Coral & Sponge Conservation Strategy for Eastern Canada 2015
Table of Contents
- Complete Text
- Executive Summary
- Purpose of the Strategy
- Why Protect Corals and Sponges?
- Geographic Scope
- International Context
- Canadian Context
- Status of Coral and Sponge Conservation in Eastern Canada
- Research on Corals and Sponges in Eastern Canada
- Targets and Actions
- Development and Implementation
- Appendix A: Biology of Corals and Sponges in Eastern Canada
- Appendix B: Challenges for Coral and Sponge Conservation
- Appendix C: Management Measures
- Appendix D: Ecological Risk Assessment Framework
- Appendix E: Relevant Publications
- Contact Information
Status of Coral and Sponge Conservation in Eastern Canada
In Canada, DFO is the lead department responsible for research and conservation of coral and sponge species, but these species have also become a focal point for international conservation. In some cases, conservation measures have been put in place to protect these important coral and sponge areas where they have been identified in eastern Canada. Existing coral and sponge conservation areas are described below, ranging from international NAFO closures, federal government closed areas, and voluntary industry-driven closures.
In 2006, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed the Sustainable Fisheries Resolution 61/105, calling on states and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to take action to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) in the high seas (UN 2006). In response, NAFO has enacted several measures to protect corals and sponges which include coral and sponge closures, as well as seamount closures (Table 3). Deep-sea corals and their associated fauna can be considered straddling resources as their distributions extend both inside and outside Canada’s 200 mile limit.
- In 2007 a Coral Protection Zone in Division 3O was closed to all bottom contact fishing gear. An additional 11 significant coral and sponge zones were closed in 2010 and one in 2013 around the Flemish Cap (NAFO 2011a, NAFO 2013). These closures were re-assessed in 2014 and based on new data, the boundaries of several closures were adjusted. (Table 3, Figure 3).
- In 2007, NAFO closed four seamount areas (two outside the EEZ) and restricted bottom impacting gear. In 2009, NAFO added the Fogo Seamounts to the list of closures (Table 3, Figure 3) (NAFO 2011a).
- NAFO implemented an encounter protocol for existing fisheries in the NRA to reduce impacts on corals and sponges, whereby by-catch above a threshold means a vessel master must notify the NAFO Secretariat, immediately cease fishing, and move away at least 2 nautical miles. These measures apply to foreign and Canadian vessels operating in the NRA, and Canadian vessels operating in NAFO Division 3O inside the EEZ. NAFO also adopted a map of existing bottom fishing areas known as a “footprint” in 2011. Fishing for groundfish outside the footprint is considered exploratory, therefore the impacts on VMEs have to be considered, and the exploratory fisheries protocol must be followed (NAFO 2011b).
This four column table provides information on the NAFO closures shown in Figure 3 below. The information includes Management Measures in column 1 and the corresponding Location, Feature and Area (km2) in columns 2 through 4 respectively.
|Management Measures||Location||Feature||Area (km2)|
|Closed to All Bottom Impacting Gear||Coral Protection Zone in Division 3O||Coral and Sponge||14,040|
|Closed to All Bottom Impacting Gear||Adjacent to Flemish Cap||Coral and Sponge||10,488|
|Restrictions on Bottom Impacting Gear||Orphan Knoll||Isolated topographic high||15,780|
|Restrictions on Bottom Impacting Gear||Newfoundland Seamounts||Seamount||15,410|
|Restrictions on Bottom Impacting Gear||Fogo Seamounts||Seamount||9,141|
|Restrictions on Bottom Impacting Gear||*New England Seamounts||Seamount||276,035|
|Restrictions on Bottom Impacting Gear||*Corner Seamounts||Seamount||40,241|
*New England Seamounts and Corner Seamounts are within NAFO Regulatory Area but not within the scope of this Strategy.
Management tools available to DFO to conserve and protect sensitive benthic areas, including coral and sponge communities, vary from fisheries gear / effort / temporal restrictions and fisheries closures, to MPAs(Table 4, Figures 4 and 5).
- Important coral conservation measures in the Scotian Shelf bioregion include the establishment of the Northeast Channel Coral Conservation Area (2002) and the Lophelia Coral Conservation Area (2003) under the Fisheries Act, and the designation of the Gully Marine Protected Area (2004) under the Oceans Act.
- In June 2013, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced further conservation measures for two sensitive areas of the Scotian Shelf. The Emerald Basin Vazella Closure and the Sambro Bank Vazella Closure were created to protect them from bottom-contact fishing, protecting a rare sponge, Vazella pourtalesi. The Emerald Basin Vazella Closure was initiated as a voluntary closure by the Groundfish Enterprise Allocation Council (GEAC). With some boundary modifications, this area evolved into a DFO closure.
