DIVING DEEP IN THE FUNDIAN CHANNEL- BROWNS BANK AREA OF INTEREST
Published on Apr 17 2018
In my previous blog post, I discussed a proposed marine protected area (MPA) for a unique archipelago along the Eastern Shore. At the same time that Eastern Shore Islands was announced, Fisheries and Oceans Canada also announced Fundian Channel- Browns Bank as an “Area of Interest” (AOI) for a future MPA. One of the goals of creating MPAs, specifically a network of MPAs, is to select a variety of sites that are representative of the diversity of marine habitat and wildlife in the Maritimes region. By creating MPAs in both nearshore coastal sites, such as the Eastern Shore Islands and offshore sites, like Fundian Channel- Browns Bank we are on the right path to achieving this goal. In this blog post I move westward, and further offshore, about 160 kilometres south of Yarmouth, to explore Fundian Channel- Browns Bank and see why this site is important for protection under the Oceans Act.
Fundian Channel-Browns Bank AOI is a 7,184 square kilometre area that is home to some of the largest aggregations of corals and sponges in the Maritimes. There is a diverse array of wildlife, including several depleted species, such as Atlantic cod, Atlantic wolffish, and spiny dogfish. Fundian Channel-Browns Bank is important for cod and haddock spawning and it also serves as a nursery for halibut. On top of that, this site provides an important migratory corridor for animals, such as whales and basking sharks, which are entering and leaving the Gulf of Maine. Together, these make this region a spectacular area of ecological and biological significance. These marine creatures rely on healthy ocean habitat, which is why the MPA is so important.
One reason (of many) for establishing places in the ocean that are free from harmful human activities is to allow for fish to grow, reproduce and recover. By protecting important fish habitat within Fundian Channel-Browns Bank there could be benefits to fish populations and fisheries occurring outside of the MPA. Of course fish and other marine animals swim in and out of the MPA. This means that fish that were able to grow big and healthy within the MPA may “spillover” into areas outside the MPA boundaries. Recently published research that looked at MPAs around coral reefs in the Philippines found evidence for this concept of “spillover”. Their research suggests that fish born in protected areas where fishing is prohibited grow to be larger, healthier and more successful at reproduction.
The marine protected area boundary
The Fundian Channel- Browns Bank AOI encompasses two different areas. The western portion of the AOI is centered on Georges Basin and the other larger component encompasses the Fundian Channel and part of Browns Bank and kind of resembles a shoe, or more accurately a stiletto. You will also notice that the bottom (or the sole) of the stiletto has little pieces carved out of it. This is likely because there are companies that hold oil and gas leases here. This gives the appearance that the proposed MPA boundary was designed to purposely avoid areas of oil and gas potential, regardless of their ecological value. This concerns us. You can take a look at the oil and gas leases that are in this region here. Hopefully, these pieces will eventually be incorporated into the MPA. Oil and gas activity is a threat to marine protected areas and could easily undermine this designation. Throughout the MPA process CPAWS-NS will be working to ensure that oil and gas activities and harmful fishing activities, such as bottom trawling, are not allowed within Fundian Channel- Browns Bank MPA.
With the announcement of the AOI for Fundian Channel-Browns Bank, next steps include a consultation process with Indigenous communities, other levels of government, a wide variety of stakeholders and the public. This is an important step for negotiating and developing zones, final boundaries and associated regulations. We hope that you will continue to stay involved throughout this process. Here at CPAWS-NS, we look forward to the pending release of the MPA network plan for Maritimes region “shortly”. There are still many gaps in protection for this region, such as Bay of Fundy and other coastal sites. We will be sure to keep you updated as additional progress is made.