Coastal Protection Act | Ecology Action Centre

Coastal Protection Act

Coastal Policy and Legislation

Nova Scotia is one of the only coastal jurisdictions on the Atlantic coast of North America that does not have coastal legislation. For over a decade the EAC and coastal allies across Nova Scotia have been petitioning for the provincial government to take a leadership role in developing comprehensive legislation for our coast.  

During the 2016 Provincial Election, we welcomed the commitment from four political parties to establish and implement a Coastal Protection Act that protects people, properties, and coastal ecosystems across our province!  Read our press release, EAC Welcomes Promise of Coastal Protection Act , for more information.

We are now calling on the Provincial government to enact a Coastal Protection Act that will reduce the likelihood of threats to safety and property, minimize the expenditure of public dollars to repair coastal infrastructure, protect sensitive coastal ecosystems, and enhance the buffering capacity of our coasts. 

Why Nova Scotia Needs Coastal Legislation:

We are a coastal province. Nova Scotia has over 13, 000 km of coastline and within the coastal zone, many existing and proposed residential, commercial, and industrial developments. With 70% of Nova Scotia’s population living in coastal communities, doesn’t it make sense to encourage development in appropriate places to protect people and infrastructure from coastal climate change hazards and also protect our valuable ecosystems? 

Coastal climate change impacts are increasing and they are costly. Sea-level rise, erosion, salt-water intrusion into well water, coastal flooding from storm surges – these are all impacts of a changing climate. Predicted future emissions of greenhouse gases indicates that these impacts are only going to get worse and become more costly. Damaging storms, like Hurricane Juan, that used to occur once in a while are now happening more frequently and with devastating results. 

Our coast is invaluable. Nova Scotia’s economy, our way of life, and our cultural heritage are intricately connected to our coastline.  We rely on it not only for development, but for recreation, transportation and tourism, for sustaining fisheries, and as a habitat for coastal species. We need to ensure that our coastline continues to protect and nourish us, to employ and entertain us.  Only a healthy coast can do this!  Acknowledging the many users of our coastal environment and managing the coast in a sustainable way is incredibly important and comprehensive coastal legislation is key in achieving this.

It costs more to repair than it does to prepare. Preparing for climate change, rising sea levels, and more frequent and severe storms will not only save us a lot of money but it will also decrease risk to life and infrastructure. United Nations reports show that every dollar invested in pre-emptive climate adaptation can save up to seven dollars in relief and recovery down the road. Hurricane Juan alone resulted in over $100 million in damages.  With the frequency of damaging storm events increasing, wouldn’t our provincial money be better spent on investing in pre-emptive adaptation solutions rather than costly relief? 

It affects our homes, roads and infrastructure. Poorly regulated and largely unplanned development has resulted in the destruction of ecologically significant coastal habitats.  It also leads to construction of homes, roads and other infrastructure that are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as sea level rise, increased flooding, accelerated erosion and storm surges. A comprehensive coastal policy would protect important coastal landscape features and natural functions, preserve public access to the coasts, and reduce the long term costs associated with unregulated development. 

For more information about our views on provincial coastal legislation, read “On the Rocks” - our sassy 2010 policy brief about why new coastal regulations are what we need.


"Nova Scotia REALTORS® are very conscientious and aware of how development of any kind impacts the surrounding environment.  Whether clients are installing a wharf, adding rocks to stabilize their shorelines, or planting grasses for strength, it's important for them to be aware of the trickle effect of their actions.  Property changes can not only impact the integry and value of their property, but the integrity and value of the entire coastline of Nova Scotia.  A Coastal Act that protects coastal ecosystems and supports property owners in making sound decisions when it comes to their coastline is not only prudent for current homeowners, but required for future generations of property owners."
                    - Suzanne Gravelle, Managing Associate Broker, REALTOR®, Century 21 Trident Realty Ltd. 

