Canada’s progress slow on Marine Protected Areas commitment despite Bowie Seamount announcement
VANCOUVER, B.C. ─ Living Oceans Society today commended the Government of Canada for establishing the Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area (MPA) and expressed hope that this is the first of many more MPAs to come in the near future. The Haida Nation and the federal government have worked together to establish the Bowie Seamount or "SgaanKinghlas" in the Haida tongue.
The Bowie Seamount, located 180 km west of the north coast of Haida Gwaii, is a biologically rich underwater mountain top teaming with marine life. Most fish attracted to seamounts are long-lived, slow to mature and have low mortality rates—these are species that recover slowly, if at all, from overfishing.
“The time has come for the federal government to set not one, but a network of marine protected areas that will ensure our ocean and fisheries are healthy,” said Jennifer Lash, Living Oceans Society’s Executive Director. “The Bowie Seamount MPA should signal the beginning of a new way of managing our oceans.”
Living Oceans Society is calling on the Government of Canada to establish a network of MPAs through a marine planning process that enables First Nations, fishermen, coastal residents and others to work together to build a conservation vision for the coast of B.C. The federal government has committed to a marine planning process for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA), the area that ranges from Bute Inlet to the Alaska border and includes Queen Charlotte Strait, Hecate Strait, and Dixon Entrance.
MPA designation was a slow process for the Bowie Seamount, which was declared a Pilot Marine Protected Area by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) on December 8, 1998. With this final designation, parts of the seamount will be off limits to all fishing and the entire area will be protected from the destructive impacts of bottom trawling. Some fishing will still be allowed in certain areas.
“The government of Canada has committed to establishing a network of MPAs by 2012, and they have committed to a marine planning process in the PNCIMA that can make this happen. Let’s just hope that this will take a lot less than 10 years,” Lash said.
MPAs are areas of the ocean that are set aside to protect ecologically unique and sensitive habitats, areas of cultural or historical importance. MPAs allow rare and endangered species to recover, and protect habitat, spawning and rearing grounds. In several cases MPAs have resulted in an increase in marine life and an improvement in the health of ecosystems both within and outside the protected areas.
Living Oceans Society is working to ensure the long-term health of ocean ecosystems and coastal communities on the Pacific coast of Canada.
Jennifer Lash, Executive Director