Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Oceans Act Reforms Speed the way for Marine Protected Areas

June 15, 2017


Vancouver:  Living Oceans congratulates the federal government on the introduction in the House today of legislation that will amend the Oceans Act, giving the government greater powers—and new deadlines—for meeting its commitment to protect Canada’s oceans.

Bill C-55 received first reading today and is intended to amend both the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act.  Amendments to the latter will enable the government to negotiate, and ultimately cancel offshore oil and gas rights where they are incompatible with the goals of a marine protected area.

A new provision of the Oceans Act will allow for interim designations of MPAs, which must proceed to full designation within 5 years. “This provision addresses one of the major problems that we’ve had with getting marine protection designated,” said Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society. “Getting an MPA through the planning stages and on to official designation has taken far too long in the past.  The process has to be accelerated if we are to meet our international commitment.”

Canada has made an international commitment under the Convention on Biological Diversity to build a network of MPAs by 2020, in which at least 10 percent of each ecological region is effectively conserved. The World Parks Congress recommends that 20-30 percent of every habitat in the oceans be given full protection. On June 8, 2016, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced the Government of Canada’s commitment to put in place a plan to reach its domestic and international marine conservation targets of protecting 5 percent of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2017 and 10 percent by 2020.

Currently, only a little over three percent of Canada’s oceans and Great Lakes are protected in federally designated MPAs. Moreover, many existing MPAs are not properly managed, and permit activities within their boundaries that do not benefit the ecosystem.  

“The proposed amendments to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act will help meet these targets for protection, by enabling the government to cancel interests in the seabed in or near MPAs,” said Wristen. “This should help deal with areas such as the Scott Islands (off the northwest tip of Vancouver Island), an enormously rich habitat that supports all manner of marine life as well as internationally important seabird colonies. That area is surrounded by oil and gas interests and the development of those resources would clearly be incompatible with protection goals.”


Contact Information

Karen Wristen, Executive Director  604-788-5634