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Canada-British Columbia Marine Protected Area Network Strategy

Canada-British Columbia Marine Protected Area Network Strategy

Canada-British Columbia Marine Protected Area Network Strategy (PDF, 1.42 MB)

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

Visions and Goals for a Network of Marine Protected Areas on the Pacific Coast of Canada


Marine protected areas are an important conservation tool that, when used in conjunction with other management tools, can result in benefits for ecosystems, coastal communities and regional and national economies. The vision and goals of this Strategy will help British Columbia realize a future that includes a healthy ocean, sustainable marine-based economies and thriving coastal communities. They are consistent with and support guidance provided by the National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas.

An ecologically comprehensive, resilient and representative network of marine protected areas that protects the biological diversity and health of the marine environment for present and future generations.
Under this Strategy, the establishment of a network of MPAs will serve six goals (described in greater detail below):
  1. To protect and maintain marine biodiversity, ecological representation and special natural features.
  2. To contribute to the conservation and protection of fishery resources and their habitats.
  3. To maintain and facilitate opportunities for tourism and recreation.
  4. To contribute to social, community, and economic certainty and stability.
  5. To conserve and protect traditional use, cultural heritage and archaeological resources.
  6. To provide opportunities for scientific research, education and awareness.

Goal 1 is of primary importance.

Goal 1: To Protect and Maintain Marine Biodiversity, Ecological Representation and Special Natural Features

In addition to other resource management tools, MPAs can contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity and the protection of ecological processes and food web relationships. They can provide additional protection to endangered or threatened species, preventing species loss, and they can contribute to the protection of the diversity of marine habitats (i.e., representative ecosystems) and special natural features.

Biodiversity is defined as the full range of variety and variability within and among living organisms and the ecological complexes of which they are a part. It is expressed in the genetic variability within a species (such as different populations of the same species), in the number of different species and in the variety of ecosystems and habitats in near and offshore marine environments.

Ecological representation (or representativity) means protecting relatively intact, naturally functioning examples of the full range of ecosystems and habitat diversity found within a given planning area. Establishing a network of MPAs that captures examples of all habitat types will ensure that the finer-scale elements of biodiversity and physical characteristics are also protected.

Special natural features are elements of the environment that are rare, outstanding or unique. These areas may include stopover sites for migrating species, seabird colonies and their surrounding waters, areas with rare and unique capabilities for maintaining early-life stages of important fish and shellfish species, habitats for marine species at risk and habitats of high biodiversity such as estuaries or upwellings.

Goal 2: To Contribute to the Conservation and Protection of Fishery Resources and Their Habitats

Conserving and protecting fish stocks is critical for the sustainability and stability of British Columbia's commercial, recreational and aboriginal fisheries. It is increasingly apparent that social, economic and cultural values flow from productive marine ecosystems and that this contributes significantly to healthy coastal communities. MPAs give refuge to vulnerable species, thus helping to maintain species presence, age, size distribution and abundance.

Goal 3: To Maintain and Facilitate Opportunities for Tourism and Recreation

Marine protected areas are public investments. The importance of such investments are determined and maintained by the benefits they provide and how they are valued by the public. MPAs that offer a variety of recreational activities and learning experiences facilitate a personal connection between protected places and the people who visit them. These personal connections build and maintain the relevance of protected spaces for all who visit and use them.

Marine protected areas can enhance and support marine and coastal recreation and tourism opportunities, as well as the pursuit of activities of a spiritual or aesthetic nature. The protection of representative ecosystems and special recreation features will help to secure the wealth and range of recreational and tourism opportunities available in British Columbia and may provide new economic opportunities for coastal communities.




Goal 4: To Contribute to Social, Community, and Economic Certainty and Stability

Common marine-based activities in British Columbia to be considered in MPA network design include: commercial wild-capture and aquaculture fisheries, transportation, shipping, energy generation and transmission, research and education. Some or all of these activities, when properly managed, may be compatible with an MPA depending on the level of protection required to meet site and network goals and objectives. In some MPAs conservation will be the primary focus for a restrictive access strategy, while in others, the most important objective may be the protection of traditional use, sustainable use, or a combination thereof. Through systematic planning, MPA networks will contribute to certainty of access and stability to those who rely on marine resources for social, cultural, or economic reasons.

Goal 5: To Conserve and Protect Traditional Use, Cultural Heritage and Archaeological Resources

Cultural resources are works of human origin, places that provide evidence of human activity or occupation or areas with spiritual or cultural value. Marine protected areas can be developed to conserve and protect marine areas with spiritual or cultural heritage value such as archaeological sites, shipwrecks and areas traditionally used by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. Recreation, tourism and education activities that are consistent with the objectives of an MPA may be permitted, facilitated or promoted, improving public awareness, understanding and appreciation of Canada's marine heritage.

Goal 6: To Provide Opportunities for Scientific Research, Education and Awareness

Scientific knowledge of the marine environment lags significantly behind that for the terrestrial environment, which can affect the ability of marine managers to identify the merits of protection or management options. Marine protected areas provide increased opportunities for scientific research on topics such as species population dynamics, ecology and marine ecosystem structure and function, as well as provide opportunities for sharing traditional and local knowledge.

There is general recognition that proactive measures are necessary to protect and conserve marine areas to sustain resources for present and future generations. However, there is still a significant need for public education to instil greater awareness of the role everyone can play in the conservation of marine environments. Many MPAs will afford unique opportunities for public education because of their accessibility and potential to clearly demonstrate marine ecological characteristics and values.


The vision and goals establish the strategic framework to guide action to conserve British Columbia's marine biodiversity. They are high-level statements of general direction or intent and provide the umbrella for development of objectives that describe the desired outcomes or observable changes that represent achievement of stated goals. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bounded (SMART) objectives will be identified at smaller spatial scales (Section 6) in an open, transparent and participatory manner, reflecting a balance in the needs of those involved in or affected by establishment and management of MPA networks. This approach will allow for the flexibility needed to develop objectives that derive from local conservation and sustainability concerns.

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