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Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM)

Report on Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas
December 2018

Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM): Report on Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas
December 2018

Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM): Report on Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas December 2018 (PDF, 2.37 MB)

Table of Contents

Part A: Implementing the National Framework for Canada’s Network of MPAs

Sea anemone in the Scotian Shelf bioregion

Sea anemone in the Scotian Shelf bioregion. Photo: Scott Leslie

1. Progress in Priority Marine Bioregions

MPA network designs are being developed in all five of DFO’s priority bioregions. Once finalized, MPA network plans will be created to provide further details on implementation, including which network sites will be prioritized for earliest conservation, and the conservation measures to be advanced in those areas.

Indigenous, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous groups, stakeholders and interested parties in the five priority bioregions are engaged in the network development process to provide input on objectives, data and information, draft network design, and site selection. Because of different ecological characteristics, available data, existing human uses, and engagement and consultation requirements across the bioregions, progress is being made at varying rates. However, the approach to the network development process is consistent across all bioregions, guided by the principles articulated in the 2011 National Framework.

All interested parties will continue to have opportunities to provide input throughout the bioregional MPA network development process. Indigenous groups are invited to contribute by sharing information from Indigenous knowledge systems, and voicing their interests and views.

Newfoundland-Labrador Shelves

As the first step, a draft MPA network design is under development using MarxanFootnote 7 software, a decision-support tool used as an aid in network development.

The design includes existing MPAs and marine refuges, as well as areas to avoid such as oil and gas significant discovery licences. Recent commercial fishery data have been incorporated into the Marxan analysis. Other socio-economic data, including on historical commercial fishing, aquaculture, oil and gas exploration licences and prospectivity, and Indigenous knowledge, are being considered through a post-Marxan overlay exercise.

Initial engagement with partners and key stakeholders has taken place with consultations on a draft MPA network design to follow.

Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence

A draft MPA network design has been created based on available geo-referenced data covering the bioregion. Meetings with key stakeholders in the fishing industry were held in 2016-2017 to discuss socio-economic data, after which an analysis using the Marxan decision-support software was conducted using both ecological and socio-economic data.

Engagement with interested parties on the draft network design began in September 2017. Meetings have been held and are continuing with provincial governments in Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as with Indigenous groups, fishing industry associations, and other interested parties. These meetings focus on gathering general comments about the draft network design, inviting suggestions for adjustments, and prioritizing areas for conservation identified in the draft network plan.

Next steps involve, among others, the development of an action plan to assist with the selection (or prioritization) of sites, followed by implementation at the site level, and monitoring of designated sites within the MPA network.

Scotian Shelf

A draft MPA network design has been created through a systematic process that included a Marxan analysis for the offshore component of the bioregion. The analysis was guided by a technical working group composed of experts from DFO, Parks Canada Agency (PCA), and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). Several Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) peer-review processes also informed the network design analysis (most recently in 2016).

Data related to commercial fishing, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas, and other socioeconomic information were built into the network design analysis to, wherever possible, avoid the most important areas for the different industry sectors while meeting network objectives. Potential future activities were considered in certain areas where information was available. For example, offshore petroleum exploration licences and areas with high potential for tidal power were avoided through a post-Marxan overlay analysis. Where available, Indigenous knowledge helped inform the analysis (e.g., culturally significant species such as Atlantic salmon were considered). Work with First Nations is continuing in order to gather Indigenous knowledge for incorporation into the MPA network development process.

In March 2018, DFO Maritimes Region announced two proposed Areas of Interest (AOIs) for potential Oceans Act MPA establishment (Eastern Shore Islands and Fundian Channel-Browns Bank) and a potential offshore marine refuge under the Fisheries Act (Eastern Canyons). The consultation process has begun for the Eastern Shore Islands AOI, with potential MPA designation by 2020. For the other two sites, public consultations will begin once discussions with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, the Province of Nova Scotia, and National Resources Canada have concluded.

Engagement with Indigenous groups and the Provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on the draft MPA network design is ongoing, and a broad-based consultation process is planned for the draft design following its public release. A final MPA network plan for the Scotian Shelf bioregion will be developed once these consultations have concluded.

Northern Shelf

The Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia, and 17 Coastal First Nations are working together to develop an MPA network in the Northern Shelf bioregion (NSB). First Nations are engaged as equal partners in MPA development, and will make decisions alongside the federal and provincial governments about MPA site selection and implementation. MPA network development in this bioregion is guided by the Canada-British Columbia Marine Protected Area Network Strategy, approved in 2014. The Strategy is consistent with direction provided by the National Framework.

The Canada-BC-First Nations Marine Protected Area Technical Team (MPATT), in collaboration with scientists, thematic experts, and stakeholders, identified ecological conservation priorities and quantitative target ranges for their spatial representation in the network.

