Marine Protected Areas

A Strategy for Canada's Pacific Coast

Marine protected areas are a vital part of our commitment to sustainable economies, viable coastal communities, and a healthy, diverse marine environment. Our goals are to protect and conserve the natural beauty and richness of our marine areas, to maintain ecological diversity, and to preserve the many recreational, natural and cultural features of our Pacific coastline for all time.


August 1998

A Joint Initiative of the Governments of Canada and British Columbia

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On behalf of the governments of Canada and British Columbia we are pleased to present this discussion paper, "Marine Protected Areas, A Strategy for Canada's Pacific Coast". The Pacific coast of Canada is one of the most diverse and productive marine environments in the world - we rely on it in many ways, as a source of food, employment, recreation and spiritual renewal. We want to build and protect this richness for present and future generations. Our commitment to a Marine Protected Areas Strategy is a key piece of the foundation for this goal.

This Strategy has been developed jointly by federal and provincial agencies and clearly reflects the need for governments to work in unison to achieve common marine protection and conservation goals. The Strategy is not a new program, but an initiative to coordinate all existing federal and provincial marine protected areas programs under a single umbrella. This will allow for the development of a national system of marine protected areas on the Pacific coast by the year 2010 which is interlinked with the marine component of the B.C. Protected Areas Strategy.

This discussion paper reflects extensive advice and feedback from our resource agency staff, as well as local governments, First Nations, and community, stakeholder and industry perspectives. We now want to provide all marine interests and users an opportunity to review and comment further on the Strategy.

We are pleased that Canada and British Columbia are able to release this paper in 1998-the International Year of the Ocean. The success of conserving and protecting natural marine areas is a shared responsibility, we look forward to working with you to complete a "Marine Protected Areas Strategy for Canada's Pacific Coast".

Signed by Donna Petrachenko (Director-General, Pacific Region - Department of Fisheries and Oceans) Co-chair, MPA Strategy Steering Committee

Signed by Derek Thompson (Assistant Deputy Minister - British Columbia Land Use Coordination Office) Co-chair, MPA Strategy Steering Committee

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Table of Contents


1.0 Introduction

2.0 What are Marine Protected Areas

3.0 The Need to Create Marine Protected Areas

4.0 Vision and Objectives for a Marine Protected Areas Strategy

5.0 Developing a System of Marine Protected Areas

6.0 Your Feedback on the Strategy

Appendix A: Principal Participating Agencies in the Development of the Marine Protected Areas Strategy

Appendix B: Federal and Provincial Statutory Powers for Protecting Marine Areas

1.0 Introduction

The Pacific coast is host to a multitude of ecological, social, cultural and economic values which provide benefits and opportunities for all who have the good fortune to enjoy our spectacularly beautiful maritime coastline. Few people know that our coast is also among the most biologically productive in the world and continues to generate tremendous wealth for British Columbians and Canadians.

We have recognized that the sustainability of the world's oceans is increasingly becoming a critical concern to coastal nations. The need to maintain the health and vitality of our marine resource base, together with broad ranging global issues such as continued urbanization of coastal areas, pollution, habitat alteration and loss, and over exploitation, are key concerns. These problems and opportunities are fueling our desire to establish a system of marine protected areas along the Pacific coast of Canada as one essential tool to address the needs of our oceans.

The MPA Strategy proposes three important elements:

  1. A joint federal-provincial approach: All relevant federal and provincial agencies will work collaboratively to exercise their authorities to protect marine areas.
  2. Shared decision-making with the public: Commits government agencies to employ an inclusive, shared decision-making process with marine stakeholders, First Nations, coastal communities, and the public.
  3. Building a comprehensive system: Seeks to build an extensive system of protected areas by the year 2010 through a series of coastal planning processes.

The benefits of marine protected areas are many, and include:

  • contributing to the protection of the structure, function and integrity of ecosystems;
  • encouraging expansion of our knowledge and understanding of marine systems;
  • enhancing non-consumptive and sustainable activities; and,
  • improving the health of our ocean resources.

A total of 104 marine protected areas on the Pacific coast have already been established. These were put into place using a variety of legislative tools and they consist predominantly of relatively small marine parks, ecological reserves and wildlife management areas created to meet specific conservation and recreation needs. In the past, the need to work in collaboration to reach mutual goals was not apparent, and the majority of protected areas were created by individual federal and provincial agencies operating on their own.

Central to this Strategy are a number of coastal planning processes which would be undertaken by governments over time throughout six major coastal regions (see Section 5.2). These planning processes are inclusive and collaborative, in order to involve everyone with an active interest and to ensure that general and specific uses of coastal and marine areas, including Marine Protected Areas, are addressed.

For example, as part of the coordinated planning approach, Canada and B.C. signed an agreement in 1995 called the Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy (PMHL), which has as its central vision the creation of a system of marine and coastal protected areas along the entire Pacific coast. The current focus of the PMHL is the acquisition of land in the southern Gulf Islands and the consideration of a complementary Marine Conservation Area in the Gulf Islands' encompassing waters.

