Reaching Canada’s marine conservation targets
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Canada has made considerable progress protecting our oceans and meeting our marine conservation targets. Canada is also a vocal advocate for advancing the protection of our global ocean.
In 2010, Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD) committed to the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, including Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Aichi Target 11 committed CBD Parties to conserving 10% of coastal and marine areas globally through effectively managed systems of marine protected areas (MPAs) and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) by 2020. In support of this global target, Canada committed to conserving 10% of coastal and marine areas nationally.
By 2019, by working with provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, marine industry stakeholders, environmental non-government organizations, academia and local communities, Canada had protected and conserved nearly 14% (13.81%) - surpassing its 10% target and committed to conserving 25% of our oceans by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
In 2020, Canada joined the Global Ocean Alliance and the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which advocates and provides support for the conservation of at least 30% of the world's oceans through the establishment of MPAs and OECMs by 2030.
Canada continued to advocate for the conservation of the world's oceans at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2022. World leaders agreed to the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), a historic global framework to safeguard nature and halt and reverse biodiversity loss, putting nature on a path to recovery by 2050. Target 3 of the GBF commits CBD Parties to conserving at least 30% of terrestrial and inland water areas, and of marine and coastal areas through ecologically representative, well-connected, and equitably governed systems of protected areas and OECMs.
In February 2023, Canada hosted the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5), which brought together ocean-conservation professionals and officials from around the world to exchange knowledge as well as inform, inspire and act on MPAs.
IMPAC5 highlighted the need for increased partnership with youth and Indigenous Peoples. Federal collaboration and key announcements showcased the Government of Canada's strong commitment to meeting our conservation target of protecting 25% of our oceans by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
The Government of Canada has supported these commitments with the most significant investments in a generation:
- up to $800 million over 7 years to support up to 4 Indigenous-led conservation Project Finance for Permanence initiatives that bring together Indigenous organizations, governments, and the philanthropic community to identify shared goals for protecting nature and helping to halt biodiversity loss (2022)
- $976.8 million over 5 years to reach ambitious marine conservation targets through the establishment of MPAs and OECMs, such as marine refuges (2021)
- $11 million over 4 years to explore feasibility of marine protection of Canada's High Arctic in consultation with Indigenous and Northern partners (2017)
- $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 (2016)
- $81 million over 5 years to support achieving the 10% marine conservation target (2016)
Tools for marine protection
Oceans Act 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 2 types of zones:
- one that fosters and encourages ecologically sustainable use
- 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 implement:
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
- 2 national marine conservation areas
- 1 marine park
- 13 national parks with marine components
- 1 marine national wildlife area
- 60 marine refuges
These areas contribute to protecting more than 14.66% of Canada's marine and coastal areas.
The Government of Canada is now focused on meeting the ambitious target of conserving 25% of Canada's oceans by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
Some milestones and achievements that contribute to these conservation targets include:
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Canada, and Pew Charitable Trusts mark a significant milestone by reaching an Agreement in Principle. This agreement signals their shared commitment to working toward the Qikiqtani Regional Conservation Vision through the Qikiqtani Project Finance for Permanence agreement.
Canada unveils marine areas under consideration for conservation that continue the momentum toward 2025.
Canada jointly announces, alongside 15 First Nations, the endorsement of the MPA Network Action Plan for the Northern Shelf Bioregion and recognition of the first marine refuge within the network, Gwaxdlala/Nalaxdlala in Knight Inlet on the coast of British Columbia, also known as Lull Bay and Hoeya Sound.
Canada jointly announces, alongside the Council of the Haida Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Pacheedaht First Nation and Quatsino First Nation, progress on the proposed Tang.ɢwan — ḥačxwiqak — Tsig̱is MPA, a large ecologically unique ocean area located off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Canada announces new details for its MPA Protection Standard, which will help safeguard areas of our oceans that need protection from the potentially harmful effects of industrial activities while providing greater consistency and clarity on prohibited activities in federal MPAs.
Canada (through Parks Canada Agency) announces a new policy to guide the establishment and management of national marine conservation areas (NMCAs), helping to advance the Government of Canada's goal to create ten new NMCAs.
Canada launches the new Canada Marine Planning Atlas (the Atlas), an interactive mapping tool that allows users to view and interact with data relevant to marine spatial planning, which will be a critical tool for coordinating management of ocean activities in Canada, including marine conservation.
Canada and participating countries sign the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework to protect 30% of the world's land and ocean space by 2030 in order to stem biodiversity loss (Target 3).
Canada releases updated guidance for federal marine OECMs that clarifies interim guidance released in 2016.
Prime Minister Trudeau announces up to $800 Million for up to 4 Indigenous-led conservation projects through a Project Financing for Permanence model:
- Great Bear Sea initiative, PFP (Northern Shelf Bioregion, British Columbia)
- Northwest Territories, PFP (Northwest Territories)
- Qikiqtani Region, PFP (Nunavut)
- Hudson Bay and Southwestern James Bay (HPJB) PFP ("Omushkego Homelands", Ontario and Nunavut)
Establishment of Eastern Canyons marine refuge (Scotian Shelf).
Federal Budget 2021 allocates historic funding of nearly $1billion ($976.8M) over five years to continue marine conservation efforts to conserve 25% of Canada's oceans by 2025.
Government of Canada unveils 5-point action plan to deliver on its 2025 target.
Canada joins Global Ocean Alliance and the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which advocates and provides support for the conservation of at least 30% of the world's oceans through the establishment of MPAs and OECMs by 2030.
The mandate letter for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans stipulates that the Minister work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to introduce a plan to conserve 25% of Canada's land and oceans by 2025, working towards 30% by 2030.
Canada surpasses its marine conservation target of 10% protection of marine and coastal areas, conserving 13.81% of Canada's ocean. This significant achievement is reached through considerable collaborative efforts with Indigenous Peoples, all levels of government, marine industries and stakeholders.
Establishment of the Tuvaijuittuq MPA, an area of 319 411 km², which contributes 5.55% towards Canada's marine conservation targets.
Amendments to the Oceans Act enabling the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to designate interim MPAs by Ministerial Order to provide protection to vulnerable areas while further scientific research and consultation take place. The Act is also modernized to align with other environmental legislation in terms of fines, punishments and enforcement provisions.
Adoption of a new Protection Standard for federal MPAs and a new Protection Standard for OECMs to better conserve sensitive and important parts of our oceans.
Establishment of 2 Oceans Act MPAs:
- Banc-des-Américains MPA as the first MPA to be established under the Canada-Quebec Collaborative Agreement
- Laurentian Channel MPA as the first MPA to apply Canada's new protection standards
Announcement of 8 new marine refuges in Howe Sound, between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island.
Establishment of Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area off the northwest of Vancouver Island, as the first protected marine area established by Environment and Climate Change Canada under the Canada Wildlife Act.
Announcement of the Canada-Quebec Collaborative Agreement to Establish a Network of MPAs in Quebec.
Announcement of 51 marine refuges; representing approximately 275,000 km² and 4.78% of conserved marine territory.
Establishment of 2 Oceans Act MPAs:
Announcement of the final boundary for the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area in the High Arctic.
Establishment of Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam MPA in the Beaufort Sea, Northwest Territories.
Pathway to 2025
The Government of Canada has unveiled marine areas being considered for conservation on our path to 25% by 2025.
A great deal of work still lies ahead but thanks to our partnerships with governments at all levels, Indigenous Peoples, industry, environmental non-governmental organizations, and academia, we are confident we will reach our goals.
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