When designed properly, Marine protected areas (MPAs) are one of the best tools available to protect key marine species and habitats, and help address the global biodiversity crisis and the climate crises. As part of marine planning processes, marine protected areas can provide a strong conservation foundation for a sustainable ocean economy.
Canada has committed to meeting marine protection targets in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, after exceeding its initial commitment to protect 10 per cent of coastal and marine waters by 2020 (reaching 13.81 per cent by 2020), Canada extended this commitment to 25 per cent protection by 2025 while, at the same time, working toward 30 per cent by 2030. However, this work is challenging and complex because we must be sure that coastal communities and livelihoods are preserved while implementing ocean conservation.
Despite the progress made in recent years, roadblocks remain along the path to 2030. For example, while Canada announced minimum protection standards for federal MPAs in 2019, which will keep four harmful industrial activities out of new federal MPAs (oil and gas, bottom trawl fishing, mining and dumping), these standards have yet to be fully defined or implemented. Simultaneously, some protected areas that are already established do not have the level of biodiversity protection required. To help Canada meet its international commitments and do its part in halting and reversing ocean biodiversity loss, we advocate strongly for progress on protected area establishment and for improvements in the quality of protection offered. This involves working with a diverse array of partners from the international to local level.