Coalition says poll shows support for marine protected areas

Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area in Nunavut is 1 of 14 protected areas in Canada

Tallurutiup Imanga, also known as Lancaster Sound, is a marine protected area in Nunavut. SeaBlue Canada, a coalition of conservation organizations, says it has found strong support for the use of marine protected areas to protect the oceans. (File photo)

By Meral Jamal

There is strong public support for using marine protected areas for ocean conservation, according to a group dedicated to marine conservation.

SeaBlue Canada’s members include Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the David Suzuki Foundation and Nature Canada.

It found 97 per cent of respondents to a poll it conducted last November support the use of marine protected areas, with 63 per cent saying such areas are “very important” to ocean health. The group announced the results of the poll Feb. 2 in a news release.

“The goal of this poll is to just see what Canadians are thinking: how important are the oceans? how important is protecting the oceans [to them] — particularly now that we have a federal government mandate to do more of that?” said Susanna Fuller, vice-president for operations and projects with Oceans North, which is also part of SeaBlue.

A marine protected area, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is a part of the ocean legally protected to safeguard wildlife populations, habitats and ecosystems.

It may or may not allow commercial activities such as wildlife use, recreation and tourism.

On its website, Oceans North indicates it supports conservation and climate action in partnership with Indigenous and coastal communities.

The poll, conducted from Nov. 17 to 30, surveyed 1,687 Canadians aged 18 and older via a mixed-mode approach: 1,531 interviews were conducted online across provinces, and 176 were conducted by telephone across the territories.

Fuller said respondents provided their perspective on issues such as the value of having a zone or area of the ocean where industrial activities are banned; the issue of environment protection versus its impact on the economy; and whether the federal government is doing an only fair or poor job protecting the oceans.

According to Fuller, the next step is to look at how effectively the federal government funds the creation of more marine protected areas and the way it involves communities on the ground in the process, many of whom are Indigenous.

“[Canada has] a commitment to protect 25 per cent of our coastal and marine environment by 2025,” she said of the approach so far.

“In 2015, we had less than one per cent protected, and right now we are just under 15 per cent. So I think we’re doing fairly well, given where we started in 2015.”

Governments, including Canada’s, recently committed to protecting 30 per cent of the world’s land and coastal areas over the next eight years. Fuller said it will be important to track how quickly and effectively progress is made, especially in the Arctic.

“It takes people’s time and effort and communication,” she said.

“I think particularly in the Arctic, [marine conservation] is ever so important in these regions because people depend on wildlife for food still.

“The dependence on the relatively pristine environment is vital for culture as well as biodiversity protection — those two things go hand in hand.”

Currently, there are 14 marine protected areas across Canada, created through the federal Oceans Act and managed by the Fisheries and Oceans Department.

They comprise more than 350,000 square kilometres, or roughly six per cent of the country’s marine and coastal areas, according to the federal government’s website.

One of the 14 — the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area — is in Nunavut, off the northwest coast of Ellesmere Island.

There are also national marine conservation areas in the territory managed by Parks Canada, such as Tallurutiup Imanga.

These areas are similar to marine protected areas but are part of one or more Indigenous land claims, which is why the final decision around national marine conservation areas is negotiated by the federal government and “subject to the final resolution of Indigenous claims,” according to the Parks Canada website.

Steven Guilbeault, the federal minister of environment and climate change, announced a new policy to guide establishment and management of 10 new marine conservation areas Feb. 3.

The new policy was created by Parks Canada in consultation with approximately 250 industry organizations and environmental groups, and more than 3,000 individual responses.

It sets out how marine protected areas “can be effectively and equitably managed” and “lives up to our commitment for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” according to a federal government news release.

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(1) Comment:

  1. Posted by Sam on

    Yes it looks good, now put the St Lawrence, and all the Great Lakes on this also.


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