CPAWS Congratulates Federal Government on MPA Protection Standards and Laurentian Channel MPA

Montreal, Quebec – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) applauds the announcement by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard that all federal marine protected areas (MPAs) in Canada will now have to meet a minimum threshold of protection.

“For over 25 years, we have been calling on the federal government to ensure that when MPAs are established they protect ocean wildlife and the habitats they depend on from the most harmful human activities, so that ‘protection’ actually means something”, said Sabine Jessen, National Director, Ocean Program for CPAWS.

“We are very pleased to hear the Minister announce that all future MPAs, including those established under the Oceans Act, the National Marine Conservation Areas Act, and the Canada Wildlife Act, must prohibit oil and gas, mining, bottom trawling and dumping,” continued Jessen. “These industrial activities have no place in the special areas that we are trying to protect for future generations.”

“We appreciate the thoughtful work of the National Advisory Panel on MPA Standards, and we support the government’s intention to review existing MPAs over the next 5 years to ensure that they will also meet this standard of protection,” added Jessen. “We are hoping this will lead to higher protection for areas like the Hecate Strait glass sponge reef MPA and for Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area, both on Canada’s Pacific coast.”

The Minister also announced final designation of the Laurentian Channel MPA, a rich ocean area off the southern Newfoundland coast, and the government’s intention to prohibit oil and gas activities, making this the largest fully protected MPA in Canada.

“Laurentian Channel is a critical ocean area for over 20 species of migrating whales including the world’s largest whale, the blue whale, and the endangered Northern right whale. It is also home to important concentrations of porbeagle sharks, leatherback sea turtles, black dogfish and Northern wolfish. CPAWS acknowledges the recent agreement between the Newfoundland and Labrador and federal governments to protect this area from oil and gas development, following an outcry from over 70,000 Canadians,” said Jessen.

“CPAWS has labored for years to ensure that this special area is protected that will ensure the future of unique communities of sea pens, sharks and turtles, as well as more than 20 species of whales and other creatures that rely on this ocean oasis”, said Tanya Edwards, Executive Director of CPAWS-NL. “We thank those Canadians from across the country who stood with us in arguing for real protection for this area – we couldn’t have done it without you!”

The Minister also announced new standards for marine refuges and accepted the National MPA standards advisory panel recommendation that if industrial activities are proposed for these areas, that there be a rigorous environmental assessment. “We are also pleased to see that the government will not count areas towards our conservation targets if they include any industrial activities,” added Jessen.

“CPAWS has been working nationally and internationally to develop guidelines for new types of protection categories under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN),” noted Jessen. “We are optimistic that the announcement today by the Minister will ensure that marine refuges in Canada will be exactly that – refuges from industrial activities and for ocean wildlife.”

“The National MPA Standards Panel also made recommendations for Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) and on the role of indigenous peoples and Indigenous knowledge in MPAs in their report to the Minister. CPAWS hopes that the Minister will respond to these important recommendations in the near future, in order to provide social and economic benefits to Indigenous peoples and to fully achieve Canada’s marine conservation objectives” said Jessen.

“Finally, we applaud the government’s focus on working to achieve its international commitment to protect at least 10% of Canada’s ocean estate, and for reaching 8.27% with the announcement today,” added Jessen. “This represents an 8-fold increase in protection since 2015. We also hope during this important Nature Champions Summit in Montreal, that Canada will play a leadership role in committing to new scientific targets for protecting least 30% by 2030.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land, ocean and freshwater, and ensuring our parks and protected areas are managed to protect nature. In the past 56 years, we have played a leading role in protecting over half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory! Our vision is to protect at least half of Canada’s public land and water in a framework of reconciliation – for the benefit of both wildlife and humans.

Sabine Jessen cell 604-657-2813
Tanya Edwards cell 709-727-7789
Jennifer Scott office 613-569-7226 x 234