CPAWS welcomes pathway to protect 25% of ocean in Canada and stronger standards for marine protected areas

Pathway identifies new sites on all three coasts with minimum protections standards that prohibit commercial bottom trawling, mining, oil and gas, and dumping

From left to right: Sandra Schwartz, CPAWS, Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, and Susanna Fuller, Oceans North.

February 8, 2023, unceded territory of the səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) welcomes Canada’s pathway to protect 25% of its ocean territory by 2025, 30% by 2030, and the new minimum protection standards guidance for marine protected areas (MPAs) announced at the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5).  

“We are pleased to see that Canada is on the right track to achieve its goals of protecting 25% of its ocean territory by 2025 and 30% by 2030, while ensuring quality through minimum protections standards that prohibit commercial bottom trawling, mining, oil and gas, and dumping in all new MPAs is finally formalized in government policy,” said Sandra Schwartz, National Executive Director of CPAWS. “This provides much-needed certainty that Canada can reach its targets, and that new marine protected areas will be effective. 

Last December, at the 15th United Nations Conference of the Parties on the Convention of Biological Diversity (COP15) in Montreal, Canada was instrumental in securing a new global agreement to protect and restore biodiversity, including the goals of protecting 30% of coast and ocean by 2030 and recognizing Indigenous-led conservation. Canada has set an interim target of protecting 25% by 2025 to help ensure it is on track. 

CPAWS released its own roadmap last June to meet Canada’s goal of protecting 30% of land and ocean in the country. This report, Roadmap to 2030: Delivering on Canada’s Land and Ocean Protection Targets, identifies dozens of opportunities for ocean protection across Canada that include proposed and ongoing or already committed-to conservation planning processes—many of which are Indigenous-led conservation initiatives. If all the prospective sites are approved and designated by 2030, the total coverage of marine protected areas in Canada would increase from 13.9% to 30.4% – surpassing the 30% target.  

Success depends on collaboration with Indigenous partners and political will across governmental departments and agencies to establish new sites and ensure quality protection,” said Alex Barron, Director of CPAWS’ National Ocean Program. 

Canada first announced that it would establish minimum protection standards for all federally designated marine protected areas back in 2019. This was based on recommendations from a National Advisory Panel on MPAs that was formed in the wake of public outcry about a proposal to allow offshore oil and gas activities to continue in the Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area, located off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.  

“About forty thousand CPAWS supporters wrote to the government to tell them that oil and gas activities are not acceptable in our marine protected areas,” said Barron. “The response was incredible, and as a result the government not only strengthened the Laurentian Channel MPA, but also announced that it would develop minimum protection standards to prohibit oil and gas, mining, dumping, and bottom trawling in all MPAs.” 

A 2021 report by CPAWS, MPA Monitor: Assessing Canada’s Marine Protected Areas, measured how well-protected Canada’s 18 federal marine protected areas actually are. The results were mixed: none of the sites explicitly include minimum protection standards in their regulations, but four sites probably meet the minimum protection standards in practice, as harmful activities are restricted in them through other means or are highly unlikely to occur. The minimum standards will apply to all new federal MPAs. Sites established before 2019 will be reviewed as part of each site’s management planning cycle.  

We know that in order to gain the environmental, social, and economic benefits we expect from marine protected areas, like healthy fisheries and carbon storage, they need to be strongly protected,” said Barron. “That means minimum protection standards are as the name implies – the minimum needed for effective protection. Ecosystems need more in most cases, for example addressing impacts from other fishing methods and shipping.” 

CPAWS was also pleased to see the strengthening of ocean protection through the new policy for National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs) established by Parks Canada announced last week. NMCAs are the tool used by Parks Canada to protect coastal and ocean areas that have significant ecological and cultural value. Other announcements have included progress on the Tang.ɢwan – ḥačxwiqak – Tsig̱isMPA off the west coast of Vancouver Island and the endorsement of the MPA Network Action Plan for the Great Bear Sea by First Nations, federal, and provincial partners. This Action Plan is an important step in establishing an MPA network that includes new protected areas and stronger protection for some existing sites.   

CPAWS National and our chapters across the country look forward to working with our Indigenous partners and federal and provincial governments to support implementation and ongoing enhancement of the newly announced ocean protection measures in pursuit of Canada’s target to protect 30% of the ocean in country by 2030.   


– 30 – 

About CPAWS  

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only charity dedicated to the protection of public land, freshwater and ocean with a strong national and regional presence across the country. Working in a way that respects the sovereignty and leadership of Indigenous nations, we are focused on conserving nature to respond to the dual crises of accelerated biodiversity loss and climate change. Our vision is that at least half of land, freshwater and ocean in Canada is permanently protected to sustain nature and people for current and future generations. For more information about CPAWS and the work we do to safeguard Canada’s natural heritage, visit Join our community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Donate today. Take action.  

About IMPAC5 

On February 3-9, 2023, the world’s leading ocean conservation professionals will meet in Vancouver, Canada to chart a course towards protecting 30 % of the global ocean by 2030. The Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5) will bring together ocean conservation professionals and high-level officials to inform, inspire, and act on marine protected areas. IMPAC5 will be jointly hosted by the Host First Nations—xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-waututh Nation)—together with the Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Alongside the Congress, IMPAC5 will feature a number of exciting events, including the Ocean Festival. 

For more information, please contact:  

Tracy Walden 
National Director, Communications and Development, CPAWS 
[email protected]  

Jenn Brown 
Senior Communications Coordinator, Ocean Program, CPAWS 
[email protected]