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National Advisory Panel calls for stronger standards in marine protected areas

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – West Coast Environmental Law is calling for stronger and more consistent legal standards for Canada’s marine protected areas (MPAs) and other conservation areas, following the release of a new report from a National Advisory Panel appointed to offer guidance to the federal government regarding categories and associated protection standards for federal MPAs.

The Panel’s report offers a number of positive recommendations for improving the effectiveness of MPAs and other designated protected areas – including prohibiting industrial activities within MPAs, transparent and easily accessible information on the conservation success of MPAs, and legislative recognition for Indigenous Protected Areas.

“Oceans are under stress from pollution, overfishing, climate change and more. Marine protected areas can provide a safe haven where sea life can regenerate and restore, but to be effective, they need strong and consistent legal safeguards that prohibit damaging activities,” said Stephanie Hewson, Staff Lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law.

“We’re happy to see the need for stronger protection standards reflected in the Panel’s report, and to be truly effective these standards need to be established in law,” she said.

The report recommends prohibiting industrial activities such as oil and gas exploration, mining, dumping and bottom trawl fishing in MPAs. Environmental lawyers encourage the government to go further by also applying this recommendation to marine areas designated using “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECMs), such as marine refuges. These areas make up more than half of the marine space currently designated for conservation in Canada.

“The harmful effects of industrial activities like oil and gas are well-documented. Allowing these activities to continue in any type of protected area undermines the ability of marine protection initiatives to help restore health in our oceans,” said Hewson.

In addition to recommendations about MPA standards, the Panel’s report expresses strong support for the establishment and recognition of Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) as a tool for achieving Canada’s conservation and reconciliation goals. West Coast agrees with the Panel’s recommendation that Indigenous peoples be meaningfully involved in all aspects of planning and design, management, and governance of MPAs and IPAs.

“Coastal Indigenous nations have been governing and caring for the ocean since time immemorial. IPAs are an opportunity to recognize these unique relationships, uphold the inherent authority of Indigenous nations, and better care for the ocean for the benefit of all Canadians,” said Staff Lawyer Georgia Lloyd-Smith.

Now that the Panel’s final report has been submitted to the Minister, the federal government is expected to respond with proposals for MPA reform in the coming months. West Coast lawyers will continue to work with Indigenous and Crown governments, ENGO partners, and the public to ensure that key recommendations for improving marine protection are reflected in law.  

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For more information, please contact:

Stephanie Hewson | Staff Lawyer
604.684.7378 ext. 231, shewson@wcel.org

Georgia Lloyd-Smith | Staff Lawyer
604.817.3940, glsmith@wcel.org