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National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas

National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas

National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas (PDF, 845 KB)

Table of Contents

7. Benefits and Costs of a Marine Protected Area Network

Oceans and their living resources support a broad range of consumptive and non-consumptive uses ranging from renewable and non-renewable resource extraction to ecotourism. As technology evolves, new industries will also vie for ocean space. While IOM processes strive to maximize benefits to be derived from oceans while still conserving and maintaining ecological processes, marine ecosystems have a limited capacity to adjust to these increasing stresses. The role of a network of marine protected areas is to protect those areas needed to bolster ecosystem functioning so that the overall health of the ocean is not jeopardized by human uses.

7.1 Benefits

There is a wealth of scientific evidence that well managed and strongly protected individual MPAs − including those in temperate waters − can provide environmental benefitsFootnote 8. Although there are fewer studies on the effectiveness of MPA networks (since few countries have had established networks for very long), there is mounting evidence that effective networks can scale up the contribution of individual MPAs to achieve ecological benefits, which can translate into economic, social and cultural benefits.Footnote 9

With respect to ecological benefits, networks of marine protected areas can contribute by:

With respect to climate change mitigation and adaptation, networks of marine protected areas can contribute by:

There are also a number of social and economic benefits which can result from the establishment of a network of MPAs, such as:

There could be additional benefits where adjacent national networks of MPAs are linked (e.g., Canada/US; Canada/Denmark)Footnote 10:

7.2 Costs

Not all ocean-based activities will necessarily be compatible with the goals of a network of marine protected areas. Several types of MPAs and other conservation measures explicitly prohibit certain classes of industrial activities (e.g., close the area to fishing or to future oil and gas development). Consequently, the establishment of a network may generate actual or potential social and economic costs, depending on the location and nature of the human activities in relation to network design/configuration. Bioregional network design processes (described in greater detail in Section 10.2) will consider opportunities to mitigate socio-economic impacts.

There is also the potential for MPA networks to offset some socio-economic impacts. In the case of the fishing industry and other industries that rely on living resources, some economic impacts may be lessened over time due to the anticipated ecological benefits of MPA networks as described above (i.e., increases in ecological resilience of the marine ecosystems should result in increased biological productivity). Other types of industries (e.g., oil and gas; renewable wind/tidal energy; shipping) that require certainty of access to particular marine areas in order to conduct their activities will benefit from the advance notice of ecologically important areas in need of protection that a network design provides.

Human use considerations come into play in the context of Integrated Oceans Management. Once an assessment of ecologically important areas has been made within a planning area, ocean managers work with activity regulators to minimize the impacts of human activities on the ecologically important areas. A risk analysis is then undertaken to determine where ecological vulnerabilities continue to occur. The most vulnerable areas tend to be those that are of greatest ecological importance yet also subject to multiple, cumulative impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated. These are the areas that can most benefit from marine protected area network planning.

In designing the network, planners may consider a range of conservation measures in order to select the most appropriate means that would complement MPAs in achieving the desired conservation goal(s). In planning a new MPA, it will be configured and sited to accommodate socio-economic considerations to the extent possible without jeopardizing achievement of the conservation goal(s).

Given that marine protected area network planning is spatial in nature, MPA network planners need to work with the full picture of socio-economic information available, and call upon the professional services of experts in cost/benefit and socio-economic impact analysis. Computer modeling tools can be used to show stakeholders and decision-makers different options or scenarios for network design, with the goal of maximizing ecological benefit and minimizing socio-economic costs. There may be areas where the ecological importance is so great that some socio-economic considerations cannot be accommodated, and conversely there may be areas of such high socio-economic significance that they are deemed inappropriate for setting aside as marine protected areas by decision-makers.

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