Partner First Nations identified cultural conservation priorities, which are areas important for culture and spirituality, culturally significant species, and harvesting. Examples include supernatural sites, origin story sites, areas of very high current and historical use, areas important for cultural education, and productive areas for harvesting seaweed, halibut, salmon and crabs. This information enables culturally appropriate integration of traditional knowledge and helps ensure that First Nations knowledge, beliefs, and practices are acknowledged and respected. Together, the ecological and cultural conservation priorities will help focus planning effort at the places and species that will deliver the best conservation outcomes.

The full range of uses and values associated with BC’s coastal and marine environment have been documented and where data permit, mapped. The process of documenting uses and values was done with stakeholders through various initiatives, including the British Columbia Marine Conservation Analysis (see Box 12), the Marine Plan Partnership (MaPP), and the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA). The nature of the interaction of uses with conservation priorities has been characterized using a compatibility matrix – an activity-by-activity analysis of where marine-based uses can occur relevant to values identified. Data are being shared on Seasketch, a tool being used to facilitate planning and engagement.

A conservation gap analysis has been conducted to assess the capacity of existing MPAs and other conservation measures to effectively protect conservation priorities. The analysis informs where higher levels of protection are needed, where boundaries need adjustments to better capture features, and where new MPAs or other conservation measures might be needed to achieve network objectives.

Existing MPAs, together with ecological, cultural and human-use data layers were analyzed using Marxan. Marxan results, together with input from scientists, experts, communities, and stakeholders, will support the identification of preliminary network areas in the spring of 2018. A draft MPA network design scenario has been developed and will be reviewed and refined with stakeholders and through internal review by the partners.

The Final MPA Network Action Plan will include a description of network sites, marine conservation measures, and responsible authorities; the approach to network design; the final network design; site specific considerations; results of impact analyses; priorities for sequencing of implementation; and management of the network (monitoring, compliance and enforcement, research, resourcing, etc.).

Western Arctic

The Western Arctic bioregion spans 539,793 km2, encompassing most of the waters of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) and the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut. It includes two settled land claims and two co-management systems. There is significant variation in biodiversity and ecosystems occurring in the bioregion, with different community-based approaches to the use and conservation of resources that varies from east to west.

A path toward MPA network development (with current focus on data and information gathering to support creation of a draft MPA network design) was developed with co-management partners in the ISR under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. Parallel discussions were held with partners from Nunavut under the Nunavut Agreement to develop support for MPA network planning in the Kitikmeot region. This is the first DFO Oceans initiative to bring together partners from both regions in a joint planning effort for marine conservation that spans settlement boundaries over a significantly large geographic area. This project relies heavily on the incorporation of multiple knowledge sources, primarily the use of traditional Inuit knowledge systems, as well as peer-reviewed science information.

Residents in communities, as well as Board members of local hunters and trappers associations from as far west as Aklavik and as far east as Kugaanuk, were interviewed about the species and areas that are important to them to identify as conservation priorities for MPA network planning from a subsistence harvest perspective. Community discussions identified 14 high-priority species for subsistence use from across the bioregion. None of the priorities were the same for all communities, reflecting the range of traditional uses for marine resources in this region and emphasizes the importance of community engagement in effective marine conservation planning. Peer-reviewed science advice was also consulted for priorities to address ecological function and ecosystem integrity. Collectively, these conservation priorities form the building blocks of MPA network development in the Western Arctic.

A Marine Protected Area Network Working Group that includes co-management partners, community members, federal and territorial representatives, environmental groups, and industry partners, ensures that Indigenous knowledge, socio-economic information, and community perspectives are included throughout the network development process to produce a final product that is relevant and supported by all users of the marine waters and resources in the Western Arctic.

The OTG believes that all responsible agencies should use their mandates, in accordance with each government’s jurisdiction and priorities, to make a meaningful contribution to MPA network development.

2. Marine Conservation Targets Update: Getting to 10 Percent

In 2015, the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Conservation, Wildlife and Biodiversity Steering Group and its Biodiversity Working Group (with input from Indigenous groups and stakeholders) developed the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada and made a commitment to work together in accordance with each government’s respective jurisdiction and priorities. The 2020 goals and targets reflect the Aichi Targets to which the Government of Canada is a signatory:

Target 1 is: By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland waters, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.Footnote 8

On November 13, 2015, the mandate letter for the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard further iterated the Government of Canada’s commitment to this international target by adding an interim domestic target to

"…increase the proportion of Canada’s marine and coastal areas that are protected – to five percent by 2017 and ten percent by 2020 – supported by new investments in community consultation and science."

