EASTERN SHORE ISLANDS: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DOING COASTAL PROTECTION THE RIGHT WAY
Published on Apr 03 2018
(Photo: Alisha Postma, divebuddies4life.com)
As you’ve probably heard by now, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has just announced two areas of interest (AOI) for marine protected areas (MPAs) in the waters surrounding Nova Scotia. These include, Eastern Shore Islands and Fundian Channel- Browns Bank. Creating these MPAs is a crucial step for Canada to fulfill its international commitment to protect at least 10% of our ocean by 2020. At the moment, only 7.75% is considered by DFO to be protected.
For this blog, I’d like to take a closer look at the Eastern Shore Islands, to explore what makes this site so spectacular for conservation and to discuss the importance of working collaboratively with the local community along the Eastern Shore to ensure that this MPA works well and has local support. In the next blog I will dive deeper into the Fundian Channel- Browns Bank AOI.
Continuing the conservation legacy
Nova Scotia has not yet established an MPA in the coastal zone. Our two existing MPAs are offshore sites, St. Anns Bank and The Gully. As a result, the creation of an MPA along the Eastern Shore will be a milestone for ocean conservation in Nova Scotia when implemented. The water surrounding the 500 (that is not a typo) islands, located just off the Eastern Shore, is a great place to start protecting our coastline for many reasons. If you’ve ever travelled along the Eastern Shore, or maybe even been lucky enough to visit one of the islands, you know that this region is simply breathtaking.
In recent years, the Eastern Shore Islands has been the focus of terrestrial conservation efforts. Public lands here have been declared a protected wilderness area and privately owned islands are being protected by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. In contrast, marine protection is currently lacking. In order for the Eastern Shore Islands to remain healthy and ecologically intact, both the terrestrial and ocean component of the environment need to be properly protected. This area is important for many species which are tied to both the land AND the sea. Luckily, the government has recognized this and the creation of the Eastern Shore Islands MPA will help to ensure that the entire Eastern Shore Islands is protected for years to come.
Eelgrass, lobster and birds oh my!
The Eastern Shore Islands area is home to a variety of marine life. The underlying unique geology and oceanographic processes of this region have shaped and made it like no other coastal region in Nova Scotia. The Eastern Shore boasts a variety of habitats including eelgrass, kelp beds and tidal saltmarshes. These habitats are valuable for an impressive variety of fish and colonial marine birds, including common eiders, Harlequin ducks (Special Concern- SARA) and endangered roseate terns (Endangered- SARA). The Eastern Shore Islands are also important for Atlantic salmon, American eel and commercially important lobster. These waters provide valuable habitat for juvenile groundfish, including Atlantic cod, hake and haddock. An MPA can help to protect these important habitats and species, having benefits for populations both within and outside MPA boundaries.
We have barely scratched the surface in what is known about the habitats and creatures that are found around the Eastern Shore Islands. Throughout the MPA process I will share more about the diversity of marine life that is found among the Eastern Shore Islands. There is still so much to be learned about this magnificent place and a MPA provides a great opportunity for more research and education.
The health of the ocean in this region is not only important for marine life, but also for the communities that dot this stretch of shoreline: Musquodoboit Harbour, Clam Harbour, Ship Harbour, Pleasant Harbour, Tangier, Spry Harbour, Mushaboom, Sheet Harbour, Port Dufferin, Moser River, Ecum Secum, Liscomb…just to name A FEW. These communities, along with many more, are culturally connected and economically dependent on the ocean.
Lobster fishing is a crucial industry along the Eastern Shore and DFO needs to work collaboratively with the local community on this. There is the potential for win-win scenarios. For instance, if the MPA can stop open-pen finfish aquaculture farms from being established here, but still allow for the existing sustainable lobster fishery, then that is one potential example. Understanding how the MPA can benefit the local community is key. Those conversations are crucial and will be taking place over the coming months.
In addition, local communities have been working hard to develop sustainable tourism opportunities within the Eastern Shore. An MPA could complement the work that is already being done along the Eastern Shore to enhance nature and outdoor-based tourism in this area. This is another example of a potential win-win scenario, but again, only if it’s done right and with local support. CPAWS-NS will be working hard to ensure that the MPA that’s ultimately established along the Eastern Shore is one that works for conservation AND local communities. That’s crucial.
What comes next?
The establishment of a coastal MPA here in Nova Scotia offers a unique opportunity for local communities to take a leadership role in protecting their coastal waters. Community engagement throughout each phase of the MPA process can help to create an MPA that is sustainable in the long-term by effectively protecting the marine environment and supporting the people who live there. The consultation process that will be led by DFO will begin shortly. As the first coastal MPA in Nova Scotia, if done properly, the Eastern Shore can serve as a model for future coastal MPAs in Canada.