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Roles and responsibilities

Protecting Canada’s marine and coastal areas is a collective responsibility. All levels of government, Indigenous groups, industry sectors and coastal communities across Canadian society play an important role in marine and coastal protection, conserving marine biodiversity, and in the sustainable use of marine biological resources.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is the lead federal department for Canada’s three oceans, responsible for meeting a wide variety of commitments set down in the Oceans Act. The Oceans Act affirms Canada’s role as a world leader in oceans and marine resource management; encourages understanding of oceans and their processes to foster the sustainable development of the oceans and their resources; and promotes the application of the precautionary approach to the conservation, management and exploitation of those resources in order to protect and preserve the marine environment.

In particular, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, together with other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous Peoples, and citizens, has responsibility for leading the development and implementation of a national strategy for oceans management. The strategy is based on three principles: sustainable development, integrated management of marine activities, and the precautionary approach.

Within the context of this work, Fisheries and Oceans Canada leads and coordinates the development and implementation of a national network of marine protected areas on behalf of the Government of Canada. Under the Oceans Act, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard has the authority to propose regulations to the Governor-in- Council that designate marine protected areas (MPAs) and prescribe zoning and prohibited or allowed classes of activities within designated areas.

The Government of Canada is committed to meeting Aichi Target 11 as indicated in the mandate letters of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada. These letters instruct Ministers to work together to increase the proportion of Canada’s marine and coastal areas under protection to 5 percent by 2017 and 10 percent by 2020.

Other federal partners

Other federal departments and agencies have important roles in marine conservation and in meeting the targets of 5 percent in 2017 and 10 percent in 2020 of Canada’s marine and coastal areas under protection.

The term “marine protected area” (MPA) is used very broadly to encompass the marine components of a range of protected areas. Three federal departments have a mandate, under various statutes, to establish MPAs in Canada: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and the Parks Canada Agency (PCA).

The fundamental differences between these protected areas rest on the conservation purpose of each program and the legislative tool used to establish them:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada establishes MPAs through regulation under the Oceans Act to respond to the conservation needs of dynamic ecosystems and resources. MPAs protect and conserve marine species, habitats and/or ecosystems which are ecologically significant and/or distinct. There is a process for establishing and managing MPAs, and no single one-size-fits-all approach. The human activities that are allowed or prohibited within an Oceans Act MPA differ from one area to the next depending on the conservation objectives of the area.

Environment and Climate Change Canada establishes marine and terrestrial National Wildlife Areas through regulation under the Canada Wildlife Act and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries under the Migratory Bird Convention Act. The primary focus of these programs is to protect and set aside important habitat for migratory birds and species at risk, for the purpose of conservation, research, and public education. Some of these areas have marine components.

Parks Canada Agency establishes national parks, some with marine components, and National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs) to protect and conserve representative examples of Canada’s regions for the benefit, education and enjoyment of Canadians, using the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.

Natural Resources Canada plays an important role in providing science-based resource assessments and economic assessments to confirm the potential volume and value of petroleum resources beneath the seabed. These assessments ensure that Canada’s conservation and development decisions related to marine conservation are informed with the best available information.

Reporting on Conservation Targets

Reporting on the status of protected areas and progress toward meeting its international commitments is the responsibility of Environment and Climate Change Canada in that department’s capacity as the Government of Canada lead on the UN Convention on Biodiversity.

Environment and Climate Change Canada reports on a variety of key sustainability indicators related to Canada’s protected areas through the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) program. The indicators are based on objective and comprehensive information and convey environmental trends in a straightforward and transparent manner.

Environment and Climate Change Canada also produces the Canadian Protected Areas Status Report. This report, which uses collected by the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas through the CARTS program, is released every three years. The report provides a snapshot of protected areas across Canada and summarizes actions taken by federal, provincial and territorial governments to protect representative ecosystems and conserve biodiversity.

Provinces and territories

Provinces and territories play a significant role in providing protection for coastal areas such as parks, ecological reserves, wildlife and migratory bird sanctuaries, using their own legislative tools. Specific information on provincial/territorial legislative and regulatory instruments can be found in Annex 3 of the National Framework for Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas.

In 2016, the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers re-established the Oceans Task Group to provide a forum for federal-provincial-territorial collaboration in implementing the 2011 National Framework for Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas.

Indigenous groups

The mandate letter of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard states the Government of Canada’s commitment to “a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership,” specifically with respect to better co-management of our three oceans.

Indigenous involvement in the marine protected area process varies depending largely on the site’s location and the interest of local Indigenous groups. The process for meeting marine conservation targets respects treaties in existence and supports advancing the completion of modern treaties under development. An important element in advancing reconciliation through the process of meeting the targets is the development of Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreements (IIBA) as MPA networks develop.

Several MPAs had significant Indigenous involvement in their creation and in their ongoing management. In the case of the SGaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA, a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) confirms a mutual commitment for cooperative management and planning of the MPA and establishes a Management Board that provides advice to both the Minister and the CHN.

Inuvialuit were instrumental in setting the course for two Oceans Act MPAs established in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) – Tarium Niryutait MPA and Anguniqavia niqiqyuam MPA (AN MPA), where work included the identification of important conservation areas and objectives. The MPAs are co-managed by DFO and Inuvialuit via advisory/steering committees, and there are plans for community-based monitoring.

Fishing industry

Canada’s fishing sector makes many significant contributions to marine biodiversity conservation through long-term fisheries area closures (that is, closures of areas within fisheries).

The term Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OEABCM) or “other measures” is found as part of the UN CBD’s Aichi Target 11 in recognition of the contribution that OEABCM can make to marine biodiversity conservation. Fisheries area closures that meet certain requirements count towards Canada’s marine conservation targets.

International guidance on OEABCM from the IUCN and the UN CBD continues to develop. In the interim, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has taken the lead in developing operational guidance for identifying marine “other measures.” This guidance has been and will continue to be informed by discussions taking place through the IUCN’s Task Force on OEABCM, the UN CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, and the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA).

In January 2016, to support the development of this OEABCM operational guidance, the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) provided a Science Advisory Report (CSAS SAR - 2016/002) that summarizes the characteristics and factors that can be used to determine whether an area-based management measure is likely to provide marine biodiversity conservation benefits.

Whether an OEABCM is part of a bioregional MPA network will depend upon the characteristics of the OEABCM and whether it contributes to the bioregion’s specific network objectives. At the same time, area-based and other management measures support and strengthen bioregional MPA networks even if they do not qualify as OEABCMs. For example, a seasonal fisheries area closure that does not qualify as an OEABCM may be geographically located between an MPA and an OEABCM, serving as a “stepping stone” to protect a particular life history stage of a species as that species moves between two areas during the rest of its life history.

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