Canada exceeds international commitments in marine protection, ahead of 2020 deadline

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OTTAWA, August 1, 2019 — The Canadian government has surpassed its commitment to protect at least 10 per cent of its oceans before 2020. This achievement is the result of significant collaboration between Indigenous communities, the Canadian government, conservation organizations, communities and industries. The David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Ecology Action Centre, West Coast Environmental Law and World Wildlife Fund Canada applaud the federal government’s actions to meet and exceed this international marine protection target, agreed to in 2010 as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Targets.

Since 2015, Canada has significantly increased the quantity and quality of its marine protection, raising the percentage of ocean under official protection from just over one per cent to more than 13 per cent. As a result of Inuit leadership, combined with the work of the federal government and the Government of Nunavut, the interim protection of Tuvaijuittuq in the High Arctic on August 1 was the last step toward meeting the international target. Marine protected areas have been established in all three ocean basins.

Environmental organizations say the government must follow through on converting the temporary protections of the High Arctic interim MPA to a fully designated MPA. In addition, Canada has committed to new national protection standards prohibiting oil and gas development, mining, dumping and bottom trawling in all new federal MPAs. Future commitments should include enshrining protection standards in law and extending these standards to marine refuges designated under the Fisheries Act. The federal government should also commit to creating a process to recognize and fund Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas in the marine environment.

Recent alarm bells about declining global biodiversity have increased the need for safeguards that protect fish and other ocean wildlife. MPAs are effective in providing refuge for species that are sensitive to threats such as pollution, unsustainable fishing and industrial development. While MPAs are one tool, it is necessary to ensure that 100 per cent of our ocean is well managed to continue to provide for sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity protection.

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society: 
“CPAWS congratulates the federal government and all its partners on surpassing the 10 per cent ocean protection target well ahead of the 2020 deadline set out by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity,” says Alison Ronson, interim national executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “We look forward to continuing to work with governments, Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders to expand and improve protection for Canada’s ocean ecosystems and wildlife.”

David Suzuki Foundation: 
“Meeting its international commitment to protect 10 per cent of its marine area means Canada is offering refuge to species already suffering the impacts of climate change, ocean acidification and pollution. It also offers hope to Canadians looking to counter the trend of species loss,” says Jay Ritchlin, Western Canada director-general for the David Suzuki Foundation. “Considering the dire warnings from this year’s UN report on biodiversity, the federal government’s action on marine protection comes none too soon.”

Ecology Action Centre:
“We’re happy to see the federal government complete the step of protecting 10 per cent of Canada’s coastal and marine waters ahead of the 2020 deadline, marking critical progress for Canadian ocean life and the habitats it depends on,” says Jordy Thomson, marine science and conservation coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre. “Equally important is the government’s commitment to strong standards of protection, including a ban on many industrial activities in federal MPAs. With overwhelming public support for this issue, we look forward to continued momentum and improvements in ocean protection in the coming years.”

West Coast Environmental Law:
”Never before have we seen such dramatic progress on marine protection in such a short time,” says Linda Nowlan, marine program lead at West Coast Environmental Law. “Moving from one per cent to over 10 per cent protection of our marine estate in four short years is no mean feat. The next step is to ensure that Canada meets this amazing progress on increasing the quantity of marine protected areas with protection quality. Fortunately, the government has committed to regulated protection standards that keep industrial activities out of these special ocean places. We’re excited for the next steps on marine co-governance, more fully recognizing the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

“Canada surpassing its pledge to protect 10 per cent of our oceans by 2020 is worth celebrating, not least because the latest marine protected area offers more than simply a percentage increase. If it becomes permanent, Tuvaijuittuq will provide a much-needed climate refuge for Arctic species and the Inuit communities that depend on them, demonstrating the importance of MPAs for both nature and communities,” says Megan Leslie, president and CEO of WWF-Canada. “But with 97 per cent of Canadians supporting even more ocean protection, this milestone must be the first of many.”

About SeaBlue Canada
SeaBlue Canada is a coalition of six national conservation organizations including Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, Oceans North, West Coast Environmental Law, and World Wildlife Fund Canada. Together, they are working to ensure that Canada’s marine and coastal protected areas are well protected and set an example for ocean conservation globally.

For more information contact: 

Joshua Ostroff, Senior editorial specialist, [email protected], +1 416-529-2967