St. Anns Bank Marine Protected Area achieves important milestone

OTTAWA – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) congratulates the federal government on completing the designation process for St. Anns Bank Marine Protected Area. “CPAWS is pleased to see the Government of Canada continuing to take significant steps toward achieving its ambitious marine conservation targets, and in doing so, fulfilling our international commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity,” said Sabine Jessen, National Director, CPAWS Ocean Program. “We are particularly pleased to see this strong and effective MPA established in Canada, and we hope this sets a new standard for future MPAs,” added Jessen. Canada has committed to protecting 5% of its coastal and marine waters by 2017 and at least 10% by 2020. “This is an important milestone for the protection of St. Anns Bank,” said Chris Miller, National Conservation Biologist for CPAWS. “It essentially means that the designation process for this new marine protected area is now complete. Many people have worked very hard, over many years, to get to this point. We congratulate everyone who was involved in making this marine protected area a reality.” St. Anns Bank Marine Protected Area is 4,364 square kilometres in size and is located off the eastern coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The area is important for conservation, containing leatherback sea turtles, deep-sea corals, sponges and sea pens, and recovering populations of Atlantic cod and Atlantic wolffish. Over 100 species have been identified in this area and it comprises an important migratory corridor for wildlife travelling to and from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Through regulations published in Canada Gazette, the entire area will be off-limits to oil and gas exploration activities and bottom trawling. Three fishing zones, covering approximately one quarter of the marine protected area have been established for lower impact fisheries, predominately for snow crab, lobster, halibut, and whelk. Fisheries and Oceans Canada first announced St. Anns Bank as an “Area of Interest” for a marine protected area in 2011. Over the past six years, several rounds of public and stakeholder consultations have occurred, including most recently in January of this year. Today, Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced that the Government of Canada has now officially established the MPA. The final regulations will be published in Canada Gazette Part 2 on June 14th. CPAWS remains concerned about other proposed MPAs in Canada, like Laurentian Channel in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Scott Islands in British Columbia, where industrial and commercial activities may not be regulated in the way they have been for St Anns Bank MPA. “St. Anns Bank MPA sets an important precedent for other marine protected areas in Canada,” said Jessen. “The Government of Canada still has a window of time to fix the problems with Laurentian Channel and Scott Islands. We hope they will take advantage of that opportunity.” -30-