National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas

Table of Contents

4. What is a Marine Protected Area?

4.1 Definition

Canada has adopted the following International Union for the Conservation of Nature / World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN/WCPA) 2008Footnote 3 definition of a protected area for its national network of marine protected areas:

A clearly defined geographical space recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.

Details about the IUCN definition are provided in Annex 2.1. In the Canadian context, MPAs must have as their main objective the conservation of nature, and fall within IUCN categories I-VI (Annex 2.2). “Legal means” refers to federal/provincial/territorial legislative or regulatory mechanisms for establishing protected areas with a marine component (see Annex 3). “Other effective means” refers to enhanced protection achieved through non-regulatory mechanisms, such as stewardship agreements or management plans in areas owned or managed by Aboriginal or non-government organizations.

When the Spotlight on Marine Protected Areas in CanadaFootnote 4 report was released in June 2010, it illustrated that existing marine areas identified by the federal, provincial and territorial governments as protected in some manner covered approximately 56,000 km2 - about 1% of Canada's oceans and Great Lakes. Not all of these protected areas will necessarily be part of the national network of marine protected areas. To be included, existing MPAs will have to meet the national marine protected area network criteria defined in Section 5.2, below.

Other marine conservation tools have the potential to contribute to MPA network goals, such as someFisheries Act closures; marine mammal management areas; critical habitat protected under the Species at Risk Act (SARA); National Historic Sites of Canada; Protected Heritage Wrecks; Designated Underwater Cultural Heritage sites; First Nations “community conserved areas”; and coastal lands owned or managed by non-government organizations like the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada. However, in most cases these areas will not qualify as MPAs according to the definition indicated above.

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