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Reaching Canada’s marine conservation targets

The targets

The targets

In 2010, Canada committed to the marine conservation targets established under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD). This target, commonly referred to as Aichi Target 11, committed Canada to conserving 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas through effectively managed networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) by 2020. These objectives were reconfirmed in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under Goal 14.

In 2018, the G7 Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities further committed Canada and other developed countries to supporting strategies to effectively protect and manage vulnerable areas of our oceans and resources. This would be done by establishing effective and science-based marine protected areas (MPAs) and OECMs.

The Government of Canada has supported these commitments with the most significant investments in a generation:

  • $81 million over five years to support achieving the 10 per cent marine conservation target;
  • $40 million per year increase in fisheries and oceans science, including hiring 135 new scientists and forming new science partnerships with universities and other institutions; and
  • $1.5 billion over five years for oceans protection, which includes support for coastal restoration, emergency response, and much more.

In August 2019, Canada surpassed the 10 per cent target. We are now looking beyond 2020, toward an ambitious new target of conserving 25 per cent of our marine and coastal areas by 2025, working toward 30 per cent by 2030.

In July 2020, Canada joined the Global Ocean Alliance, which is advocating to protect at least 30 per cent of the world’s oceans through the establishment of MPAs and OECMs by 2030. Through the Global Ocean Alliance, Canada joins like-minded countries to advocate internationally for the adoption of a global 30 per cent conservation target by 2030. Canada will continue to work with other countries toward the adoption of new ambitious global biodiversity targets under the UN Convention on Biological at the 15th Conference of Parties in 2021.


Tools for marine protection

Oceans Act Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, protect and conserve marine species, habitats and ecosystems, which are ecologically significant and distinct. The types of activities allowed or prohibited within an Oceans Act MPA depend on the area’s conservation objectives. Economic opportunities that are compatible with these conservation objectives are typically allowed within the protected area or within specific zones of the protected area.

National Marine Conservation Areas (NCMAs), established by Parks Canada, protect and conserve areas of Canada’s oceans and Great Lakes for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. NMCAs are required to include at least two types of zones: one that fosters and encourages ecologically sustainable use and another that fully protects special or sensitive features of the area's ecosystem.

National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, established by Environment and Climate Change Canada, are for wildlife conservation, research, and interpretation. Activities that are prohibited vary by site. When National Wildlife Areas, Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, and National Parks include a marine component, those aspects can be counted as MPAs.

Marine refuges, established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, are measures that qualify as “OECMs”. These measures help protect important species and their habitats, including unique corals and sponges, from the impacts of fishing. These measures are intended to be in place for the long-term, so they will make a lasting contribution to biodiversity.

All federal tools for marine protection are subject to Canada’s protection standards.

To learn more about marine areas already protected and conserved by the Government of Canada and provinces, please visit the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators website.



To date, Canada has established 14 MPAs under the Oceans Act, three National Marine Conservation Areas, one marine National Wildlife Area, and 59 marine refuges. These areas contribute to protecting 14.66% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas.

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