Backgrounder Article from  Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Canada's Plan To Reach Marine Conservation Targets

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced the Government of Canada’s commitment to put in place a plan to reach its domestic and international marine conservation targets of protecting 5 percent of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2017 and 10 percent by 2020. 

Announced in Budget 2016, an investment of $81.3 million over five years, starting in 2016-2017, was allocated to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada to support marine conservation activities. 

Budget 2016 also allocated $42.4 million over five years, starting in 2016–17, to Parks Canada and Natural Resources Canada to continue work on developing new National Parks and National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs), including the Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area, Nunavut and Thaidene Nene National Park, Northwest Territories. Parks Canada continues to work in partnership with the Government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to complete the feasibility assessment in support of the creation of a NMCA in Lancaster Sound, one of the richest marine mammal areas in the world.

The Government of Canada has a variety of mechanisms to achieve marine conservation goals. Fisheries and Oceans Canada establishes Oceans Act Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to protect and conserve marine species, habitats and/or ecosystems, which are ecologically significant and/or distinct. The nature of the activities allowed or prohibited within a MPA depends on the area’s conservation objectives. Sustainable economic opportunities that are compatible with these conservation objectives are typically allowed within the protected area or within specific zones of the protected area.

NMCAs established by Parks Canada protect and conserve representative samples of Canada’s oceans and Great Lakes for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. NMCAs are required to include at least two types of zones: one that fosters and encourages ecologically sustainable use and another that fully protects special features or sensitive elements of ecosystems.

National Wildlife Areas are established by Environment and Climate Change Canada for wildlife conservation, research, and interpretation. Activities that are prohibited and authorized vary by site.

Canada would reach its national and international marine conservation targets by doing the following:

  • Finish What Was Started: Advance the work already underway in areas progressing towards establishment including the proposed Lancaster Sound NMCA, and five proposed Oceans Act MPAs: Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs, Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam, Laurentian Channel, St. Anns Bank and Banc des Américains.
  • Protect Pristine Areas: Establish new, large Oceans Act MPAs in pristine offshore areas;
  • Protect Areas Under Pressure: Establish additional Oceans Act MPAs in areas under pressure from human activities, for example where we are already advancing MPA network development;
  • Advance Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures: Identify existing and establish new other effective area-based conservation measures, such as fisheries closures, particularly to protect sensitive sponge and coral concentrations; and
  • Establish MPAs Faster: Examine how the Oceans Act can be updated to facilitate the designation process for MPAs, without sacrificing science, or the public’s opportunity to provide input. 

Canada’s approach to achieving the marine conservation targets would be guided by three foundational principles: science-based decision making; transparency; and, advancing reconciliation with Indigenous groups.

Science-Based Decision Making

The ability to understand and protect marine ecosystems depends on the ability to bring together diverse and complex sources of information based on solid science, which in turn depends on rigorous peer review. Other key information sources include traditional ecological knowledge shared by Indigenous peoples and knowledge shared by the fishing industry and local communities.


Achieving Canada’s marine conservation targets will require an “all in” effort, involving cooperation with other federal government departments, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous peoples, industry, academia, and environmental non-governmental organizations. Engagement, consultation and collaboration would be the foundation of the approach. Indigenous groups, industry and other stakeholders would be given meaningful opportunities to provide their input to meeting marine conservation targets.

Advancing Reconciliation with Indigenous Groups

The process to meet our marine conservation targets would also respect treaties in existence and support advancing the completion of modern treaties under development. Traditional knowledge would be sought out to highlight the importance of an area and its resources to the culture, traditions and economy for local communities and help inform decisions related to MPA establishment and management.

In 2010, Canada agreed to marine conservation targets established under the Convention on Biological Diversity to conserve 10 percent of coastal and marine areas through effectively managed networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures by 2020. This is commonly referred to as Aichi Target 11. This commitment was reconfirmed in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under Goal 14.

In the 2016 Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama reaffirmed their commitment to meet the global target of increasing the proportion of marine and coastal areas protected to 10 percent by 2020. They also committed to take concrete steps to substantially surpass these national goals in the coming years.

New release: Government of Canada Celebrates Oceans Day and Announces Plan for Marine Conservation Targets

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