Marine Planning on the B.C. Coast is a positive step for ocean protection in Canada

World Oceans Day, and the month leading up to it, is always a busy time for CPAWS because it offers an opportunity to not only celebrate our oceans but also to talk about big issues and get our voice heard on a national level. World Oceans Day always offers the opportunity for a bit of both, and this year it was a lot of both.

On Tuesday we caused a bit of media buzz with the launch of our latest Oceans report. The report titled “Dare to be Deep: Charting Canada’s Course to 2020” took a look at where Canada sits now in terms of marine protection and more importantly, what Canada needs to do to meet our targets of 10% by 2020.

The picture isn’t pretty for where Canada currently stands - out of the 10 countries with the 10 longest coastlines and the 10 countries with the largest ocean estate Canada comes dead last with just 1.3% of our oceans protected.

Increasing Canada’s marine protected areas (MPAs) from 1.3% to at least 10% in the next six years does seem like a tall order, but it is possible! Australia increased their marine protected areas by a much greater amount in just 5 years. However, the current process in Canada of establishing individual sites is slow - some sites have been candidate MPAs for more than 10 years and have still not been finished. 

In our report we tried to identify what had been done in Australia, Scotland and California that made them so successful. We identified 8 different factors that are key to successful MPA establishment including; strong political leadership; clear guidelines timelines and targets; proper funding; and, very importantly, planning networks of MPAs instead of individual sites one-by-one.

It may seem like Canada is a long way off, but there are some really good signs that Canada can meet its targets, and one of the best examples is right here in BC with the Marine Planning Partnership.

In 2011, the Province of British Columbia and 18 First Nations embarked on an ambitious program to create a sustainable and integrated management framework and marine spatial plan for the Pacific North Coast of British Columbia.

The Marine Planning Partnership, known as MaPP,  has completed four subregional marine use plans for Haida Gwaii, North Coast, Central Coast, and North Vancouver Island that provide clear recommendations for the management and conservation of local marine ecosystems. The MaPP process has used many of the key factors we identified, including strong and collaborative political leadership by the Province of BC and First Nations, a private-public funding plan that is linked to the achievement of timelines and targets, collaboration with stakeholders and local communities, and the incorporation of expert scientific and local knowledge.

To turn the plans into a fully-fledged network of MPAs that will help Canada meet its commitments to protect 10% of our ocean estate by 2020 a few things are needed.

1. At the moment the MaPP plans are lead by Provincial and First Nations governments, so engagement with the Federal government is needed. 


2. MPA network planning guidelines, like those developed by CPAWS in 2011, need to be incorporated to ensure that the MPA network effectively protects all key habitats and species.


3. A commitment to long term funding needed from the Provincial and Federal governments. After all, a network of MPAs is a sound investment, with expected returns of billions of dollars


An extra special VIP guest, our new ocean mascot, launched the report.

The mascot is a very cute and friendly humpback whale, who will be travelling the country with the important mission of gathering new friends for Canada’s oceans . The mascot has just landed in Vancouver BC in times for World Oceans Day itself on June 8th, and will be joining the CPAWS-BC team on Sunday for a beach clean at Kits Beach and BBQ party at Jericho Yacht club afterwards and for Mayne Island World Oceans Day celebrations on June 14th.  It’s not too late to join us! For more information click here!

Next week we will be launching a competition to name our new whale mascot, so stay tuned to our website and facebook page for more information and your chance to enter.

Happy World Oceans Day! Lets hope next year we are celebrating some new MPAs in Canada so that we move closer to that important 2020 milestone and catch up with global leaders on marine conservation.