To date, a federal-provincial government Working Group and senior management Steering Committee have been working to develop this Strategy discussion paper. However, broader public involvement and acceptance is needed and will be essential to the success of the Strategy. This paper provides readers with an overview of the proposed Strategy and invites comments. Section 6.0 in particular poses specific questions to which we are seeking your comments.

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2.0 What are Marine Protected Areas

"Marine protected areas" are sites in tidal waters that enjoy some level of protection within their respective jurisdictions, although internationally the term may be defined and interpreted quite differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, the World Conservation Union uses it as a generic label for protected marine areas such as sanctuaries, parks, reserves, harvest refugia and harvest replenishment areas. Under the new Canada Oceans Act, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has authority to formally designate Marine Protected Areas, however, in this discussion paper, we have agreed to use the term broadly to describe all the federal and provincial designations that protect marine environments.

Sidebar #1: What are Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas could include:

-unique coastal inlets, bays or channels;

-representative marine areas;

-boat havens with important anchorages;

-marine-oriented wilderness areas;

-cultural heritage features;

-critical spawning locations and estuaries;

-species-specific harvesting refugia;

-foraging areas for seabird colonies;

-summer feeding and nursery grounds for whales;

-offshore sea mounts or hydrothermal seavents; and

-a host of other special marine environments and features.

Regardless of the particular designation, all marine protected areas (MPAs) under the Strategy would:

1. Be defined in law

The legal authority to establish an MPA will derive from one of several federal and provincial statutes including: Canada's Oceans Act, Fisheries Act, National Parks Act, Canada Wildlife Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act, or proposed Marine Conservation Areas Act; and British Columbia's Ecological Reserve Act, Park Act, Wildlife Act or Environment and Land Use Act.

2. Protect all or a portion of the elements within a particular marine environment

The federal and provincial governments have differing and, at times, overlapping jurisdiction in marine areas. Depending upon the statute under which an MPA is created, the area may comprise any combination of the overlying waters, the seabed and underlying subsoil, associated flora and fauna, and historical and cultural features.

3. Ensure Minimum Protection Standards

All MPAs would share Minimum Protection Standards prohibiting:

  1. ocean dumping;
  2. dredging; and,
  3. the exploration for, or development of, non-renewable resources.

Building on these minimum protection standards, the system of MPAs will accommodate multiple levels of protection. Levels of protection provided by an MPA will vary depending upon the objectives for each site. For example, MPAs may be highly protected areas that sustain species and habitats; areas that are established primarily for recreational use or cultural heritage protection; or multiple use areas that balance resource conservation with recreational and other activities such as commercial and sport fishing. Even within a particular MPA, levels of protection may vary through the use of zoning specifying permissible activities for sub-areas.

Establishing a system of MPAs is only one part of an integrated approach to oceans management, but it is an essential one. MPAs help conserve the ocean's life-giving services, species and habitats to ensure that our coastal resources can continue to support present and future generations. The intent of MPAs is not to take anything away. Quite the opposite. MPAs can contribute to the restoration and conservation of marine resources for people whose livelihoods depend on harvesting. As well, they can support a wide range of recreational and aesthetic values, providing a win-win for all. Perhaps most importantly, they will help us to protect the quality of life we cherish. They are an insurance policy for our future.

Sidebar #2: Marine Protected Areas in a Global Context

The establishment of MPAs now occurs in many coastal nations around the world. While still less numerous than terrestrial protected areas, more than 1,300 MPAs have been created worldwide. MPAs have gained a high level of acceptance as a tool to help achieve the conservation of marine biodiversity, the sustainability of commercial and sport fisheries, and the viability of coastal communities that depend upon them.

Early efforts in the evolution of MPAs as a management tool took place mostly in tropical and sub-tropical waters-in the Florida Keys in 1935, in Australia's Great Barrier Reef in 1936, the Philippines in 1941, the Bahamas in 1958 and Mexico in 1960. Still today, most MPAs around the world have been established in these warmer marine environments, focusing on such important features as coral reefs, seagrass habitats and coastal mangroves. Temperate waters such as Canada's have not been the subject of the same level of conservation efforts and the high levels of public awareness that, for example, the Great Barrier Reef generates.

B.C. has been the most active of Canadian provinces in the establishment of MPAs. The designation in 1925 of Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska may be the only MPA in the world's temperate waters to predate B.C.'s first marine parks at Montague Harbour and Rebecca Spit in 1957. Many of these early marine parks in B.C. were small, protecting anchorages and scenic shoreline areas important to recreational boaters. Beginning in the 1960s, and continuing through the 1970s and 1980s, however, the world began to recognize the merits of MPAs as management tools for conservation, as well as for recreation, and called for the establishment of larger and more conservation-oriented MPAs. B.C. and Canada responded with the creation of new and larger areas such as Desolation Sound Provincial Park, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (half of which is waters of the open Pacific Ocean), and Checleset Bay Ecological Reserve.

Today, B.C. and Canada manage 104 MPAs, totaling about 1955 square kilometres. In addition, Canada is in the process of establishing the 3050 square kilometres Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area in the southern Queen Charlotte Islands.

