Canada-British Columbia Marine Protected Area Network Strategy

Table of Contents

  1. Complete Text
  2. Preface
  3. Introduction
  4. The Need to Plan MPA Networks
  5. What is an MPA? What is an MPA Network?
  6. Vision and Goals for a Network of Marine Protected Areas on the Pacific Coast of Canada
  7. Planning Principles
  8. Planning Regions for Marine Protected Area Networks
  9. Governance
  10. Moving Forward
  11. Appendix 1. Marine Ecosystem Stressors in the North East Pacific
  12. Appendix 2. Protected Area Legislation in Pacific Canada
  13. Appendix 3. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories
  14. Background Documents and References




With approximately 36,000 km of shoreline, 6,500 islands and over 450,000 km2 of internal and offshore marine waters, Pacific Canada is one of the most diverse and productive marine environments in the world. The ocean regulates temperature, shapes our climate and provides basic resources like food and water. It is a chief pillar of our wealth and economic well-being and a source of inspiration, rejuvenation and discovery. The importance of our ocean to British Columbians cannot be overstated — it is critical to our very existence and wellbeing. Whether you reside in BC's interior farmlands or mountains, in its cities or along the coast — you affect and are affected by the ocean. We want to protect its richness for present and future generations.

Sustainability of the world's oceans is increasingly becoming a critical concern, and the need to mitigate the impact of a multitude of stressors to our marine environments is becoming urgent (Appendix 1). Decades of scientific evidence documenting ecological, social and/or economic benefits of effectively managed MPAs demonstrates their importance as a management tool that can be applied to address multiple stressors and threats. Globally, not only have MPAs demonstrated positive ecological gains, they have also been shown to provide a venue for ocean users to have a voice in ocean management. Some of the common benefits tied to MPAs and networks are outlined in Sidebar 1.

Marine protected areas are well established in Pacific Canada. British Columbia's first protected area with a marine component was designated in 1911 (as part of Strathcona Provincial Park) and there are now over 185 MPAs protecting 28 percent of BC's coastline and 2.8 percent of Pacific Canada's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Existing MPAs were designated under an ad-hoc approach using a variety of federal or provincial legislative tools and provide varying levels of protection to a range of different values. A systematic approach to network planning will enhance the capacity of existing and future MPAs to achieve multiple goals and objectives that no one single MPA could achieve.

Benefits of MPAs and MPA Network

Ecological Benefits:

  • Contribute to the protection of the structure, function and integrity of ecosystems by:
    • providing harvest refugia;
    • protecting habitats critical to lifecycle stages such as spawning, juvenile rearing and feeding;
    • complementing adjacent terrestrial protected areas for anadromous species (e.g., salmon);
    • protecting spawning stocks, spawning stock biomass and spawning aggregations to enhance or maintain reproductive capacity;
    • contributing to the restoration and recovery of species, habitat and ecosystems;
    • enhancing local and regional fish stocks through increased recruitment and spillover of adults and juveniles into adjacent areas; and
    • assisting in conservation-based fisheries management regimes.

Social, Economic and Cultural Benefits:

  • encouraging expansion of our knowledge and understanding of marine systems;
  • ensuring a stable resource base for non-consumptive and sustainable consumptive activities including fishing, recreation and tourism;
  • contributing to the coordination of ecosystem-based management of marine activities, thereby ensuring longterm economic opportunities for sustainable use;
  • providing researchers, educators and policy makers with reference sites to serve as natural benchmarks;
  • increasing the quality of life in surrounding communities; and
  • protecting historical and contemporary culturally and spiritually significant sites.
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