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Protection Standards to better conserve our oceans

On April 25, 2019 the Government of Canada adopted a new approach to marine conservation, including protection standards to better conserve sensitive and important parts of our oceans. These protection standards are based on the recommendations provided to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard by the independent National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards.

New federal MPAs will now function similar to our national parks, providing a high level of environmental protection by including new protection standards that prohibit four key industrial activities: oil and gas activities, mining, dumping and bottom trawling. With respect to other effective area-based conservation measures, including marine refuges, activities within these areas will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Activities may be allowed if they do not pose a risk to the biodiversity in the area. Both of these protection standards are in accordance with the National Advisory Panel's recommendations, as well as with international guidance. These new standards also provide enhanced clarity and certainty for fish harvesters and other industry stakeholders.

Marine Protected Areas

MPAs are parts of the ocean that legally protect a range of species, habitats and features from the impacts of a variety of activities, including fishing. The new protection standard for MPAs prohibit four key industrial activities in all new federal MPAs: oil and gas activities; mining; dumping; and bottom trawling.

Specifications

Scope of application

To help conserve and protect marine biodiversity the new protection standard will be applied to all federal MPAs, including:

Addressing prohibited activities in existing MPAs and impacts on our marine conservation target

In the short term, existing MPAs where there are oil and gas licences or where bottom trawling is currently authorized will continue to count towards our marine conservation target. Canada's MPAs are developed in close collaboration with partners and stakeholders and further analysis and consultation is required before making any significant changes to the management of existing MPAs. Therefore, all existing MPAs will be reviewed as part of their regular management review cycle.

In the case of an existing MPA overlapping with an area where there is an oil and gas licence or permit, as part of that MPA's regular management review cycle, we will work with our partners to consider adopting the new protection standard within the MPA. If an agreement is reached, the regulations for the MPA will be amended to prohibit oil and gas activity. If an agreement cannot be achieved, the MPA boundaries will remain unchanged but the area overlapping with the licence or permit area would no longer be counted towards Canada's marine conservation targets.

For areas where bottom trawling is currently authorized, we will re-evaluate the activity to determine if it is consistent with the specific MPA's conservation objectives. If it is not, the MPA regulations may be amended following consultation with partners and stakeholders.

Marine Refuges

Marine refuges are another tool we use to conserve our oceans. They offer more targeted protection to species and their habitat from the impacts of fishing.

The protection standard for other effective area-based conservation measures, including marine refuges, assess all activities on a case-by-case basis. Some activities may be allowed if they do not pose a risk to the biodiversity in the area. Before any proposed activity can take place, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard will need to be satisfied that any risks to the area have been avoided or mitigated effectively.

Impacts on our marine conservation target

Going forward, if there are oil and gas licenses or permits authorized in a marine refuge but no extraction is taking place, the overlap area will continue to count toward our marine conservation target. Once oil and gas extraction begins, the overlap area will no longer count toward our target.

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