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3.0 The Need to Create Marine Protected Areas

The motivation to protect marine areas derives from a widespread appreciation of the beauty and bounty of the world's oceans in the face of numerous pressures now affecting its health and stability. Largely a consequence of human activities, the serious stresses placed upon our oceans globally have given rise to calls for coastal nations to make conservation and preservation of marine biodiversity and ecosystems a worldwide priority. This is the strongest message in the United Nations initiative to declare 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean.

3.1 Values of Canada's Pacific Marine and Coastal Environments

With more than 29,500 kilometers of coastline, 6,500 islands and approximately 450,000 square kilometres of internal and offshore waters, the marine and coastal environments of Canada's Pacific coast have an impressive variety of marine landforms, habitats and oceanographic phenomena that accommodate a broad range of species diversity. Island archipelagos, deep fjords, shallow mudflats, estuaries, kelp and eel grass beds, strong tidal currents and massive upwellings all contribute to an abundant and diverse assemblage of species.

The Pacific coast of Canada is one of the most spectacular and biologically productive marine and coastal environments of any temperate nation in the world. The northeast Pacific represents a significant and varied collection of marine invertebrates comprised of more than 6,500 species. In the vertebrate family, there are 400 fish species, 161 marine birds, 29 marine mammals, and one of the world's largest populations of orcas; there are nesting grounds for 80 percent of the world's population of Cassin's auklet, and wintering grounds for 60 - 90 percent of the world's Barrow's goldeneye; as well, the region boasts of the world's heaviest recorded sea star, and largest octopus, sea slug, chiton and barnacle.

Recognized as a spectacular and productive marine and coastal region, the northeast Pacific contributes significantly to B.C.'s economy and strongly influences the culture and identity of its residents. It is estimated that the Pacific marine environment contributes up to $4 billion annually to the coast's economy. In addition, one in every three dollars spent on tourism in B.C. goes toward marine or marine-related activities.

B.C.'s marine regions also contain a rich cultural history. For the First Nations peoples who have lived along the shores for thousands of years, many coastal areas remain important for food, social, ceremonial, and spiritual purposes. The cultural history of the Pacific coast is further illustrated by numerous physical relics of the past, such as ship wrecks and whaling stations.

As well, a vast array of recreational opportunities are available in coastal areas. For example, the Inside Passage is one of the most popular cruising and sailing destinations globally, and kayakers are attracted to the numerous archipelagos peppered along the coast. In a recent divers survey, British Columbia's coast was rated as the best overall destination in North America, even when compared to such tropical destinations as the Florida Keys, the Gulf of Mexico and southern California.

Some of these significant ecological, cultural, and recreational values are already protected in MPAs along the B.C. coast. Much of the current system has, however, been established in an ad hoc manner with an emphasis on near-shore environments. The result is that many marine values and ecosystems remain underrepresented, and the levels of protection both between and within protective designations vary significantly.

3.2 Threats to Marine Ecosystems

1. Physical alteration of critical habitat and marine areas

The alteration, deterioration or degradation of habitat has a significant impact on marine ecosystems. Habitats may be damaged through actions such as dredging and filling, trawling, anchoring, trampling and unauthorized visitation, noise pollution, siltation from land based activities, and altered freshwater inputs. Most habitat loss in B.C. occurs in estuaries and nearshore areas, but deeper areas can also be affected by ocean dumping. A primary concern in B.C. is the degradation and loss of eelgrass habitat, which is important for numerous fish and shellfish species as part of their life cycles.

2. Excessive harvest of resources

History has clearly shown that the productive capacity of the seas and their ability to deliver resources to the needs of humankind are limited. In addition to the economic and social consequences of the excessive harvest of many fish and shellfish species, there are other ecological consequences. Recent research has suggested that around the world marine resource harvesting is altering the natural cycle of marine food webs. The continuation of this trend could result in serious implications for people who depend on the oceans' resources.

3. Pollution

While the water quality along Canada's Pacific coast is generally considered to be quite good, there are many area specific concerns. These sources of pollution may include industrial and municipal wastewater discharges, agricultural runoff, the dumping of dredged materials, and the threat of oil and chemical spills. To date there has been no coast-wide assessment of marine environmental quality, and no data exist on either the current status of or long term trends for water quality. One indicator of water quality - the number of shellfish closures - has risen along the B.C. coast to about 160 per year. This covers an area of approximately 100,000 hectares.

4. Foreign or exotic species of fishes and marine plants

The introduction of foreign or exotic marine species has altered the composition of many biological communities on the Pacific coast. Large areas of mudflat have been colonized by an introduced eelgrass, rocky shorelines in the Strait of Georgia are often covered in introduced oysters, and one of the more common clams - the soft shell clam - has also been introduced. While some of these impacts occurred as far back as the turn of the century, others are still happening, such as the recent northward expansion of the green crab towards B.C.'s waters.

5. Global climate changes

Although the mechanisms driving long term climatic variations are complex, and the role of human activities in these changes has not been established, these fluctuations have a large impact on the kinds and nature of species found in B.C.'s waters at any particular time. For example, during the past 1997/98 El Nino event, species usually found only in warmer waters migrated northward into B.C.'s waters, where in many cases they consumed large numbers of local species.

