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Marine Protected Area Networks: Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence

The primary goal of marine protected area (MPA) networks is to provide meaningful, long-term protection of marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and special natural features. An MPA network is a collection of individually protected sites that, taken together, protect biodiversity and important ecological features in the ocean. MPA networks ensure that individual conservation efforts work together to achieve greater protection of Canada’s marine environment.

Canada has many tools to conserve and protect our marine biodiversity. MPA networks will use the best conservation tools to achieve objectives in each unique area – or bioregion –determined by their ecosystem.

Canada’s Bioregions

Canada’s network of marine protected areas will include 13 unique areas, or bioregions, across our three oceans and the Great Lakes. Each bioregion was chosen through a peer-reviewed science assessment that considered ecological, oceanographic and seabed characteristics. Of the 13 bioregions, five have been chosen as a priority for MPA network development: Newfoundland-Labrador Shelves, Scotian Shelf, Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence, Northern Shelf, and Western Arctic.

These bioregions are distinct and must be individually managed to conserve their unique characteristics which include their ecology and habitats. Given that bioregions often span jurisdictional boundaries, MPA network planning involves multiple partners and stakeholders each with their own unique perspectives.

Each marine protected area network will include a collection of individual protected areas of various shapes, sizes, and protection levels, each with its own conservation objective. Types of protected areas could include Oceans Act Marine Protected Areas, marine refuges, National Marine Conservation Areas, National Wildlife Areas, Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, provincial parks and more.

Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence Bioregion

The bioregion covers the entirety of the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence, an area with some of the warmest surface waters in Atlantic Canada during summer, and the largest amount of sea ice during winter. The bioregion includes a wide range of fish, plankton, marine mammals and seafloor habitats and is home to many commercially harvested species such as Atlantic herring, lobster, snow crab, and shrimp, while mackerel, striped bass, and several varieties of clams are just a few of the bioregion’s important recreational fishing species. Other unique and at risk species in the area include the leatherback turtle, North Atlantic right whale, beluga whale and wolffish, as well as cold-water corals and sponges.

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