Marine Protected Area Networks: Northern Shelf

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.

Northern Shelf Bioregion

The Northern Shelf bioregion covers approximately two-thirds of the coast of British Columbia, extending from the top of Vancouver Island, including Quadra Island and Bute Inlet, to the Canada–United States border at Alaska; an area that is also known as the Pacific North Coast. The area has diverse ecosystems and features, including globally unique glass sponges, which provide important habitat to several species. The area is also economically important to coastal communities that depend on it for traditional fishing and food gathering, aquaculture, ecotourism and transportation.

First Nation communities have a distinct cultural and spiritual heritage and practices that are intricately linked to the area’s environment. This reflects their long-standing sustainable stewardship of marine resources.

The Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia and coastal First Nations are working together to develop a marine protected area network in the Northern Shelf bioregion, a priority of the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area Plan signed in 2017. Additional information about the area is currently being compiled. A review of existing protection efforts is also being completed.

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