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Guidance

The Government of Canada Guidance for Recognizing Marine Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs) is the result of Canada's adoption of the international OECM definition and voluntary guidance, developed through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2018, and the Government's 2019 marine OECM Protection Standard.

The 2022 OECM Guidance was developed to:

The core of the Guidance is a 3-part framework:

  1. the CBD definition
  2. 10 guiding principles that promote national consistency and
  3. 5 criteria and sub-criteria that integrate the CBD's voluntary guidance and implement Canada's 2019 OECM protection standard

This Guidance must be applied to all marine OECMs recognized currently or to be recognized in the marine environment by any federal department or agency. Other orders of government may apply it within their jurisdictions and using their legal instruments.

OECMs in Canada's oceans

OECMs provide important nature-based solutions to support climate change adaptation and mitigation, including carbon sequestration. They also provide refuge for species affected by climate change.

OECMs are similar to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in that they both contribute to biodiversity conservation by prohibiting or otherwise managing human activities within their boundaries. The OECM focus on outcomes or biodiversity conservation benefits (BCBs) means that many different types of OECMs are possible. Even if it has been established for a different purpose entirely, an area-based measure that provides long-term BCBs and meets all criteria in the Guidance may be recognized as an OECM.

While marine refuges (fisheries-area closures that have been assessed against this Guidance and recognized as OECMs) are the only OECMs in Canada's oceans at present, there is potential for many other area types to be recognized as OECMs. Examples include:

Human activities, evaluated on a case-by-case basis, may occur within an OECM; however, OECMs must be managed and monitored in order to ensure that risks to an area's biodiversity conservation benefits (BCBs) are effectively avoided or mitigated. If an area fails to provide BCBs, its OECM status may be removed.

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