The world's oceans occupy more than 70 percent of Earth's surface and 95 percent of the biosphere. Oceans, including Canada's three oceans, continue to face increasing pressures from climate change and human activities. Canada's full ocean estate, which goes beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to encompass the extended continental shelf, covers a surface area of approximately 7.1 million square kilometres. This represents an area equivalent to about 70 percent of Canada's land mass. Within the EEZ limit, Canada's oceans cover a surface area of approximately 5.75 million square kilometres.
The ecosystem services provided by the biodiversity of the world's oceans are facing increasing impacts from climate change, species decline and loss, ecosystem degradation and loss, aquatic invasive species, and harmful effects from waste and other pollutants. Canada collaborates nationally with federal, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, and with other maritime nations in international fora to preserve proper ecosystem functions and protect the biodiversity of our oceans for present and future generations.
UN Convention on Biodiversity (UNCBD)
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has three main goals: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. The objective of the Convention is to develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. Canada was the first industrialized country to sign and ratify the CBD in 1993.
In the 2010 Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Aichi, Japan, the Government of Canada agreed to meet 20 global biodiversity targets by 2020. Aichi Target 11 states:
By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance to biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscape and seascape.
This global commitment was reconfirmed in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under Goal 14 to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” Goal 14.5 specifically reflects the Aichi Target 11 and states:
By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. With members from both government and civil society organizations, the IUCN provides a neutral forum where all parties can work together to forge and implement solutions to environmental challenges such as biodiversity, climate change, and sustainable development. Canada is a member of the IUCN.
Americas for the Protection of the Ocean
In 2022, Canada co-sponsored the Americas for the Protection of the Ocean, a Chilean initiative and coalition of Pacific coast nations in the Americas. This agreement underscores Canada's commitment to protecting our oceans and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM)
Under the auspices of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM), Fisheries and Oceans Canada works with provincial and territorial partners to develop coordinated policies and programs in support of a sustainable Canadian oceans sector. In 2011, the National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas was developed for the CCFAM to outline a strategic direction for the establishment of a national network of marine protected areas (MPAs). In January 2016, CCFAM re-established the Oceans Task Group (OTG) to provide guidance on the National Framework.
- 2018 CCFAM OTG Report on Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas
- 2017 CCFAM OTG Report on Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas
- 2010 CCFAM OTG Spotlight on Marine Protected Areas
Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA)
The Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA) provides advice and assistance to international, national, provincial/territorial, and local agencies on matters dealing with protected areas and ecosystem conservation. The CCEA holds all the data for terrestrial and marine protection in its CARTS (Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System) geodatabase. CARTS contributes to Canada's national reporting on protected areas, and facilitates Canada's response to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and to the World Commission on Protected Areas.
Federal-Provincial-Territorial Conservation, Wildlife and Biodiversity Steering Group
In 2015, the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Conservation, Wildlife and Biodiversity Steering Group and its Biodiversity Working Group (with input from Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders) developed 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada and made a commitment to work together in accordance with each government's respective jurisdiction and priorities. The 2020 goals and targets reflect the Aichi Targets to which the Government of Canada is a signatory:
By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland waters, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.
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