Federal Marine Protected Areas Strategy

Table of Contents

Benefits of a Marine Protected Areas Network

There is a growing body of scientific literature concerning marine protected areas in both tropical and temperate waters, delineating the benefits of appropriately selected and well managed marine protected areas. The benefits of individual marine protected areas and networks of marine protected areas are numerous and diverse. They include environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits that contribute to oceans management.

The Federal Marine Protected Areas Strategy defines a marine protected areas network as:

“a set of complementary and ecologically linked marine protected areas, consisting of a broad spectrum of marine protected areas, established and managed within a sustainable ocean management planning framework and linked to transboundary, global and terrestrial protected area networks".

Although scientists have documented the ecological benefits of individual marine protected areas, emphasis has now been placed on designing networks through the careful selection of areas which contribute to broader ecosystem objectives. Focusing marine protected area efforts in this way may enhance the benefits of marine protected area s and provide a mechanism to conserve and protect the structure and function of larger marine ecosystems.

There is considerable scientific evidence that marine protected areas and networks provide a number of ecological benefits, including the enhanced recruitment of fish species, including those of commercial value, through the protection of spawning areas, larval sources, habitats and migration routes. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization has recognized that the use of marine protected areas as a complementary measure to conventional fisheries management measures can help in achieving sustainable fisheries management objectives.

Humpback whale breaching, Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador

A well designed network of marine protected areas may also contribute to the conservation and protection of highly migratory and transboundary species, including species at risk, through the protection of key habitats important for critical lifecycle stages which are often found geographically widespread.

The effects of localized catastrophes, either human or naturally induced, on marine species may be reduced by establishing networks of marine protected areas over multiple ecosystems and regions, providing a buffer against localized environmental change. As well, marine protected areas may help address the threats of habitat loss, degradation and over-exploitation and may contribute to the restoration of seriously degraded areas or ecosystems. A network of marine protected areas can also be developed with land-based or upland impacts or threats in mind and can be strategically and ecologically linked to networks of terrestrial protected areas.

The benefits of marine protected areas and networks extend beyond ecological as there are often social, cultural and economic benefits to establishing and managing marine protected areas, particularly in coastal areas. In some cases, coastal protected areas may provide tourism benefits to local communities, including opportunities for either employment or volunteer work. In addition, Canadians nation-wide can benefit from the aesthetic beauty of an attractive natural marine area through the participation in non-consumptive activities in these areas. Aboriginal coastal communities, who have a long-standing traditional and spiritual connection to the marine environment and marine resources, may also benefit from well managed marine protected areas which support their traditional activities.

Lastly, the development of a network of marine protected areas in Canada will help demonstrate the willingness of Canada to meet our international obligations and commitments and place Canada back among the world leaders in marine conservation, an objective of Canada ’s Oceans Strategy and subsequent Oceans Action Plan.

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