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West Coast reacts to Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Report on Protecting Marine Mammals

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories - Lawyers at West Coast Environmental Law issued the following statement in response to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development’s Fall 2018 report on Protecting Marine Mammals, released publicly today:

“The Commissioner’s Report shows that the federal government has been slow to use the tools available to protect marine mammals, many of which are endangered or threatened,” said Stephanie Hewson, Staff Lawyer. “This report demonstrates the need to consider marine mammals more proactively in marine planning and regulation, instead of just responding when species are in crisis.”

The Commissioner’s report also points to marine protected areas (MPAs) as an underused tool that currently fails to protect marine mammals from threats posed by commercial fishing and shipping, such as underwater noise, ship strikes, and entanglements.

“Even where MPAs are designated, there are few activities that are actually prohibited by law – for example, only 10% of MPAs impose any restrictions on commercial vessels. This report highlights the need for strong, legal protection standards for MPAs that address the full spectrum of harmful industrial activities,” said Hewson.

The National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards is expected to release a final report this month, with recommendations to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Marine lawyers say the Panel's final recommendations must provide a floor of basic legal protections for all MPAs, and establish standards for effective MPAs, in order to deliver on ministerial promises about the Panel.

“We hope to see a strong report that provides the federal government with a clear path forward to strengthening protected areas for all marine mammals and the ecosystems that they rely upon,” Hewson said.

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For more information, please contact:

Stephanie Hewson | Staff Lawyer
604-684-7378 ext. 231, shewson@wcel.org