Conservationists welcome progress on MPAs but remain concerned about protection of Scott Islands

Vancouver, BC – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) has mixed feelings about today’s announcement that Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area (mNWA) in British Columbia, will be Canada’s next marine protected area (MPA).

“We are pleased to see the new government move Canada closer to its international commitment to protect 10% of our ocean by 2020, but it’s important that quality isn’t sacrificed for quantity,” said Sabine Jessen, CPAWS’ National Oceans Program Director.

“We have been involved in consultations on Scott Islands for many years and have had long standing concerns about the lack of meaningful protection measures being proposed. We eagerly await the public release of the draft regulations and will take up the offer by the government to make improvements to ensure that they meet the high standards that Canadians expect of our MPAs,” notes Jessen.

Located off the northern tip of Vancouver Island, the Scott Islands are the most important seabird breeding area in Pacific Canada. They are home to 90% of Canada’s tufted puffins, 70% of the world’s Cassin’s auklets, and are the only Pacific breeding colony of common murres. The surrounding nutrient-rich ocean waters create productive feeding grounds that support a great diversity of marine life, it is also an important area for sea otters, Steller sea lions and several species of whales.

The proposed mNWA is intended to protect the foraging habitat of the seabirds, and covers a total area of 11,540 km2. Based on the regulatory strategy, released in 2013, activities like bottom trawling, long-lining and industrial shipping would be allowed to continue in the proposed MPA. “Unless the regulations contain restrictions on these harmful activities, seabirds and other species in the area remain at great risk,” Jessen adds.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada has expressed her desire to work with stakeholders and her Cabinet colleagues to improve the protection measures for seabirds and expand them to other species, within the Scott Islands mNWA, an offer that Jessen and her colleagues gladly accept.

“Scientific research shows that bycatch in fisheries, disturbance by ships and boats, and oil spills are extremely harmful to birds and other marine species, so we will make every effort to work with the government to achieve better protection for the Scott Islands, and ensure these issues are addressed,” said Jessen.

“We are also pleased to see Canada’s plan to advance a number of other marine protected areas including Lancaster Sound, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound glass sponge reefs, Laurentian Channel, Banc des Americains and St. Anns Bank” said Jessen. “We expect the government to maintain high standards of protection for all of these sites,” she adds.