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4.0 Vision and Objectives for a Marine Protected Areas Strategy on Canada's Pacific Coast

4.1 The MPA Vision

Generations from now Canada will be one of the world's coastal nations that have turned the tide on the decline of its marine environments. Canada and British Columbia will have put in place a comprehensive strategy for managing the Pacific coast to ensure a healthy marine environment and healthy economic future. A fundamental component of this strategy will be the creation of a system of marine protected areas on the Pacific coast of Canada by 2010. This system will provide for a healthy and productive marine environment while embracing recreational values and areas of rich cultural heritage.

Along the coast of British Columbia, comprehensive coastal planning processes will be undertaken, ensuring ecological, social and economic sustainability. These processes will provide the mechanism for establishing an MPA system and ensuring a holistic, inclusive and multi-use approach to resource use and marine management.

This is the vision behind the MPA Strategy, a future that can be realized through a cooperative and integrated process, and by a step-by-step commitment to the key objectives outlined below.

4.2 Objectives for Establishing Marine Protected Areas

MPAs will serve a range of functions and exist in a wide array of sizes, shapes, and designs. They are an important conservation tool that, when used in conjunction with other management applications, can result in many benefits for coastal communities, tourists, and regional and national economies. Under this proposed Strategy, the establishment of a system of MPAs would serve six objectives:

1. To Contribute to the Protection of Marine Biodiversity, Representative Ecosystems and Special Natural Features

MPAs can contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity at all levels of the ecosystem, as well as protect food web relationships and ecological processes. They give refuge to vulnerable species thus helping to maintain species presence, age, size distribution and abundance; they protect endangered or threatened species, preventing species loss; and they preserve the natural composition and special natural features of the marine community.

Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms and the living complexes of which they are a part. It is expressed in the genetic variability within a species (such as different stocks of the same species), in the number of different species (e.g., 36 species of rockfish on the Pacific coast), and in the variety of ecosystems and habitats along the coast (such as different plant and animal communities that appear with increasing water depth).

Representative ecosystems have been identified on Canada's Pacific coast through the use of ecological classification systems. Parks Canada has identified Marine Regions at the national level to plan the system of Marine Conservation Areas. At a more refined level, the B.C. government has identified 12 marine ecoregions with 65 sub-component ecounits. Both classification systems will help guide the planning of the system of MPAs to ensure it is highly representative of the diverse marine environments found on this coast.

Special natural features are elements of the environment that are rare, outstanding or unique. These areas may include stopover sites for certain migrating species, areas with rare and unique capabilities for maintaining early-life stages of important fish and shellfish species, and habitats of high biodiversity, such as estuaries or upwelling areas. While many of these elements may be captured within large, representative MPAs, it is also necessary to specifically identify and protect special, and often site-specific, features.

2. To Contribute to the Conservation and Protection of Fishery Resources and Their Habitats

Conserving and protecting fish stocks is critical for the sustainability and stability of many B.C. coastal communities. As a result, stakeholders are keenly interested in the implications of MPAs for all fisheries, whether First Nations,, recreational, or commercial.

Studies of marine protected areas in temperate waters indicate that they can increase population size, increase average individual fish size, lead to the restoration of natural species diversity, and increase population reproductive capacity. Studies also indicate that subsequent spillover benefits to harvested areas outside and adjacent to closed areas often occurs.

MPAs can help maintain viable marine species populations and support the continuation of sustainable fisheries by:

  • Providing harvest refugia
  • Protecting habitats, especially those critical to lifecycle stages such as spawning, juvenile rearing and feeding
  • Protecting spawning stocks and spawning stock biomass, thus enhancing reproductive capacity
  • Protecting areas for species, habitat, and ecosystem restoration and recovery
  • Enhancing local and regional fish stocks through increased recruitment and spillover of adults and juveniles into adjacent areas
  • Assisting in conservation-based fisheries management regimes
  • Providing opportunities for scientific research

3. To Contribute to the Protection of Cultural Heritage Resources and Encourage Understanding and Appreciation

Cultural resources are works of human origin, places that provide evidence of human activity or occupation, or areas with spiritual or cultural value. Some examples are archaeological sites, shipwrecks, or cultural landscapes. Terrestrial cultural resources have traditionally had more meaning than marine cultural resources because they tend to be more evident and observable. Yet thousands of years of human occupation, including original First Nations cultures and early European contact and settlement are represented in the marine environment. MPAs can protect this rich cultural marine heritage and preserve First Nations traditional use and practices.

4. To Provide Opportunities for Recreation and Tourism

MPAs can support marine and coastal outdoor recreation and tourism, as well as the pursuit of activities of a spiritual or aesthetic nature. The protection of special recreation features, such as boat havens, safe anchorages, beaches and marine travel routes, as well as the provision of activities such as kayaking, SCUBA diving, and marine mammal watching will help to secure the wealth and range of recreational and tourism opportunities available along the coast.

5. To Provide Scientific Research Opportunities and Support the Sharing of Traditional Knowledge

Scientific knowledge of the marine environment lags significantly behind that for the terrestrial environment which can affect the ability of marine managers to identify the merits of protection or management options. MPAs provide increased opportunities for scientific research on topics such as species population dynamics, ecology and marine ecosystem structure and function, as well as provide opportunities for sharing traditional knowledge.

