What is the network?
A network of marine protected areas (MPAs) is a collection of MPAs and other conserved areas that operate cooperatively to safeguard important ecological components of the ocean and marine biodiversity as a whole.
Effective networks can enhance the contributions of individual MPAs to achieve greater ecological benefits that translate into economic, social and cultural benefits. These networks benefit:
- biodiversity and productivity;
- important ecological processes and habitats, such as spawning and nursery areas;
- connectivity between ecological processes and habitats;
- protection of species at risk;
- ecosystem resilience to the effects of climate change.
Canada’s national network of MPAs will consist of 13 bioregional networks that will be planned and managed on an individual basis and located in each of the country’s ecologically defined bioregions. The primary goal is to provide long-term protection of marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and special natural features. Specific objectives for each bioregional network will differ according to the unique physical, ecological and biological attributes of the area. When developing the national network, various design properties are applied, including:
- conserving Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs);
- improving “representativity” to conserve different habitat types within the bioregions;
- considering international guidance/properties for network design;
- considering areas that have ecological or cultural value to Canadians.
Development of bioregional networks includes engagement and collaboration with provincial and territorial government agencies, Indigenous groups, stakeholders and other interested parties. The potential for negative socio-economic impacts of bioregional networks will be considered, and efforts will be made to mitigate them. Once a bioregional network plan is finalized with sites, appropriate conservation measures and identification of responsible authorities, site-specific planning and implementation occurs. Bioregional networks are then managed and monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure that the network goals and objectives are being achieved.
Canada’s national network of MPAs is currently being advanced in five priority marine bioregions: the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Scotian Shelf, the Newfoundland-Labrador Shelves, the Western Arctic, and the Pacific Northern Shelf.
In 2011, the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers developed a National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas to guide development of the bioregional networks.
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