CANADA IS ONE STEP CLOSER TO HAVING BETTER MARINE PROTECTED AREAS
Published on Oct 26 2018
The final report of the National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards was recently released. This is good news! From March to September 2018, the National Advisory Panel travelled across Canada to gather perspectives on MPAs from Canadians on all three coasts. The final report includes a series of recommendations on how to better protect the ocean surrounding Canada. Among these recommendations is a call for industrial activities to be banned from MPAs. CPAWS-Nova Scotia is encouraged by the findings of the National Advisory Panel report and we look to the Federal government to implement these recommendations quickly.
In Canada, we are currently lacking minimum protection standards for MPAs. What does that mean? Well, it means that the protection levels put in place for our MPAs can vary widely across the country, from one site to the next. Some of our MPAs are fully-protected, others are partially-protected, and some are just “paper parks” with very little or no regulations. Amazingly, there are some MPAs where even oil and gas activity is allowed. Fishers have rightly noted that banning fishing, while allowing oil and gas exploration, is a double standard. Not surprisingly, a lack of minimum standards has compromised the long-term health of ocean ecosystems, caused confusion and distrust among stakeholders and created a long designation process.
Prohibit heavy industrial activities from MPAs
For many years, environmental organizations including CPAWS, have advocated for heavy industrial activities to be prohibited from marine protected areas. This includes activities such as oil and gas exploration, bottom trawling, and seabed mining and dumping. The panel has reached a similar conclusion, recommending that industrial activities should be prohibited in MPAs. Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union of Newfoundland and Labrador have welcomed these findings too. If we want to create meaningful protected areas, heavy industry must not be allowed to undermine conservation efforts.
Support Indigenous Protected Areas
Another highlight of the report is the importance of Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) and the call for better legislative tools. Many Indigenous communities are leading the way on conservation, including for marine conservation, so better collaboration and engagement is absolutely required. CPAWS-Nova Scotia is pleased that the panel recognizes this and has recommended increasing opportunities for Indigenous co-governance and the designation of IPAs.
Transparent and accessible process and reporting
I’m also pleased to see that the panel’s report emphasizes the importance of clarity and transparency for stakeholders throughout all phases of the MPA planning process, including reporting on its effectiveness after designation. Transparency and clarity are imperative for maximizing engagement and gaining trust among stakeholders. In my work, effective and clear communication is something that communities have highlighted as critical to having any chance at creating a successful protected area that is supported by the local community.
Federal government must act on the recommendations
This report is a crucial point in what has been a long process of establishing much-needed minimum standards for MPAs in Canada. Now that the panel has released the final report, the federal government must act to make the recommendations official. In order for these recommendations to be effective, the government must adopt and implement them for both existing and future MPAs. This is critical to ensuring the health of the ocean and coastal communities for generations to come. Stay tuned!!
Check out the full National Advisory Panel report here.