- DFO has established coral and sponge conservation measures in Davis Strait. A partial closure to Greenland Halibut fishing was established in 1998, to protect a primary food source for Narwhal which aggregate in the area during the winter. Subsequently this area was found to contain coral concentrations including large aggregations of gorgonian corals, rare black corals, and antipatharian species and a full closure to Greenland Halibut fishing was implemented in 2008.
This table provides information on the DFO closures shown on Figures 4 and 5 below. The three columns list Management Measures, Location, and Area (km2).
|Management Measures||Location||Area (km2)|
|Restrictions to Bottom Impacting Gear||Northeast Channel Coral Conservation Area||424|
|Restrictions to Bottom Impacting Gear||Lophelia Coral Conservation Area (The Stone Fence)||15|
|Restrictions to Bottom Impacting Gear||Gully Marine Protected Area||2,364|
|Restrictions to Bottom Impacting Gear||The Emerald Basin Vazella Closure||197|
|Restrictions to Bottom Impacting Gear||Sambro Bank Vazella Closure||62|
|Restrictions to Bottom Impacting Gear - Greenland Halibut Fishery||Division 0A Narwhal Overwintering and Coldwater Coral Zone||11,634|
The Fisheries Council of Canada (FCC) is a non-profit trade association representing companies engaged in the growing, harvesting, processing, and marketing of fish and seafood. FCC membership includes the Canadian Association of Prawn Producers, GEAC and the Northern Coalition who have been active in addressing concerns regarding fishing impacts on sensitive areas including corals and sponges. The growing conservation awareness of the fishing industry has resulted in cooperative efforts to improve harvesting technologies and practices in Canada (Campbell and Simms 2009).
- Industry created a voluntary closure (12,500km2) enacted by the Canadian Association of Prawn Producers, GEAC, and the Northern Coalition to protect coral concentrations in an area of the Northern Labrador Sea referred to as Hatton Basin (Figure 6).
Other National Proposed Closures
Within the Government of Canada, there are other national programs and marine conservation tools which have the potential to contribute to the conservation of coral and sponge communities. DFO, PC and EC each have specific but complementary mandates for protecting oceans and their living resources, and establishing MPAs. For example, in 2005 the Ministers of these federal agencies released Canada’s Federal Marine Protected Areas Strategy, which outlines how their respective MPA programs ‒ PC’s NMCAs, EC’s National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries ‒ can collectively contribute to a network. The Coral and Sponge Conservation Strategy for Eastern Canada will encourage federal agencies to have a more comprehensive approach to coral and sponge conservation through increased coordination of management and research efforts.
Designation of the following areas is under active investigation (Table 5).
- In June 2010 the Laurentian Channel was announced as an Area of Interest (AOI) (Figure 7) in the NL DFO Region, with MPA designation expected in 2015. Significant concentrations of sea pens have been identified as a conservation priority and management measures will be drafted to ensure human activities do not impact these species (DFO 2010b).
- St. Anns Bank, is within the Scotian Shelf Bioregion and was chosen in part for the presence of vulnerable benthic habitats and species, such as corals and sponges (Figure 7).
- In 2011, PC and the government of Quebec announced an agreement to conduct a feasibility study on the creation of a marine protected area in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine area to expand marine and coastal area conservation and continue efforts to safeguard biological diversity.
- In 2009 PC, the Government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association announced an agreement to conduct a feasibility study for a proposed NMCA in Lancaster Sound to represent the Lancaster Sound marine region and protect the area’s rich natural heritage (Figure 8).
This four column table provides information on the proposed protected areas and potential management measures contributing to coral and sponge conservation shown in Figures 7 and 8 below. Listed are the Organization, Location, Area (km2) and Potential Management Measures.
|Organization||Location||Area (km2)||Potential Management Measures|
|DFO||Laurentian Channel||~12,000||Zones proposed with no oil and gas activity and no commercial fishing.|
|DFO||St. Anns Bank||~5,100||Zones proposed with no oil and gas activity and no commercial fishing.|
|Gov of Quebec, PC||Iles-de-la-Madeleine||~17,000||Restrictions to ocean dumping, undersea mining, oil and gas exploration and development, commercial fisheries.|
|PC||Lancaster Sound||~44,000||Prohibitions on undersea mining, oil and gas exploration and development and ocean dumping. Restrictions to commercial fisheries.|
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