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Final Report of the National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards

Submitted to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Final Report of the National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards

Final Report of the National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards (PDF, 2.36 MB)

September 26, 2018

Rémi Bujold and Mary Simon,
Panel Co-Chairs

David Anderson
Darcy Dobell
Tom Hayes
Marc Léger
Maureen Thomas

Table of Contents

What we heard

The Panel learned much from Indigenous peoples and many individuals and organizations working in academia, aquaculture, commercial and recreational fishing, environmental conservation, extractive industries, and the shipping industry. It is clear that people who work and live in coastal communities care deeply about those communities, care about ocean health, and hold generations of knowledge about the ocean. While the Panel heard many different perspectives in its meetings across the country, a number of consistent themes emerged:

Deep concern about the state of the world’s oceans, and Canada’s three oceans in particular. The productivity and biodiversity of marine life, from corals to fish to whales, is in decline around the world. Scientific predictions for the future of ocean ecosystems are sobering. The Panel heard that Canada’s oceans are precious and that their resources should be passed down to future generations.

Deep concern for the well-being of ocean-dependent communities and for the many Canadians who have an economic interest in the ocean. The process for establishment of MPAs can create uncertainty and pose a barrier to realizing the economic potential of marine industries such as oil and gas and fisheries. In the Atlantic provinces, the Premiers of both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador made this case forcefully.

Concerns that MPAs and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMsFootnote 5) in Canada are not as effective as they could be in delivering their intended conservation goals. Many intervenors pointed to the need for stronger and more consistent standards for both MPAs and OECMs, along with better investment in management, stewardship, and monitoring. Many intervenors also expressed concern that Canada’s focus on reaching time-bound numeric targets may lead to “paper parks” that lack strong conservation standards, and that risks diverting resources from the establishment of meaningful MPAs and OECMs.

Awareness of the limitations of MPAs as ocean management tools. Several intervenors pointed out that while area-based protection measures such as MPAs are important, they are not proven to be effective tools for certain purposes such as pollution prevention or the conservation of migratory species. Some also noted that climate change and ocean acidification are altering marine habitats in unpredictable ways, requiring a wider range of management tools and the ability to adapt to these changes.

Lack of clarity regarding the relationship between federal departments and agencies and offshore petroleum boards. At present, there is potential for conflict between the offshore petroleum boards and federal departments with regard to oil and gas development in areas set aside as MPAs and OECMs. This can lead to concerns about fairness and equitable treatment across different economic sectors. The Panel was told, for example, of instances in which the commercial fishery agreed to closures in order to protect key habitat in marine refuges, only to see the area opened up to potential oil and gas activity.

Broad agreement on the value of applying the IUCN categories to Canada. Intervenors that referenced the IUCN saw strong value in the certainty, consistency, and international collaboration enabled by the IUCN guidelines. Some cautioned against using these categories as a “one size fits all” approach that ignores the distinct rights, circumstances, and aspirations of Indigenous peoples, as well as the realities of Canada’s varied ecosystems and communities.

The need to recognize Indigenous territories, title, and rights. In many parts of Canada, treaties, settlement agreements, and co-management agreements set out particular processes and governance structures that will guide the establishment of MPAs. One of the most consistent comments that we heard is that regardless of the existence of formal agreements or arrangements, Indigenous peoples must be meaningfully involved in all aspects of planning and design, management, and governance of MPAs.

The importance of Indigenous knowledge in conservation. Indigenous knowledge offers insights and perspectives that are not captured by other forms of science. “Two-eyed seeing”Footnote 6 or the concept of “ethical space”Footnote 7 both offer a way to unite these ways of knowing. Complementary perspectives will strengthen the planning and design, management, and governance of MPAs.

Strong support for Indigenous Protected Areas. Many of those we heard from advocated that Canada take steps to better recognize and support Indigenous Protected Areas. At the same time, they consistently stressed that the purposes and design of Indigenous Protected Areas must reflect the specific circumstances of Indigenous peoples and their varied relationships with the Crown.

We also received written submissions from a number of Indigenous groups, stakeholders, governments and others who offered their advice on MPAs. Written submissions were consistent with the themes we describe above, often expanding on the concepts in more detail. A new theme that emerged strongly from written submissions was the need for community level support for MPAs from the ground up. Written submissions also provided clear calls for a framework for broader ocean management that integrates all interests.

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