“Nova Scotians are already experiencing the impacts of coastal erosion, storm surge and flooding.  A Coastal Protection Act is long overdue in this province and is an essential step towards helping coastal communities decrease their vulnerability and develop effective adaptation strategies to deal with current and future climate change impacts.”
                    -  Dr. Danika van Proosdij, Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Saint Mary’s University.

“The stakes are high for Nova Scotia, with dependency on fisheries, tourism, and other livelihoods in small coastal communities.  We cannot afford to wait any longer, we need a Coastal Protection Act in Nova Scotia in order to provide consistent and appropriate planning strategies that help us adapt to changes to come.” 
                  - Georgia Klein, Lecturer, Dalhousie University College of Sustainability. 

"Living near the ocean in Southwest Nova Scotia, I'm very aware of the changes taking place along the coast - higher tides and storm surges, flooding, erosion, and damage to infrastructure.  Nova Scotia needs a Coastal Act that addresses the multiple impacts of climate change while recognizing the important ecological values of coastal habitats."
                  - Chris Curry, Coastal Resident, Shelburne, Nova Scotia 

Where do we stand?

Currently, there is no provincial policy or legislation that protects coastal areas from development or that regulates the type of activities that can take place in the coastal zone. This policy vacuum means that poorly regulated and largely unplanned development has resulted in the destruction of ecologically significant coastal ecosystems, like salt marshes, which are critical in protecting our communities from the impacts of climate change.  Poorly-sited homes, roads and infrastructure are extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, flooding, and accelerated erosion.
Through the Municipal Government Act, individual municipalities have primary jurisdiction over land use and have the ability to influence coastal management through municipal planning strategies, zoning by-laws, and subdivision control.  While some municipalities have implemented building setbacks and vertical allowances and some have provisions in places to help manage erosion and protect coastal ecosystems from inappropriate development, the overall approach to coastal management throughout the province is fragmented and inconsistent.  Of the 50 municipalities in Nova Scotia, the majority have no coastal management strategies in place. A provincial Coastal Protection Act would mean that everyone is playing by the same rules and would ensure uniform protection of people, property and ecosystems, while supporting the wellbeing of all Nova Scotians.    
While the province of Nova Scotia produced a coastal management framework in 2008, several reports and fact sheets about the state of Nova Scotia’s coast in 2009, a Nova Scotia Climate Change Action Plan also in 2009 and even put together an initial draft coastal strategy in 2011, over 5 years later, there is still no clear, binding legislation that protects our coasts or our coastal communities!

There are a maze of regulations and policies that impact the coast. Click here to link to a table which summarizes governmental responsibilities for coastal management in Nova Scotia.

For a clearer picture of “Who Owns the Coast?” peruse East Coast Environmental Law’s publication here

What we would like to see:

We need comprehensive, defensible, coastal legislation that outlines clear rules for what can and cannot happen in the coastal zone across the entire province. The EAC and allies have developed some proposed elements of a Coastal Protection Act with the overarching goals of:

1. Protecting people and properties from coastal hazards and

2. Protecting coastal ecosystems from inappropriate development

We think a Coastal Protection Act should:

  • Reduce the likelihood of threats to personal safety and property from coastal hazards and minimize danger to personnel in emergency and rescue efforts
  • Minimize spending of public dollars required to repair coastal hazard damage to public and private property
  • Maintain and enhance the buffering capacity of coastal areas to protect inland areas from coastal hazards and intertidal areas from land-based pollution
  • Establish a provincial land-use planning framework that is clear, specific, and provides enforceable, provide-wide minimum standards for new development and supports adaptation initiatives for existing infrastructure
  • Provide protection for coastal ecosystems and its flora and fauna
  • Incorporate the latest scientific and technical data
  • Increase clarity and communication around coastal hazards, related regulations, what can and cannot be done, and roles and responsibilities of involved parties
  • Be inclusive of all coastal stakeholders, acknowledge strategies and by-laws already in place within municipalities and provide support for municipally-led climate adaptation initiatives 

Coastal Policy Resources: 


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