The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) of Environment Canada is charged with developing and implementing a marine habitat conservation program with a focus on habitat for migratory birds. CWS has set up a Marine Habitat Working Group to define the department's role in marine habitat conservation, and in particular the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs). The working group is also responsible for charting a future direction for the marine habitat conservation program.
This document was prepared to provide context for the development of an Environment Canada strategy for marine habitat conservation and MPAs. Part 1 introduces MPAs as a conservation tool and then focuses on various aspects of the current Environment Canada program and activities regarding MPAs. It describes the three legal designations-national wildlife area, marine wildlife area and migratory bird sanctuary-that CWS can use to protect marine areas. To June 1996, 13 out of the country's 49 national wildlife areas and 56 of the 98 migratory bird sanctuaries have coastal, estuarine or marine components. The total amount of coastal, estuarine and marine wildlife habitat protected in these 69 sites is about 3.8 million hectares. Several proposed national wildlife areas will include a significant marine component; the proportion is expected to increase. The marine wildlife area designation is a new mechanism added to the Canada Wildlife Act by amendment in 1994 to provide for MPAs in the 12 to 200 nautical mile zone, where a different regulatory regime is required. The origins and nature of this amendment are reviewed.
Part 1 then envisions, for discussion purposes, some potential characteristics for marine wildlife areas. These attributes might include a focus on critical habitats for marine birds and associated wildlife, cooperative management arrangements and a flexible management regime tailored to the needs of each site. Part 1 then proposes vision and mission statements for the marine wildlife habitat conservation program. Part 1 concludes with a brief progress report on some recent CWS activities regarding MPAs, and proposes a path forward. The proposed actions include (a) the development of guiding documents for program accountability (e.g., strategy, operational policy, criteria for marine wildlife areas, and action plan); (b) the development of a regulation for marine wildlife areas ("protected marine areas") under the Canada Wildlife Act through an actual site designation; and (c) implementation of the MPA program through designation and management of sites. The program should include the necessary tools to explain CWS activities to others and to pursue cooperative and collaborative mechanisms.
Part 2 looks at the broader context in which the Environment Canada MPA program will be developing. It outlines federal and provincial programs that have established, or plan to establish, marine protected areas in Canada, recognizing that aboriginal and coastal communities can be Important partners. Second, it looks at the international legal context and international designations. A listing is provided of international mechanisms that advocate MPA establishment or provide for the designation of significant sites as MPAs. Third, Part 2 looks at MPAs in the context of overall marine conservation and identifies jurisdictional issues in the oceans that might limit the establishment of MPAs. Shared responsibilities among many jurisdictions will necessitate integration of efforts. Some existing committees are mentioned that bring partners together on MPA issues. A solid MPA program will equip Environment Canada towards meeting its responsibilities for the conservation of habitat for migratory birds and biodiversity in marine areas.