6. To Enhance Efforts for Increased Education and Awareness

Over the last few years, public understanding and awareness of marine environmental values and issues have been increasing. There is general recognition that proactive measures are necessary to protect and conserve marine areas to sustain their resources for present and future generations. However, there is still a significant need for public education to instill greater awareness of the role everyone can play in the conservation of marine environments. Many MPAs will afford unique opportunities for public education because of their accessibility and potential to clearly demonstrate marine ecological principles and values.

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5.0 Developing a System of Marine Protected Areas

Sidebar #3: Guiding Principles for MPA Development

1. Working With People

The federal and provincial governments will work in partnership with First Nations, coastal communities, marine stakeholders and the public on MPA identification, establishment and management.

2. Respecting First Nations and the Treaty Process

Canada and B.C. consider First Nations' support and participation in the MPA Strategy as important and necessary. Both governments will ensure and respect the continued use of MPAs by First Nations for food, social and ceremonial purposes and other traditional practices subject to conservation requirements. Therefore, MPAs will not automatically preclude access or activities critical to the livelihood or culture of First Nations. The establishment of any MPA will not preclude options for settlement of treaties, and will address opportunities for First Nations to benefit from MPAs.

3. Fostering Ecosystem-Based Management

An ecosystem-based approach to management requires that the integrity of the natural ecosystem and its key components, structure and functions are upheld. This means maintaining natural species diversity and protecting critical habitats for all stages in species life cycles.

4. Learning-By-Doing

A key aspect of Canada and B.C.'s commitment to establishing MPAs is the concept of using a learn-by-doing approach. Both governments recognize that the process for MPA planning should evolve and improve over time given the variations between coastal regions, the dynamics of a marine environment, and the information constraints concerning marine species, processes and ecosystems. Flexibility and adaptability will be required to meet effectively and efficiently the needs of all marine resource users.

5. Taking a Precautionary Approach

Taking a precautionary approach means, "When in doubt, be cautious." This principle puts the burden of proof on any individual, organization or government agency conducting activities that may cause damage to the marine ecosystem.

6. Managing for Sustainability

The MPA Strategy is intended to contribute to sustainability in our marine environments. This means that resources in areas requiring protection must be cared for in the present so that they exist for future generations. In the marine environment, emphasis will be placed on maintaining viable populations of all species and on conserving ecosystem functions and processes.

5.1 The Coastal Planning Framework

It is proposed that a network of MPAs would be developed through coastal planning processes carried out at a number of different levels. These may range from comprehensive processes that plan for a wide variety of resource uses and activities, to processes which focus on planning for very specific purposes or for the resolution of defined issues. Regardless of the level of planning for MPAs, public participation will be a fundamental component of all processes, with the principles of openness and inclusiveness forming the basis.

This approach would enable the collaboration of all governments, including First Nations, as well as stakeholders, advocacy groups, communities and individuals in the identification of important marine values and areas that warrant consideration for MPA status. We are seeking a commitment from everyone who has an interest to work together to establish a system of MPAs for Canada's Pacific coast.

The coastal planning processes are to be collaborative planning efforts, consistent with both the federal objectives for Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and provincial objectives for coastal zone planning.

The establishment of a complete MPA system on the coast would be largely dependent on the rate at which planning processes occur, but a basic system is intended to be in place by the year 2010.

5.2 Planning Regions for Marine Protected Areas

For the purposes of establishing an MPA system, six planning regions have been identified, reflecting the variety of oceanographic conditions, coastal physiography, management issues, and communities along Canada's Pacific Coast (illustrated in Sidebar #4):

1. The North Coast

2. The Queen Charlotte Islands

3. The Central Coast

4. The West Coast of Vancouver Island

5. The Strait of Georgia

6. The Offshore

A coastal planning process is already underway for the Central Coast region. The Strait of Georgia region has also been identified as a priority for such processes, and a number of initiatives are currently being undertaken or planned, such as the Georgia Basin Ecosystem Initiative and a Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy commitment to assess the feasibility of establishing a Marine Conservation Area in the southern Strait of Georgia.

Sidebar #4: Proposed Marine Protected Area Planning Regions and Pilot Sites for Canada's Pacific Coast

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5.3 Federal-Provincial Coordination for Marine Protected Areas Establishment

To date a federal-provincial government Working Group and senior management Steering Committee have been working together to develop the MPA Strategy. To build on these existing working relationships and to solidify our commitment to federal - provincial collaboration we are proposing to ensure a coordinated approach to implementing the MPA Strategy via the establishment of an inter-governmental coordinating body.

This coordinating body would 1) provide policy, program advice, and interpretation to stakeholders and the public involved with MPAs and coastal planning processes, 2) oversee public communications on program and policy issues, and 3) manage a joint, central system for tracking and monitoring the MPA program. It would support existing planning processes when required, and develop a standard analytical process to guide all MPA assessment work to ensure a consistent approach and achievement of the Strategy's objectives. In areas where planning is not anticipated in the short term, this body would ensure a coordinated approach to the identification and assessment of candidate MPAs, and review requests for the application of interim management guidelines for MPA candidates. Subject to public endorsement of this body, a specific Terms of Reference would be developed.

