Establishing new Marine Protected Areas

Fisheries and Oceans Canada collaborates and consults with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous communities, industry stakeholders, environmental groups, and other interested Canadians to identify areas in our oceans and along our coasts that contain important habitats, species or ecosystems that need protection.

A marine area is identified as an Area of Interest when it is under consideration to become a marine protected area under the Oceans Act. A marine area may also be identified as a study area if further information needs to be gathered before determining the appropriate long-term conservation approach.

Establishment process

Establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) under the Oceans Act

Step 1: Selection of Area of Interest (AOI)

  • Establishment of the proposed MPA Advisory Committee to provide a venue for interested and affected parties to provide input into the establishment of the MPA.

Step 2: Ecological/biophysical, social, cultural and economic overview & assessment of the AOI

  • Refinement/completion of overview and assessment reports for the AOI, which consider the ecological/biophysical, social, cultural and economic aspects of the area.
  • Interested and affected parties may contribute information considering their expertise in their field or the local/traditional knowledge they hold into the overview and assessment of the AOI.

Step 3: Development of the regulatory approach and consultation with interested/affected parties

The proposed MPA design and regulations are developed based on a comprehensive understanding of the state of the ecosystem in the area based on best available science, traditional and local knowledge, and consultations with partners and stakeholders

  • Based on the overview and assessment reports, the conservation objectives of the proposed MPA are elaborated and the regulatory measures are developed.
  • The selection of allowed human activities and the conditions under which they can be carried out are determined based on the level of risk associated with those activities to the achievement of the MPA conservation objectives. In addition, bottom trawling, mining, dumping and oil and gas activities are prohibited in all new federal MPAs, under the 2019 MPA protection standards.
  • Consultation occurs with affected and interested parties on the proposed conservation objectives, boundary (including zoning if applicable) and regulatory measures.

Step 4: Regulatory process & designation of the MPA

  • Key documents are completed: the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), the Triage Statement Form, the Cost/Benefit Analysis (CBA), the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS), the instructions for drafting the regulations, the Regulatory Communications Plan, as applicable.
  • The impacts of the regulatory initiative are taken into account in several regulatory documents: the Triage Statement, the Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement.
  • Department of Justice lawyers draft the MPA regulations based on the regulatory approach.
  • Treasury Board approves the pre-publication of the draft regulations in Canada Gazette, Part I for public comment: when draft regulations are pre-published, interested persons are invited for a period of time (usually 30 days) to express their views. The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement and Regulations may be modified to reflect comments received. MPA designation occurs when the regulations are published in Canada Gazette, Part II.

Step 5: MPA Management

A well-defined MPA management framework increases certainty and predictability for oceans users. It also tailors MPA management towards achievement of stated MPA goals and objectives, resulting in more effective and efficient protection. This may yield greater ecological benefits and associated ecosystem goods and services.

The key elements to the MPA management framework are the Conservation Objectives, the MPA Management Plan; the MPA Monitoring Plan (which includes monitoring indicators, protocols and strategies); Compliance and Enforcement; and Public Education and Outreach. The MPA Management Plan provides guidance to affected and interested parties on the MPA regulations and associated management measures, as well as on non-regulatory measures (e.g., best management practices, public awareness through communications) to achieve the MPA objectives. Stakeholders are given the opportunity to provide their input into the initial draft MPA Management Plan prior to its finalization and into subsequent revisions of the plan.

When MPA management is supported by a monitoring framework, managers can make informed decisions to adaptively manage the MPA, resulting in more effective MPA management. A monitoring framework also ensures that monitoring is strategic, efficient, and makes use of collaborative arrangements where possible.MPA regulations follow a life-cycle approach, meaning that attention is given not only to regulatory development but also to the implementation, monitoring, evaluation and review of regulations. As a result, the life cycle approach improves the effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability of the regulatory system to support the government's commitment to Canadians.

Potential areas across Canada

Potential area across Canada

Atlantic walruses in the Canadian Arctic. Credit: J. Blair Dunn
Arctic ocean
Site name Approximate size in km2
Southampton Island Area of Interest 93,087


Primnoa corals. © DFO
Pacific ocean
Site name Approximate size in km2
Offshore Pacific Area of Interest 133,019
Race Rocks Area of Interest 2


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