In January 2016, CCFAM re-established the Oceans Task Group to provide leadership and strategic advice on meeting these domestic and international targets.

The Government of Canada has supported these commitments with significant investments:

Figure 1: Conserved Area of Canada’s marine and coastal waters (km2)

Figure 1: Conserved Area of Canada’s marine and coastal waters (km2)Footnote 9

On October 28, 2017, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, then Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced that Canada’s interim target of protecting 5 percent of marine and coastal areas had been achieved. The Ministers recognized this achievement as an all-in effort, requiring support and collaboration from Indigenous groups, provincial and territorial governments, environmental organizations, stakeholders, and other interested parties.

The Minister’s mandate letter was updated on August 28, 2018, to include “minimum protection standards for Canada’s marine protected areas and marine refuges.”

The interim 5 percent target was achieved in part by following a Five-Point Plan that identified areas of action to support reaching the target. As a result of these actions, approximately 7.9 percent of Canada’s ocean territory was conserved by the end of June 2018, using a range of federal and provincial legislative and regulatory tools. Figure 1 describes the contributions of governments, working collaboratively with Indigenous groups and a range of marine industries and other stakeholders to achieve this level of conservation. All sites contributing to Canada’s marine conservation targets are pictured on the interactive map at Canada’s Marine Conservation Targets.

The Five-Point Plan was updated and continues to be pursued to ensure that the Government of Canada meets its commitment to achieving 10 percent marine and coastal protection by 2020. Box 2 outlines what was achieved by the end of June 2018, and what remains to be accomplished in order to meet the 10 percent target and fulfill our domestic and international commitments by 2020.

Box 2: Five-Point Plan for Achieving Marine Conservation Targets

Achieved by June 30, 2018 To 10%. To be achieved by 2020

1. Finish what was started:

  • Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam (Western Arctic) and St. Anns Bank (Scotian Shelf) designated as Oceans Act MPAs
  • Hecate Strait/Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs (Northern Shelf) designated as an Oceans Act MPA with protections strengthened
  • Agreement between the Government of Canada, the Government of Nunavut and the Qikitani Inuit Association on the final boundary of Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area
  • Laurentian Channel (Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves) proposed Oceans Act MPA regulations were published in Canada Gazette, Part 1
  • Establishment of Scott Islands (Northern Shelf) as a marine National Wildlife Area.

1. Finish what was started:

  • Complete establishment of the following as Oceans Act MPAs:
    • Banc-des-Américains (Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence)
    • Laurentian Channel (Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves)
  • Complete Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement to finalize Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area

2. Protect large offshore areas:

  • Announcement of the Offshore Pacific AOI, including establishment of a marine refuge

2. Protect large offshore areas:

  • Work has begun with Indigenous and northern partners on identifying large areas, possibly in the Arctic.
  • Designation of areas in the High Arctic Basin as part of the last ice area initiative to be explored in partnership with Indigenous and northern partners.
  • Complete establishment of the Offshore Pacific AOI as an Oceans Act MPA, including the existing marine refuge (Offshore Pacific).

3. Protect areas under pressure in five priority bioregions where MPA network development is occurring:

  • Network development is advanced in five priority bioregions, including the identification of areas needing protection

3. Protect areas under pressure in five priority bioregions where MPA network development is occurring:

  • Network development has started to identify areas in need of protection under the Oceans Act:
    • Two bioregions (Scotian Shelf and Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence) are prepared to release draft MPA network designs and continue engagement with governments, Indigenous groups and stakeholders.
    • New Eastern Shore Islands AOI in Scotian Shelf bioregion announced.

4. Advance Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures:

  • Between June and December 2017, Canada announced 51 marine refuges [which is the domestic term for fisheries area closures that qualify as Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (“other measures”), according to the science-based operational guidance developed by DFO]

4. Advance Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures:

  • Additional marine refuges are being identified and advanced.
  • Continue to work with international organizations (CBD and IUCN) to develop further international guidance on “other measures”.

5. Establish Oceans Act MPAs faster and more effectively:

  • On June 15, 2017, Minister LeBlanc introduced a series of proposed amendments to the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act that are designed to facilitate the establishment process for MPAs without compromising science or the public’s opportunity to provide input
  • Once in place, the amendments will enable the Minister to designate Interim Protection MPAs that will protect vulnerable areas while further scientific research and consultations take place

5. Establish Oceans Act MPAs faster and more effectively:

  • Bill C-55 is under review by the Senate.
  • A National Advisory Panel was established in March 2018, to provide the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard with recommendations on categories and associated protection standards within federal MPAs, including the concept of Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs). The Panel delivered its report, together with 13 recommendations, on September 26, 2018. More information on the Panel is available at National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards
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