Marine Protected Areas

October 9, 2019

  Canada’s oceans play a key role in our social and economic prosperity.   But Canada’s—and the world’s—oceans are under threat.   Rising sea levels, melting ice, and acidification   threaten many species and ecosystems.   Fish populations are under stress.   In fact, in 2009,   Canada’s fishery catches were 40 percent lower   than at their peak in the 1980s.   One way to help protect the oceans   is by creating marine protected areas, known as MPAs.   MPAs include important marine habitats,   such as kelp forests and coral reefs,   which support fish stocks and marine biodiversity.   Areas designated as MPAs protect marine species and their habitats   by managing activities like fishing, marine transportation,   and offshore oil and gas drilling.   Science shows that overfished stocks recover in protected marine areas.   Marine tourism, such as whale watching and diving,   is an economic benefit of MPAs.   Internationally, there are signs of progress.   A number of countries, including Canada,   agreed to protect 10 percent of their marine environments.   Right now, 16 percent of California’s marine environment,   and over one third of Australia’s, are protected.   Our audit on marine protected areas   found that Parks Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada   established 10 MPAs on all three Canadian coasts.   Two more sites are in the process of being officially designated,   and 17 others have been proposed.   A network of MPAs will help safeguard Canada’s marine biodiversity.   Our audit determined that this network,   called for in Canada’s 1997 Oceans Act,   has still not been completed.   When all currently protected areas are counted,   they represent about 1 percent of Canada’s marine environment.   But Canada committed to reaching the international target of 10 percent by 2020.   At this pace,   it will take decades for Canada to establish a fully functioning network.   Protecting Canada’s valuable marine ecosystems today,   and for future generations, is critical.   To find out more,   please read the Commissioner of the Environment   and Sustainable Development’s latest report.

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