Protect Canada's Oceans
Action alert: The Federal government recently announced plans to amend Canada's Oceans Act and develop minimum protection standards for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) - great steps forward. At present, the draft amendments do not fully reflect Canada's commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples based on well-established legal rights, nor do they include minimum protection standards. Without minimum standards, each new MPA proposal is subject to negotiations over every possible use, which is how we end up with MPAs that allow bottom trawling and oil and gas extraction. Send a letter to your MP and the Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister and tell them that you want to see these critical elements defined in the Oceans Act.
The Canadian government has met its goal to protect 5% of Canada's oceans by the end of 2017. Canada's next target is for at least 10% ocean conservation by 2020, but these percentages don't reflect the area under strong protection, which is much less. Science on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around the world shows that at least 30% of a bioregion (not an individual MPA, but for instance the entire "Great Bear Sea") must be off-limits to all resource exploitation and industrial activity to effectively conserve and protect marine biodiversity and fisheries for the long-term. These “no-take areas” can act as reservoirs for fish, replenishing stocks outside their boundaries, and should be the core zone of an MPA. They also need to be enforced for the long-term (minimum 10 years) to be effective. And most importantly, basing conservation decisions on science isn't enough: respecting Indigenous rights, traditional knowledge, and governance is integral to effective marine protection in Canada.
Strengthening the Oceans Act: Recommendations
Based on the work of West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), Ecology Action Centre, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, as well as the Heiltsuk First Nation, we recommend the adoption of the following improvements to Canada's Oceans Act for MPAs. For the full list of recommended changes please see the briefs prepared by WCEL (HERE) and the Heiltsuk Nation (HERE). You can read Pacific Wild's submission to Parliament HERE, and see these and all other briefs and statements made to the parliamentary committee studying amendments to the Oceans Act HERE.
On Indigenous rights:
- Affirm pre-existing indigenous jurisdiction by requiring consent from impacted Indigenous communities for regulations concerning MPAs;
- Recognize and expressly support indigenous marine protection, legal traditions, and enforcement;
- Provide legal direction in the Oceans Act for co-governance of MPAs and fisheries resources.
On minimum protection standards:
- Prohibit oil and gas and mineral activities, harmful commercial fishing practices and finfish aquaculture, wind farms and tidal power development within MPAs;
- Require that a large proportion of an individual large MPA or an MPA network be closed to all extractive activities, including recreational and commercial fishing, except for indigenous harvests guaranteed under the Constitution;
- Enshrine the maintenance of ecological integrity and the protection of indigenous marine resources and their habitatas top priorities in the designation and management of MPAs under the Oceans Act;
- Incorporate the use of the globally accepted International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) standards for protected areas.
On transparency and accountability:
- Include regulations governing processes by which MPAs are designated and established;
- Require an annual report to parliament on all activities related to MPAs.
Send a letter
Please take a moment to show your support by editing, signing, and sending the letter below. Please copy the text of your letter and send it to your own MP in an email so they know this issue is important to you. You can find your MP and their contact information using your postal code HERE.
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