Sidebar #5: Interim Management Guidelines

Interim management guidelines may be applied to MPA candidates under exceptional circumstances where it has been demonstrated that they are necessary to protect specific marine resources, habitats or values that may be under threat until coastal planning is completed. Any interim management guidelines instated would remain in place until MPA establishment decisions have been made. Governments have various measures available for providing interim protection of marine resources and habitats, such as regulations under the Fisheries Act and the deferment of granting tenures, permits or other rights to occupy or utilize certain sites. In addition, on an emergency basis, an MPA can be immediately declared under the Oceans Act for a maximum-but renewable-period of 90 days.

Requests for the application of interim management guidelines may originate from the MPA proponent in areas where planning is not anticipated for the short term, or from the coastal planning process participants in planned areas. Such requests would be reviewed by both levels of government for decision-making.

5.4 MPA Identification, Assessment and Recommendation

Step1: The Identification of MPA Candidates

The first step in establishing a system of MPAs would be to identify candidate areas that reflect important or key marine values, attributes or features. MPA candidates may be nominated and presented to the technical teams supporting each planning process within their associated time-frames. Planning process participants would normally include government agencies, First Nations, marine stakeholders, community groups, academic institutions or individuals.

Step 2: Assessment of MPA Candidates

Candidates would be assessed according to the objectives of the MPA Strategy. Criteria for the assessment, as listed in Sidebar #6, have been assembled from the federal and provincial agency programs for protecting marine areas. The standards to be met would reflect the intended purpose of the MPA candidate as well as unique characteristics that might distinguish it.

Candidate MPAs would be considered within the context of all marine resource uses and activities along the coast and in the offshore. Participants in coastal planning processes would review the results of MPA assessments and conduct any further research necessary-such as feasibility or socio-economic impact studies-in order to make their recommendations.

For example, in the coastal planning process now underway in the Central Coast, a multi-agency technical team will be receiving MPA candidate proposals from process participants, area residents, and from interested stakeholders directly. These candidates will then be assessed by the team according to MPA objectives and criteria and then by planning participants in the context of other resource values and uses, MPA criteria, and environmental, social and economic objectives.

Step 3: Recommendations for MPA Designation

Recommendations for MPAs would be developed on the basis that the chosen candidates are both consistent with the objectives of the MPA Strategy and complementary to the range of other coastal and marine uses and activities being considered under an existing planning process.

In areas where a comprehensive planning process is not underway, MPAs may be assessed and recommended through the application of a tailored MPA planning process. This approach would be limited in use and applied only in certain situations, such as where there are pressing federal or provincial priorities or major gaps in the MPA network. Consistent with the MPA Strategy Guiding Principles, public participation will be a fundamental component of both comprehensive and tailored planning processes, employing the principles of inclusive, shared decision making.

Step 4: Decision-Making for MPAs

Recommendations would be reviewed by governments for decision-making. It may be necessary to undertake subsequent analyses or additional studies or approve the recommendations and proceed with the establishment of the MPA.

Legal designation formalizes the management authority, the geographic boundaries for the marine protected areas, and a broad description of acceptable or permissible uses. In some cases, a marine protected area may have deliberately overlapping federal and provincial designations, depending on its location and the level of protection required.

Step 5: Management Plans for MPAs

The agency supporting the designation of a MPA would be responsible for developing and implementing a management plan. The management plan - consistent with the approved planning process recommendations - would clearly define the purpose of the marine protected area; its goals and objectives, and how the goals and objectives are to be reached. similarly, the management plan will provide the detailed terms and conditions around "where" "what" and "when" permissible uses can occur.

Management plans will be subject to periodic review. Reviewing the management plan for existing MPAs would provide an important opportunity to periodically assess the effectiveness of the management regime in place, and to revise protection levels accordingly.

5.5 Pilot Marine Protected Areas

Adhering to the learn-by-doing principle, pilot MPAs have been proposed to test and explore a number of applications including: partnering and cooperative management opportunities and mechanisms; criteria for evaluating proposed MPAs; and coordination among agencies or governments involved in the development of the MPA Strategy.

Areas that have been proposed as pilot MPAs by community and stakeholder groups include Gabriola Passage, Race Rocks Ecological Reserve (which is already formally designated as an Ecological Reserve), the Bowie Seamount and the Endeavour Segment Hydrothermal Sea Vents. (see Map)

For several of these sites, stakeholder consultation is underway. Gabriola Passage has been subject to detailed study and consultation, but a few outstanding issues have yet to be resolved. First Nations involvement will be considered very important to moving forward in this area. For Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, consultation is already underway through a management planning process.

Criteria used in selecting these areas as pilot projects included the following:

  • level of existing stakeholder and/or community support;
  • ecological, recreational and/or cultural heritage value;
  • information availability;
  • potential for building education and awareness; and,
  • opportunities for research and monitoring.

