DFO MUST PUBLICLY-RELEASE MPA NETWORK PLAN FOR MARITIMES REGION
Published on May 11 2018
(Photo from CBC NS website)
The federal department of fisheries and oceans (DFO) must publicly release the marine protected area (MPA) network plan for Maritimes Region without any further delays. I really can’t underscore this point enough. It needs to happen, and it needs to happen now.
Yesterday, a photo showing what appears to be a MPA network proposal was leaked to the media, but without any of the accompanying scientific documents that explain how these sites were selected, how they achieve conservation targets, or how the government is proposing to avoid socio-economic impacts on industry, particularly the fishing sector.
All we have is a map, with no explanation. And that makes it a very dangerous thing, indeed.
To be frank, I’m surprised this map didn’t leak sooner. Many people have been briefed on the pending marine protected areas network plan. This includes the provincial governments of NS and NB, First Nations, the fishing industry, the oil and gas sector, and other ENGOs, and probably many more.
CPAWS-NS received it’s official briefing in December 2017 and we were expecting the public release of this plan in January. That slipped to February, then March, then April, and now May, without any explanation as to why no announcement.
DFO stated recently that the plan would be released “shortly”, and now, following the leak of the MPA network plan map yesterday, they are saying they are “on the verge” of releasing it. That’s fine, but what they really need to do is to actually release it.
With a version of the MPA network plan map now out there, but without any of the supporting scientific documents, the federal government must act quickly to ensure that the information void that has been created is not filled with innuendo or rumours, but rather with science and facts and good governance. That’s what people expect. And it’s why DFO must release the plan immediately. No more delays.
My very quick scan of the map on the CBC website shows there are a few discrepancies from what DFO presented to CPAWS-NS back in December. For instance, the map appears to show three “Areas of Interest” that have been announced for Maritimes Region, including a site for Sambro Ledges, but there are only two. Similarly, there are some discrepancies in the text of the CBC article as well that don’t match the official briefing that we received, such as how they describe Bras d’Or Lakes. Are these discrepancies because things have changed? Is it because the leaked map is inaccurate? Is it for some other reason? We simply don’t know.
A huge amount of uncertainty has just been added to a situation that already has too much uncertainty. The only remedy for dealing with that is for the government to show its cards; to reveal all of the work that it has undertaken, including the excruciating detail of all the computer runs and all of the data sets. It should clearly communicate the importance of MPAs and protecting marine biodiversity, but also the compromises that were made to avoid impacts on the fishing industry. They also need to communicate what these polygons on the maps actually represent and, perhaps more importantly, what they do not.
They also need to explain how this all fits within the overall strategy to better protect the ocean. The photo from the CBC website looks like it’s a map that represents a final product, but it’s anything but that. This is the start of a process, not the end of one.
Regardless, the map (or rather a version of the map) is now public and the accompanying scientific documents are not. That’s an untenable situation and there’s only one thing for the federal government to do to clear the air. They must release the MPA network plan and share with the public all of the work undertaken over the past few years. And they need to do that right away!
~By: Chris Miller, Executive Director, CPAWS-NS