Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are an important part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to conserve and protect our oceans. Learn more about the scientifically proven benefits of MPAs and about the unique marine spaces that are protected through Fisheries and Ocean Canada’s MPAs.

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Planet Earth - lots of green… and lots of blue. 70% blue in fact.

Almost three-quarters of our planet is covered in water… most of it big blue ocean water. The oceans don't just generate half of the oxygen we breathe, they act as thermostats to regulate the Earth’s temperature and support a majority of our planet’s biodiversity.

Canada is an ocean rich country. We have the world’s longest coastline linking three different oceans – Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic – and an immense web of marine life.

We are all connected to our oceans, which are important to our heritage, culture and economy, and essential to all life on the planet.

Canada’s coastal ecosystems are very important as they support a wide diversity of marine and terrestrial species. Taking care of our oceans is a priority and there are many different organizations, communities and individuals that work together to protect and conserve our oceans.

For the Government of Canada, one of the most important initiatives has been the establishment of Marine Protected Areas.

These are defined geographical areas in the water that are dedicated and managed in an effort to conserve and protect unique areas, ecologically significant species and their habitats, and representative marine environments.

They can also strengthen ecosystems so they function properly, providing goods and services such as clean air, water and food.

Marine protected areas, which are in place in many coastal countries around the world, have scientifically proven benefits.

They can be created to increase the size of fish stocks by creating refuges and by protecting fish habitats.

As fish populations within marine protected areas grow, they can spill over into surrounding areas and increase populations available for fishing.

They can also protect fish habitats in areas that have spiritual or cultural value to Indigenous communities and can help support lifestyles based on fishing to feed their communities. Fisheries and Oceans Canada designates Marine Protected Areas under the Oceans Act from coast, to coast to coast.

In the Atlantic Ocean - Basin Head, Musquash estuary, Eastport, Gilbert Bay and the Gully Marine Protected Areas - protect everything from marine plants and animals like Irish moss, lobster and cod, to an amazing underwater canyon almost as deep as the Grand Canyon. In fact, the Gully is on the edge of the Scotian Shelf where the seafloor suddenly drops away over two and a half kilometers. A resident population of northern bottlenose whales is found in the deep canyon area.

These whales are among the world’s deepest divers and make regular trips to the canyon depths for food.

In the Pacific Ocean – Bowie Seamount and Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents- are two Marine Protected Areas that protect some amazing underwater phenomenon and unique marine species found nowhere else on the earth.

The Bowie Seamount is an area of undersea mountains formed by volcanic activity which rise steeply from the ocean bottom.

Scientists believe that the seamount was formed less than one million years ago and was an active volcano island during the last ice age.

The Endeavour hydrothermal vents, which are about the height of the Eiffel tower, are large, hot black chimney-like structures that expel really, really hot water – more than 300 degrees Celsius hot.

This happens when cold sea water percolates downward through the earth’s crust where it is heated by the underlying molten lava.

Hydrothermal vents at Endeavour are home to 12 species that do not exist anywhere else in the world.

In the Arctic Ocean - Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area – protects beluga whales and other marine species, their habitat and supporting ecosystem. Belugas have a lot to say and are really chatty, with sixteen separate types of vocalizations. So while you might live very close…or very far from the ocean.

Because you live on this planet, you are directly affected by what covers 70% of it – the ocean. So… don’t think about these incredible watery environments as “the” ocean… think about them as YOUR ocean!

Find out more about Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Marine Protected Areas… here!