Federal government to ban industrial activities from Marine Protected Areas, announces largest MPA in Atlantic Canada.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, April 25, 2019
K'JIPUKTUK [Halifax, NS] – The federal government announced today that it will ban industrial activities including oil and gas, bottom trawling and seabed mining, from Canada’s marine protected areas (MPAs).
The announcement, made by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) minister Jonathan Wilkinson at the Nature Champions Summit in Montreal, comes following recommendations made by an expert panel on MPA protection standards in late 2018.
Jordy Thomson, Marine Science and Conservation Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), says he’s thrilled to see the government step up and make a strong statement by keeping harmful activities out of MPAs.
“Canadians, including EAC members, have made their voices heard on this issue by sending thousands of letters calling for a ban on industrial activities in MPAs. Today, their voices have been heard,” Thomson says. “Activities like oil and gas exploration and extraction are incompatible with biodiversity conservation and have no place in these spaces.”
As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada has committed to protecting 10% of its coastal and marine waters by the end of 2020. The government is confident that it is on track to meet this target.
Today, the minister also announced the establishment of the Laurentian Channel MPA in the Cabot Strait between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. At more than 11,600km2, the Laurentian Channel will become the largest MPA in Atlantic Canada, and will protect habitat for species like northern right whales, porbeagle sharks and leatherback sea turtles, as well as sensitive sea-bottom habitats like coral, sponge and sea pen beds.
“Citizens and conservation groups have been calling for the protection of this area with a ban on oil and gas for many years,” says Simon Ryder-Burbidge, Marine Conservation Officer at the EAC. “It’s great to see it formally announced with strong protection.”
Today’s announcement makes a clear distinction between MPAs and other effective area-based conservation measures, such as marine refuges. As of today, areas within marine refuges where oil and gas activity is allowed to take place will no longer be counted toward Canada’s international marine conservation targets.
However, some important issues remain. While MPAs will receive standardized protection from industrial activities, regulations for marine refuges will still be determined on a case-by-case basis, notes Ryder-Burbidge. “We’ll keep working to ensure long-term success of these refuges. It’s important that all stakeholder groups are treated equitably - if fisheries are being asked to avoid these areas, we would expect the same for activities like oil and gas and mining that undermine biodiversity protection”.
“Overall, this is a major step forward for marine protection in Canada,” says Thomson. “We look forward to continued progress toward a network of marine protected areas in Canada’s three oceans”.
For further information, please contact:
Marine Science and Conservation Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre
For French media inquiries, please contact:
Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre