground for many colonial seabirds and shorebirds.

Proposed conservation priorities for the Eastern Shore Islands are:

  • High naturalness
  • Unique coastal and marine habitat associated with the regionally unique island archipelago
  • Significant concentrations of kelp beds and eelgrass
  • Areas used by juvenile Atlantic cod (Endangered – COSEWIC), white hake, and pollock
  • Spawning area for Atlantic herring
  • Important habitat for Atlantic salmon (Southern Uplands population; Endangered – COSEWIC)
  • Significant foraging area for a variety of sea- and shorebirds, including Harlequin duck (Special Concern – SARA), purple sandpiper, and Roseate tern (Endangered – SARA)]
Key Objectives and Approach

Key Objectives and Approach

A proposed overarching goal for the Eastern Shore Islands is to conserve and protect the ecological integrity of the area, including the biodiversity, productivity, ecosystem components, and special natural features of the Area.

The selection of an Area of Interest marks the beginning of the Marine Protected Area establishment process, led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. An important first step in designating a Marine Protected Area is to initiate consultation mechanisms, including the establishment of an advisory committee, to help capture input from First Nations and Indigenous communities, other government partners, and stakeholders including industry and the local community. The process also includes the collection and analysis of available ecological and socio-economic data and the completion of a risk assessment. The information gathered through consultation, data collection and analysis will inform the Area’s conservation objectives, along with its boundary and zones, and will help determine the management measures and associated regulations required for the future Marine Protected Area.

For more information about the Eastern Shore Islands MPA establishment process, please contact:

Marine Planning and Conservation
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Maritimes Region)
Bedford Institute of Oceanography
P.O. Box 1006
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
B2Y 4A2
Tel: (902) 426-9919
Research and Publications

Research and Publications

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Has DFO already decided what a future Eastern Shore Islands MPA will look like and what activities will be restricted?

Every MPA is different. Size, shape, and allowable activities are determined through a process that starts after the Area of Interest (AOI) has been identified. During the MPA site design process, all Oceans Act MPAs undergo an ecological risk assessment to determine which activities that occur within the AOI may pose risks to the natural features that make the site special. The risk assessment, in combination with information gathered through consultation, serves as the basis for discussions regarding allowable activities, zones and boundaries for the future MPA. Recommendations for a final MPA design are developed at the multi-sector Advisory Committee table.

Will the MPA shut down fisheries on the Eastern Shore?

DFO is working closely with the local fishing industry to ensure livelihoods are not impacted by a future Eastern Shore Islands MPA. All activities are subject to the ecological risk assessment, but based on experience with similar MPAs, DFO is confident that lobster and other traditional fixed-gear fishing (herring gillnet, groundfish longline), dive fisheries, recreational fisheries, and Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) fisheries will be allowed to continue within a future Eastern Shore Islands MPA.

What benefits can an MPA offer to the local community?

Human activity is putting increasing pressure on Canada’s oceans and MPAs help maintain healthy marine environments for present and future generations. Protection of marine species and their habitats, including spawning grounds, nursery habitat, and feeding areas can enhance diversity and productivity, and can increase resilience to climate change. An MPA provides a focus for scientific research, and presents opportunities for collaborations with First Nations, the fishing industry, academia, and others on projects of interest to the users of the area. There is growing evidence that MPAs can offer economic benefits too, such as improvements to the health of fishery resources, and enhanced opportunities for tourism and recreation.

Will there be a “no take zone”?

A high protection zone (a.k.a “no take zone”) is a specific area within an MPA that prohibits all commercial extraction activities. Although many MPAs have these zones, they are not mandatory for Oceans Act MPAs. A high protection zone was introduced during the early stages of consultation for the Eastern Shore Islands AOI and considerable concerns were raised but based on the results of the lobster risk assessment, and the low-impact nature of other traditional fixed-gear fisheries in this area, DFO is confident that a future Eastern Shore Islands MPA can still be effective without a high protection zone. Therefore, in consultations with First Nations, the Province of Nova Scotia, and the Advisory Committee, the Department has removed the zone of high protection from further consideration in the design of a future Eastern Shore Islands MPA.

However, as risk assessment results are finalized and we’ve had further consultation, there may be a requirement to restrict other activities within certain areas. These activities would not include lobster fishing, but could include other types of commercial fishing and industrial activities.

Will the MPA restrict hunting, clamming and rockweed harvesting? Will other land-based activities be impacted?

