FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 19th, 2016
KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As part of a high level meeting in Washington, DC, entitled “Our Ocean”, on September 15th the Government of Canada announced the protection of two new areas in Atlantic Canada as part of reaching the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) commitment to the protection of 10% of our marine and coastal environment by 2020.
The two areas to be protected from all bottom fishing activities are Corsair Canyon on the edge of Georges Bank and Jordan Basin in the Gulf of Maine comprising ~ 5000km2 of ocean area and making up 1.9% of the Maritimes Region. These areas are unique because of the high concentrations of cold-water corals.
“In 2000, we co-hosted the First International Deep Sea Coral Conference here in Halifax,” says Susanna Fuller, Marine Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre. “It is gratifying to see that, 16 years later, efforts continue to protect Atlantic Canada’s cold water corals.“
The protections are afforded under the Canadian Fisheries Act, specifically through the Sensitive Benthic Areas Policy, which was adopted in 2009. The 2015 mandate letter to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans included commitment to actually achieving our international obligations to protect 5% of our ocean areas by 2017 and 10% by 2020. While this announcement only protects these areas from bottom fishing, it does set the stage for further protections from other extractive industries.
“In addition to being the first closures in Atlantic Canada under the new mandate, these areas add to a larger suite of closures, specifically to bottom trawling that run from the US Northeast all the way to areas outside the 200-mile limit, where the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) has closed 20 areas to bottom trawling over the last decade,” says Fuller.
The Ecology Action Centre will also be attending the Annual Meeting of NAFO this year in Varadero, Cuba, where it is hoped that further progress will be made, with the help of Canada, in protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems including corals, sponges and sea pens.
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Photo source: Anna Metaxas, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University; Martha Nizinski, NOAA/NMFS, USA; CSSF/ROPOS
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