Securing protection standards for Canada's marine protected areas
In 2015, the Government of Canada committed to protecting 5% of marine and coastal areas by 2017, and 10% by 2020. While admirable progress towards this target has been made, less attention has been given to improving the quality of protection afforded to marine areas. Extensive scientific study supports that several factors are critical to the success of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for marine biodiversity conservation and management objectives, including no-take areas and prohibitions on extractive and industrial activities. However, the majority of Canada’s MPAs allow extractive uses within their boundaries. As Canada works toward international and national commitments to marine protection targets, it is critical to consider the degree of protection afforded by the legal designations used to create these areas. This paper reviews the current inconsistent standards of protection across marine protected areas (MPAs) designated under the Oceans Act, Canada’s flagship legislation for marine protection. Recommended amendments to the law include standards of protection that would exclude all extractive industrial activities from MPAs in order to better guide the designation and decision-making processes for marine protection.