No. Oceans Act MPAs only extend to the low tide line so land-based and intertidal (between low tide and high tide lines) activities like hunting, clamming and rockweed harvesting would occur outside of the MPA boundary. Likewise, an MPA would not impact property ownership, or maintenance activities such as private wharf repairs. Many of the Islands are protected by the Province of Nova Scotia (Eastern Shore Islands Wilderness Area) or the Nova Scotia Nature Trust (“100 Wild Islands”); follow the links to find out more about these initiatives, including information on access or activity restrictions.

How can I have a say in the design of the Eastern Shore Islands MPA?

DFO is using multiple approaches to fully involve First Nations, Indigenous peoples, the community, industries, and other governments in the MPA establishment process, such as:

  • An Advisory Committee has been created and will be a key platform for multi-sector discussion and to provide advice on the MPA design prior to designation.
  • A working group, consisting of the membership of the Eastern Shore Fishermen’s Protective Association (ESFPA) has been established to ensure that the fishing industry has a strong voice in this process.
  • Community events will be held to provide opportunities for DFO to share information, answer your questions, and hear your views. Please watch this website for upcoming events.
  • All Canadians have an opportunity to provide their input into the MPA design during the public comment period once the draft regulations are developed and posted on the Canada Gazette.
  • You can also join the conversation by contacting us at:
Can an MPA be changed once the Regulations are finalized?

Yes. The design of an MPA is determined collaboratively through a process that involves information gathering, assessment, and extensive consultations. Once the MPA design is ready, the boundaries, zones and allowable activities are described in draft regulations. The draft regulations are then posted in Canada Gazette for all Canadians to review for a 30-day public comment period. These comments are then considered in developing the final Regulations.

Once an MPA is designated, the Advisory Committee continues to provide input into the on-going management of the site. Management plans are reviewed regularly, new science is considered, and the overall MPA effectiveness is looked at to determine whether changes are required.

Changes to MPA Regulations are infrequent. However, in the event that a major change is required (for example a zoning change or new allowable activity), consultations with First Nations, Indigenous groups, other governments, industry stakeholders and the community would take place to help inform the changes. As with the establishment of the MPA, such changes to the Regulations would also require a public review and comment period through Canada Gazette (described above).

Will finfish aquaculture be allowed within a future Eastern Shore Islands MPA?

To date this activity has not been evaluated or allowed in an Oceans Act MPA in Canada. The risk assessment for aquaculture is currently underway and this will provide more certainty on whether or not this activity would be compatible within this potential MPA. We understand that this is a matter of great interest for the local communities and we are working with DFO Science, the Province of Nova Scotia, industry, other experts, and the Advisory Committee to complete this risk assessment as soon as possible.

What does an Oceans Act MPA provide when there are already existing rules in place under laws like the Fisheries Act?

Oceans Act MPAs are part of an overall strategy by the Government of Canada to manage and reduce the impacts of human activities on its oceans. They are meant to complement, not replace, what we do now to manage fisheries and other marine uses. For example, fisheries active within MPAs are still managed using measures under the Fisheries Act.

MPAs are long term management tools used to protect and conserve marine and coastal ecosystems while also ensuring communities can continue to sustainably use and enjoy the area. Based on experiences across the country, Oceans Act MPAs can help:

  • Proactively manage human activities, so that low impact activities are allowed to continue, and higher impact activities are restricted
  • Promote new economic opportunities and support stewardship initiatives, such as responsible nature-based tourism, scientific research, and education and outreach
  • Increase and sustain collaborations between industry, community, academia and government on topics of common interest, such as monitoring the health of coastal waters
How much community support is needed before an MPA can be established?

Once a clear, well-defined MPA proposal has been developed, there are a number of factors for the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to consider when deciding whether a proposed MPA will be designated. This includes a full evaluation of its costs, benefits, and level of community support. All Canadians will also have an opportunity to voice their support or opposition to the proposed MPA during a public comment period once draft regulations are posted on the Canada Gazette.

We know from experience that community collaboration and buy-in is a very important factor in the success of any MPA. We look forward to talking with all interests on the Eastern Shore to build a proposal that is the best fit for Eastern Shore communities.



DFO is using multiple approaches to fully involve First Nations, Indigenous peoples, other governments, the community, and relevant industries in the design of the proposed Eastern Shore Islands MPA. Follow the link below for more information about consultation and engagement activities.



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