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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

9. Network Design

To meet conservation goals, Canada's national network of MPAs will be guided by network design recommendations of the international community. For example, the CBD scientific publication commonly known as the Azores ReportFootnote 11 sets out three main components of MPA network design:

  1. Scientific criteria for identifying Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs);
  2. Scientific guidance for the selection of areas to form a representative network of MPAs; and
  3. Recommendations for configuring networks based on additional network design properties.

The Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) housed in Fisheries and Oceans Canada has held a number of national workshops to further develop these design recommendations.Footnote 12 This science advice is being incorporated into a technical guidance companion document to this National Framework.

9.1 Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas

Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) are spatially defined areas that provide important services - either to one or more species or populations in an ecosystem, or to the ecosystem as a whole. They meet one or more of seven criteria, as referenced in the Azores Report:

  1. Uniqueness or rarity (e.g., persistent polynyas (stretches of open water surrounded by ice), hydrothermal vents, seamounts);
  2. Special importance for life-history stages of species (e.g., breeding grounds, spawning areas, habitats of migrating species);
  3. Importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats (e.g., critical habitat of species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), or similar provincial / territorial legislation);
  4. Vulnerability, fragility, sensitivity or slow recovery (e.g., species with low reproductive rate or slow growth; species such as corals and sponges with structures that provide benthic habitats);
  5. Biological productivity (e.g., estuaries, upwellings, continental margins);
  6. Biological diversity (areas containing comparatively higher diversity, e.g., seamounts, coral communities, sponge communities); and
  7. Naturalness (the selection of the more natural examples of habitats).

The Oceans Act and Fisheries Act administered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canada Wildlife ActMigratory Birds Convention Act and SARA administered by Environment Canada, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act of Parks Canada and provincial/territorial protected area tools can all contribute to the protection of EBSAs.

9.2 Ecological Representation (or Representativity)

The Azores Report also gives guidance on how to include representation (referred to in the report to as “representativity”) within a network to protect biodiversity and maintain (or if necessary, restore) ecological integrity. At its most basic, broad scale, this means protecting relatively intact, naturally functioning examples of the full range of ecosystems and habitat diversity found within a given planning area such as a bioregion or Parks Canada marine region. Various jurisdictions in Canada have legislative mandates to select representative areas for protection. For example, Parks Canada has a mandate to establish a system of national marine conservation areas that are representative of the 29 marine regions identified for Canada's three oceans and Great Lakes within its system planning framework. Such representative MPAs will contribute significantly to the overall national MPA network.

In practice, an MPA network bioregion includes a number of habitat types and many species that will not be encompassed within a single large-scale representative MPA. Establishing a network of MPAs that captures examples of all habitat types within the bioregion will ensure that the finer-scale elements of biodiversity (e.g., species, communities) and physical characteristics (e.g., oceanographic conditions, bathymetry, geology) are also protected. The different habitat types in a bioregion can be identified and delineated using habitat classification schemes based on the best available physical and biological informationFootnote 13.

9.3 Additional Design Properties

To maximize the ecological benefits from protection of EBSAs and representative areas, there are additional network design properties that should be considered in configuring MPA networks. As described in the Azores Report, these properties are:

9.4 Culturally Important Areas

While the main objective of Canada's National Network of MPAs is conservation of nature (consistent with the MPA definition), there are many sites that are important to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal coastal communities and Canadians in general for social and cultural reasons. These areas could be considered for inclusion in the network where they are compatible with national network goals and eligibility criteria. Areas of social, cultural, or educational value include:

  1. Special importance for cultural heritage: an area where use of the marine environment and living marine resources are or have been of particular cultural or historical importance (e.g., for the support of traditional subsistence activities for food, social or ceremonial use; significant historical and archaeological sites, heritage wrecks);
  2. Public use and enjoyment: an area that offers outstanding recreational opportunities and aesthetic and/or spiritual values (e.g., sport fishing, boating, sea kayaking, diving, wildlife viewing);
  3. Education: an area that offers an exceptional opportunity to inform the public about the value of protecting the marine environment or to enhance awareness of particular natural and cultural features or phenomena (e.g., through outreach programs, visitor centres).

In practice, all three of these will often be achieved within a single MPA.

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