MINIMUM PROTECTION STANDARDS FOR MARINE PROTECTED AREAS ARE BADLY NEEDED
Published on Aug 30 2018
Photo credit: DFO
The National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards publicly released its interim report. This is an important milestone, as the panel is making recommendations on how to better protect our ocean. It can be pretty dry stuff though, so let me take a minute to walk you through some of the key points.
In Canada, we are lacking minimum protection standards for marine protected areas (MPAs). What that means is that protection levels for our marine protected areas can vary widely from one site to the next. Some MPAs actually allow for ecologically harmful activities, such as oil and gas exploration and bottom-trawling. The current framework is inconsistent and does not match the public’s desire to ensure that Canada’s oceans are properly protected.
Some of our MPAs are fully-protected, others are partially-protected with multiple-use areas, and some are just “paper parks” with very little or no regulations. Not surprisingly, these inconstancies compromise the quality of protected areas, create confusion and distrust among stakeholders, and can badly draw out the designation process. In order to protect biodiversity and ensure that people can benefit from the goods and services that the ocean has to offer for years to come, strong standards are needed.
In March 2018, Fisheries and Oceans Canada commissioned the National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards to develop recommendations for the creation of protection standards. The Panel has travelled across Canada to gain perspectives and knowledge from a variety of stakeholders and ocean users. CPAWS prioritizes the creation of strong protected areas and as a result, we have been actively engaged in this process. Several CPAWS chapters presented to the panel and we also made an official written submission. The Panel’s interim report to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard is now publically available. You can read it here. In this document, there are no specific recommendations. Those will be included in the final report.
Here are some of the highlights:
• The panel has heard agreement on the use of International Guidance for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a baseline for minimum protection standards in Canada. This guidance serves as a strong foundation and CPAWS supports it application in Canada. Notably, the IUCN guidance clearly articulates that any industrial activity or infrastructural development is not compatible with MPAs.
• The panel recognizes Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) as an effective tool for conservation. IPAs are important for ensuring protection of cultural and ecological values, and for establishing indigenous authority over these critically important areas. The importance of Indigenous peoples being meaningfully involved throughout the entirety of the MPA process was also highlighted.
• The report recognizes that while the primary goal of MPAs is to protect biodiversity, protected areas can also deliver social and economic benefits. The report states: “The Panel’s recommendations will recognize that MPAs and economic and social interests are not necessarily in opposition.” There is increasing evidence that ecological and socioeconomic benefits are not mutually exclusive.
• The importance of clarity and transparency for all stakeholders throughout the MPA planning and management is recognized in this report. This is imperative for maximizing engagement and gaining trust among stakeholders.
• The report states that meaningful protection of biodiversity is more important than hitting a certain percent target, meaning that quantity should not compromise quality.
We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis and the ocean is in need of meaningful protection now more than ever. With the largest coastline in the world, it is imperative that Canada acts as a leader in ocean conservation and that must include having strong protection standards. We look forward to reading the final recommendations from the Panel.