Linking Science and Law: Minimum Protection Standards for Canada's Marine Protected Areas

Linda Nowlan
Maryann Watson

In 2015, Canada’s federal government made a public commitment to reach Aichi Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, by protecting 5% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2017, and 10% by 2020. Achieving these conservation targets will require a significant increase in the rate of designation of marine protected areas in Canada. This can be facilitated by the laws that guide the designation and decision-making processes for marine protection. In the five-point Action Plan for reaching the protection targets, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard committed to examining “how the Oceans Act can be updated to facilitate the designation process for Marine Protected Areas, without sacrificing science, or the public’s opportunity to provide input.”

In this brief, West Coast presents recommendations for updating the Oceans Act to translate scientifically-determined protection standards into law. We discuss the importance of law for MPAs, review the scientific rationale for protection standards and the current legal practice regarding standards under the Oceans Act, and examine problems with current practices.

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