Fundian Channel-Browns Bank Area of Interest (AOI)
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South of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, in the Scotian Shelf bioregion.
This Area of Interest includes two geographically separate components. The western section is centred on Georges Basin while the larger eastern section encompasses the Fundian Channel (also known as the Northeast Channel) and part of Browns Bank.
A portion of the area is currently protected as a marine refuge, called the Northeast Channel Coral Conservation Area.
Approximate Size (km²)
Approximate % of Canada's ocean territory
Proposed Overarching Goal
To conserve and protect the ecological integrity of the area, including its biodiversity, productivity, ecosystem components, and special natural features.
This Area of Interest includes important oceanographic processes, diverse benthic habitats, several depleted species (e.g., groundfish), and deep-sea coral and sponge habitats. The Northeast Channel portion of the area contains the densest known concentrations of large gorgonian corals in Atlantic Canada, and the Browns Bank portion contains significant concentrations of sponges. The channel is also the largest entrance to the Gulf of Maine from the open Atlantic Ocean and many species, including basking sharks, use it as a migration corridor.
The Fundian Channel-Browns Bank AOI encompasses important oceanographic processes and diverse sensitive benthic habitats that provide shelter, feeding and nursery areas for a variety of commercial and non-commercial species. The area includes a migratory corridor and an area of high biodiversity, including important corals and sponges that provide habitat for many depleted groundfish species. Much of this area has been identified as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area (EBSA).
Proposed conservation priorities for the Fundian Channel-Browns Bank are:
- Diverse representation of habitat types, including basin, bank, deep water slope and channel habitats, and their associated fish and invertebrate communities
- Persistent habitat for juvenile Atlantic halibut
- Concentrations of large mature female lobster
- Suitable beaked whale habitat
- Deep-water corals
- Significant concentrations of sponges
- Representative habitat for Atlantic cod, Atlantic wolffish, winter skate, thorny skate, and white hake
- Highly suitable habitat for cusk
- The collection of oceanographic features, such as internal waves, areas of upwelling, and occasional presence of Gulf current and warm-core rings, at the mouth of the Fundian Channel that make it a highly productive area that is associated with the presence of large pelagic fishes, sea turtles, and cetaceans
- A blue whale foraging area
- Foraging ground for most functional guilds of marine birds, including Leach's storm petrel
Key Objectives and Approach
Key Objectives and Approach
The proposed overarching goal for the Fundian Channel-Browns Bank area is to conserve and protect its ecological integrity, including the biodiversity, productivity, ecosystem components, and special natural features.
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 environmental organizations. 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 Fundian Channel-Browns Bank 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
Tel: (902) 426-9919
Research and Publications
Research and Publications
- Summary of the ecological risk assessment for the Fundian Channel-Browns Bank Area of Interest (2023). For the full publication, contact MaritimesMPAs@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
- Socio-Economic Profile (Marine Harvest Activities) Fundian Channel – Browns Bank Area of Interest (2021)
- Biophysical and Ecological Overview of the Fundian Channel-Browns Bank Area of Interest (2020)
- Offshore Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas in the Scotian Shelf Bioregion (2016)
- Offshore Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas in the Scotian Shelf Bioregion (2014)
We are using multiple approaches to fully involve First Nations, Indigenous peoples, other governments, the public, and relevant industries in the design of the proposed Fundian Channel-Browns Bank MPA.
Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
Has DFO already decided what a future Fundian Channel-Browns Bank 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 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 in consultation with First Nations, Provinces, and with input from the multi-sector Advisory Committee table.
What benefits can an MPA offer?
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, 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.
Does DFO expect to have a ‘no take zone' in the MPA?
It is considered a best practice to include a zone of high protection (a.k.a. “no take zone”) as part of MPA design. This type of zone would exclude activities such as commercial fishing. A zone of high protection is considered an important component of a future Fundian Channel-Browns Bank MPA and is therefore a key topic of discussion as part of consultation on the site design. DFO is working with the fishing industry and others to identify potential areas that could contribute meaningfully to conservation while also minimizing economic impacts to communities.
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 other impacted groups 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).
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 people 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 the ecosystem
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