Serve and Protect... Canada's Marine and Coastal Environments

by Jake M on November 8, 2017 - 5:07pm

Protection of natural environments, species and resources is becoming a main focus in Canadian policy making, much more than in previous years. The article, “Canada to Double Protected Areasby Andrea Gunn of The Chronicle Herald takes a detailed look into the actions being done by governing bodies of Canada to save aquatic environments. Gunn states the protection of marine systems is gradually gaining more importance at all levels of government as Canada tries to increase the percentage of protected marine and coastal areas to ten percent by the year 2020. Canada is increasing the amount of marine protected areas (MPAs) because of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity which urges nations to protect the marine and coastal areas as best as possible. Canada took on this initiative with a goal of ten percent protection by 2020 because the Department of Fisheries and Oceans states that conservation contributes to healthy marine environments by protecting species and preserving biodiversity. The department also says conservation will create limits and standards for industries to follow as well as protecting cultural heritage and the tourism sector. Currently there are eleven MPAs across the country which accounts for approximately 5.22% of the total marine/coastal areas, in other words, half way there. These MPAs are classified differently depending on the protection, some MPAs are considered ‘no-take zones’ where extraction is completely prohibited. Some of the MPAs are more ‘specific-take’ in what can be extracted and what must be preserved. In order to reach this 2020 goal there will be more MPAs created, as of now there are six official areas of interest (AOIs). This process is not easy as it can take years for the provincial and federal governments to develop a scientific assessment of the area, a plan for policy, and consultation of governing bodies, Indigenous groups and local communities/businesses. For example, Nova Scotia has the largest combined MPA area which has caused the local industries to oppose further MPA development until other provinces catch up.

The implementation of MPAs can be considered a substantive policy instrument as the MPAs are intended to directly change the human behaviours in these areas for purpose of conservation. More specifically, this can be considered a regulatory instrument, they are defined as laws and/or regulations that manage access to natural resources and prohibit certain activities. Therefore the MPA is likely to be successful at maintaining the marine and coastal environment but there are negatives that Gunn touches on. Regulatory instruments can ignore other perspectives while having tunnel vision on the goal of maintenance and conservation. In this case, the economic wellbeing of local industries is threatened by these MPAs because their source of commodities shrinks. Gunn states there is feelings of opposition in Nova Scotia, this is because the regulatory instruments of MPAs are not primarily focused on the economic wellbeing of these industries/communities. The MPA implementation can also be categorized as passive adaptive management because there is only a focus on the management outcome, increasing conservation percentage, and not on learning or adapting. The MPAs are developed with concise policies, ‘no-take’ or ‘specific-take’ which means there is no intention to adapt and learn from the MPA experiences.

The development of the six AOIs will rely heavily on environmental assessment as Gunn states in the article. The environmental assessment of these AOIs involves all levels of government including the federal, provincial and territorial. These assessments are necessary for potential policy implications, for policies to be significant and effective in an area the determination of current and potential impacts of human action and the possible alternatives need to be known. In terms of conflict management, the MPAs would be considered a bargaining scenario because the people involved are aware of the conflict which is not enough marine/coastal area is being protected. There is also little uncertainty as to what the MPA will do because proper assessment is done through scientific study, planning and consultation. The solution then becomes a bargaining scenario as those involved look to create an agreeable solution. These actors include the local industries/communities, Indigenous communities, provincial/territorial governments, and federal government. The reason why many are upset over these MPAs is because the race to ten percent by 2020 is likely reducing the amount of assessment and bargaining being done before implementation.

The implementation of MPAs on marine/coastal areas of Canada is a large step towards conserving the aquatic systems of the country. The process is long as environmental assessments and bargaining must be achieved before the regulatory instruments can be put into effect. The current timeline is likely shortening these processes which could lead to increasing conflicts over MPA regulations in the near future.

Link to: “Canada to Double Protected Areas” by Andrea Gunn. The Chronicle Herald.


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