The primary goal for pilot projects is to provide an opportunity to learn and test different applications of MPA identification, assessment, legal designation, and management. Upon completion and evaluation of the pilots, formal designation may or may not occur depending on the desire of local communities and First Nations, as well as stakeholders and the public. Throughout the MPA piloting process, opportunities will be provided for public review and input.

In addition to these proposed pilot MPAs, both governments will be acting on their commitment in the Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy to study the feasibility of establishing a marine conservation area in the southern Strait of Georgia.

5.6 A Question of Targets - How Much is Enough?

There are varying views on the need for targets. As our knowledge of the marine realm greatly lags behind our knowledge of terrestrial environments, there is a need to determine if MPA targets are appropriate, and if they are, then what they should be. There have been several attempts at designing measures to assess MPA targets both in B.C. and in other parts of the world, which include:

  • targeting a set number of MPAs per planning region;
  • targeting a percentage of area in each planning region;
  • setting a target of a minimum of one relatively large "representative" MPA for each planning region (for example Parks Canada has used this approach for Marine Conservation Areas);
  • targeting MPAs to protect representative areas of each habitat, ecosystem, or community type (B.C. has used this model for its terrestrial Protected Areas Strategy);
  • using the best available science to determine protection requirements; and,
  • not setting firm standards and limits for what needs to be protected and how much protection is required

We are seeking your advice on this important question.

5.7 Federal and Provincial Statutory Powers to Protect Marine Areas

Extensive legislative authorities already exist among the federal and provincial agencies to implement a comprehensive system of MPAs. These tools complement each other and represent the various sources of constitutional and legislative powers necessary to enable us to work together to achieve the objectives of the MPA Strategy.

This federal-provincial partnership is essential since jurisdictional responsibilities in the marine environment are shared. For example, in all internal waters, the seabed is under provincial jurisdiction, whereas in offshore areas it is under federal care. Throughout the marine environment, the organisms in the water column are under federal jurisdiction. However, the management of certain resources, such as aquaculture and the commercial harvest of oysters and kelp, is under the purview of the provincial government. Keeping this in mind, in some circumstances dual designation of an MPA using both federal and provincial legislative authorities may be required. For instance, some provincial parks and ecological reserves may need the added protection provided by an MPA under the Oceans Act to achieve their management objectives.

The various federal and provincial statutes and their designations for protecting marine areas are outlined in Appendix B. These consist of:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

  1. Marine Protected Areas under the Oceans Act
  2. Fisheries Closures under the Fisheries Act

Environment Canada

  1. National Wildlife Areas and Marine Wildlife Areas under the Canada Wildlife Act
  2. Migratory Bird Sanctuaries under the Migratory Birds Convention Act

Parks Canada

  1. National Parks under the National Parks Act
  2. National Marine Conservation Areas under the proposed Marine Conservation Areas Act

British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks

  1. Ecological Reserves under the Ecological Reserve Act
  2. Provincial Parks under the Park Act
  3. Wildlife Management Areas under the Wildlife Act
  4. Protected Areas under the Environment and Land Use Act

Sidebar #6 demonstrates how these designations relate and may be combined to achieve specific management objectives, and lists what criteria may be used to select the most appropriate designation(s) in each case.

Sidebar #6: Federal and Provincial Marine Protection Designations

MPA Protection Objectives
Potential Protective Determining Criteria

To contribute to the protection of marine biodiversity, representative ecosystems and special natural features.

(e.g. upwelling
environments, eelgrass beds,
and soft coral communities.)

  • Oceans Act MPAs
  • Marine Conservation Areas
  • Marine Wildlife Areas
  • Provincial Parks
  • Ecological Reserves
  • Wildlife Management Areas
  • National Wildlife Areas
  • Migratory Bird Sanctuaries
  • representativeness
  • degree of naturalness
  • areas of high biodiversity or biological productivity
  • rare and endangered species
  • unique natural phenomena
  • ecological viability
  • vulnerability
  • unique habitat

To contribute to the
protection and conservation
of fishery resources and
their habitats.
(e.g. spawning, rearing and
nursery areas.)

  • Oceans Act MPAs
  • Ecological Reserves
  • Marine Conservation Areas
  • Provincial Parks
  • areas of high biodiversity and/or biological productivity
  • rare and endangered species
  • vulnerability
  • areas supporting unique or rare marine habitats
  • areas supporting significant spawning concentrations or densities
  • areas important for the viability of populations and genetic stocks
  • areas supporting critical species, life stages and environmental support systems

To protect cultural heritage
resources of the Pacific
coast of Canada and to
provide opportunities for
British Columbians and
others to explore,
understand and appreciate the marine
and coastal cultural heritage of
Canada's Pacific coast.

(e.g. shipwrecks and areas of cultural significance.)

  • Marine Conservation Areas
  • Provincial Parks
  • presence of significant cultural heritage values, such as physical artifacts and structural features places of traditional use or of spiritual importance

To provide a variety of
marine and coastal outdoor
recreation and tourism
(e.g. scenic areas, boat
havens, marine trails, and
dive sites.)

