Canada making progress towards marine protection, yet some signs troubling
Ottawa -- One year since CPAWS called on the federal government to create 12 new marine protected areas by December 2012, the good news is that it is making progress in designating many of them as legal entities. However, CPAWS is concerned that the conservation measures the government is proposing once these areas are designated for protection may be too weak to be effective.
Today, CPAWS is releasing a 20-page report, “Is Canada on track to create 12 new marine protected areas by December 2012?”, assessing progress over the past 12 months and areas of concern.
“On the one hand, we’re giving the government good marks for pushing forward in negotiations with other levels of government, industry and local communities to designate many of the 12 sites we’ve highlighted as new marine protected areas, “ says Sabine Jessen, CPAWS national oceans program manager.
“Protected” sites may lack meaningful conservation measures
“On the other hand, we are very concerned that the proposed conservation standards we’ve seen to date are not strong enough to secure the long-term health of these important marine ecosystems,” adds Jessen.
For example, the government is proposing that current activities, including commercial fishing and shipping, be allowed to continue with no change in the Pacific Ocean surrounding the Scott Islands off British Columbia, once it becomes a marine National Wildlife Area.
Progress on 9 of 12 sites in past year
Out of the 12 marine areas CPAWS has highlighted for action by December 2012, CPAWS has observed significant movement by the federal and other levels of government towards designating three as protected areas, some progress in creating another six, and limited or no progress on the remaining three. Progress towards designating marine protected areas has been most significant for three sites off the coast of British Columbia – in the Southern Strait of Georgia, in Hecate Strait and surrounding the Scott Islands, as well as one in James Bay off the coast of Quebec, called Tawich.
In each of these locations, the federal and other levels of government have signed agreements to establish formal marine protected areas within the past year, and are moving on to the next stages of negotiations required to finalize them.
In six more locations, off Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nunavut and Quebec, some progress towards designating new marine protected areas has been made, although more significant steps are required to move them towards completion rapidly.
No progress on protecting 3 important marine ecosystems
The areas where no notable progress at all has been made towards protection are in the Bay of Fundy, the South Coast Fjords off Newfoundland, and the “Big Eddy” off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
CPAWS has assessed progress towards protecting these sites on two sets of criteria: one for steps taken in the process to formally establish them as protected areas, the other for creating meaningful conservation measures to protect the long-term health of these marine ecosystems. The latter measures, based on leading science, include establishment of “no take zones” for fishing of at least 30% within a marine protected area and rules against other forms of industrial development such as oil and gas drilling.
In all of the 12 areas CPAWS has identified, rare and important forms of sea life are at risk, ranging from leatherback turtles, to dolphins, narwhal and other types of whales, birds including puffins and Cassins auklets, and fish including cod andAtlantic wolffish.
Canada still has huge catch-up job
“We will be watching progress carefully over the next six months to see how much closer Canada gets to meaningful protection for these 12 marine areas by the end of 2012,” says Jessen.
“This will be an important sign of how well we’ve laid the groundwork for more marine conservation in the years ahead. Canada still has a huge catch-up job to reach our international commitment of establishing networks of marine protected areas in all of our oceans,” adds Jessen.
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