Ground Water Canada

Canada adopts new standards for protecting marine life

April 26, 2019  By Ground Water Canada

Montreal – The federal government will adopt new standards to strengthen the conservation and protection of important marine habitat, Fisheries and Oceans Canada said in a news release.

This announcement by Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, follows a report last September from an independent National Advisory Panel of experts who consulted Canadians about marine protection standards.

As recommended by the Panel, Canada’s approach to our marine conservation networks going forward will include two distinct forms of protection – marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, such as marine refuges.


Marine protected areas will function somewhat like national parks and will provide a high level of environmental protection by prohibiting four industrial activities within all of these areas: oil and gas activities, mining, dumping and bottom trawling. This approach is consistent with the recommendations from the National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards.

With respect to other effective area-based conservation measures, including marine refuges, economic activities within these areas will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. These will be allowed if they are consistent with the conservation objectives of that specific area. This standard is also in accord with the National Advisory Panel’s recommendations to the government. This recommendation was crafted to ensure that economic activities that are not harmful to the things being protected in a specific area can and should continue.

However, the new standards regarding marine refuges and other effective conservation area-based measures go beyond the panel’s recommendation in one respect, the release said. It provides that any areas within a marine refuge (or any other effective conservation area-based measure) in which oil and gas extraction takes place will not be counted towards Canada’s international marine conservation target.

The approach being announced today is a balanced one – an approach that will provide high levels of environmental protection while also recognizing and providing for the continuation of economic activities that are not harmful to conservation objectives. This approach recognizes that, in the modern world, environmental sustainability and economic progress can go hand in hand. The new standards being announced today will provide the type of strong protections Canadians wish to see in areas of ecological significance. They will also provide enhanced clarity and certainty for fish harvesters and other industry stakeholders.

The minister also announced the designation of the Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area off the south coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. The area will be closed to all oil and gas activity and is the first to apply the new protection standards. This new marine protected area is Canada’s largest established under the Oceans Act to date and will help to conserve an extraordinary range of marine habitats and species, including sensitive seafloor corals. It provides additional protection to the endangered North Atlantic right whale. This brings Canada’s protected ocean spaces to 8.27 per cent – a significant increase from less than one per cent in 2015. Canada’s international marine conservation target is 10 per cent by 2020.

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