  • Marine Conservation Areas
  • Provincial Parks
  • degree of naturalness
  • significance of cultural heritage values
  • presence of significant recreation or tourism values
  • ability to attract and sustain recreational use
  • facilitate close contact with the marine environment;
  • aesthetics
  • rare, scarce, outstanding or unique marine recreation features

To provide opportunities for
increased scientific
research on marine
ecosystems, organisms and
special features, and
sharing of traditional

(e.g. long term monitoring
of undisturbed populations.)

  • Oceans Act MPAs
  • Ecological Reserves
  • Marine Wildlife Areas
  • Marine Conservation Areas
  • Provincial Parks
  • National Wildlife Areas
  • value as a natural benchmark;
  • value for developing a better understanding of the function and interaction of species, communities, and ecosystems
  • value for determining the impact and results of marine management activities

To provide opportunities for
education and to increase
awareness of marine and
coastal environments and our relationship to them.

(e.g. interpretive signage,
nature tours, and outdoor classrooms.)

  • Oceans Act MPAs
  • Ecological Reserves
  • Provincial Parks
  • Marine Conservation Areas
  • Wildlife Management Areas
  • National Wildlife Areas
  • Marine Wildlife Areas
  • Migratory Bird Sanctuaries
  • ability to foster understanding and appreciation;
  • area provides opportunities for use, enjoyment, and learning about the local natural environment
  • accessibility
  • suitability and carrying capacity

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6.0 Your Feedback on the Strategy

The public, marine stakeholders, First Nations, and coastal communities of British Columbia can participate in the implementation of the MPA Strategy by providing feedback on this discussion paper. Please comment on any aspect of the document or, to assist you in providing your feedback, you may wish to address the questions below. All responses and inquiries should be directed by October 31, 1998 to:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

450 - 555 West Hastings Street
Vancouver BC V6B 5G3
Telephone: (604) 666-1089
Fax: (604) 666-4211

B.C. Land Use Coordination Office

PO Box 9426 Stn. Prov. Govt.
Victoria BC V8W 9V1
Telephone: (250) 356-7723
Fax: (250) 953-3481

Thank you-we look forward to your replies.


  1. Do you support the vision and objectives of the MPA Strategy? (Please see Section 4.0)
  2. Do you support the Minimum Protection Standards for MPAs? (Please see Section 2.0)
  3. Do you support the process for MPA identification, assessment and decision-making? (Please see Section 5.0)
  4. Do you support the formation of an inter-governmental coordinating body? (Please see Section 5.3)
  5. Should some form of public advisory committee be established? If so, how should it be structured and what role should it have?
  6. Do you support tailored MPA planning processes being conducted in unplanned areas? (Please see Section 5.4)
  7. Do you support the learn-by-doing approach and the identification of MPA pilot projects? (Please see Section 5.5)
  8. Should we define targets for the MPA Strategy, and, if so, what should these targets be? (Please see Section 5.6)

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Appendix A: Principal Participating Agencies in the Development of the Marine Protected Areas Strategy

Department of Fisheries and Oceans
B.C. Land Use Coordination Office
Parks Canada
B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
Environment Canada
B.C. Ministry of Fisheries

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Appendix B: Federal and Provincial Statutory Powers for Protecting Marine Areas

Agency Legislative Tools Designations Mandate
Fisheries and Oceans Canada Oceans Act
Marine Protected Areas To protect and conserve:
  • fisheries resources, including marine mammals and their habitats
  • endangered or threatened species and their habitats
  • unique habitats
  • areas of high biodiversity or biological productivity
  • areas for scientific and research purposes
Fisheries Act Fisheries Closures Conservation mandate to manage and regulate fisheries, conserve and protect fish, protect fish habitat and prevent pollution of waters frequented by fish.
Environment Canada
Canada Wildlife Act National Wildlife Areas
Marine Wildlife Areas
To protect and conserve marine areas that are nationally or internationally significant for all wildlife but focusing on migratory marine birds
Migratory Birds Convention Act Migratory Bird Sanctuaries To protect coastal and marine habitats that are heavily used by birds for breeding, feeding, migration and overwintering.
Parks Canada National Parks Act(Federal)
Proposed Marine Conservation Areas Act
  • National Park
  • National Marine Conservation Areas
To protect and conserve for all time marine conservation areas of Canadian significance that are representative of the five Natural Marine Regions identified on the Pacific coast of Canada, and to encourage public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment.
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks Ecological Reserve Act
Ecological Reserves To protect: representative examples of BC's marine environment;
  • rare, endangered or sensitive species or habitats; unique, outstanding or special features; and areas for scientific research and marine awareness.
  • representative examples of marine diversity, recreational and cultural heritage; and special natural, cultural heritage and recreational features.
Park Act Provincial Parks To serve a variety of outdoor recreation functions including:
  • enhancing major tourism travel routes;
  • providing attractions for outdoor holiday destinations.
Wildlife Act Wildlife Management Areas
To conserve and manage areas of importance to fish and wildlife and to protect endangered or threatened species and their habitats, whether resident or migratory, of regional, national or global significance.
Environment and Land Use Act "Protected Areas" To protect:
  • representative examples of marine diversity, recreational and cultural heritage;
  • and special natural, cultural heritage and recreational features

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Last Updated: 12/22/98