Canada unveils marine protection standards amid push to conserve 25% of oceans
By Nia Williams
(Reuters) - Canada on Wednesday finalized conservation standards for marine protected areas that cover more than 14% of its oceans, by banning industrial activities including waste disposal, trawling the sea floor for fishing and natural resource extraction.
The regulations are part of Canada's goal to conserve 25% of its oceans by 2025, and come a day after the federal government and First Nations announced progress on establishing what will be the country's largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) located 150 km (90 miles) off the west coast of British Columbia.
Canada is bordered by three oceans - the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic - and has the longest coastline in the world.
Speaking at the fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Vancouver, federal ocean and fisheries minister Joyce Murray said Canada is also exploring other marine areas for future protection, including parts of James Bay in the far north of Ontario and Quebec, and Arctic areas in the territory of Nunavut.
"Oceans are as crucial to our survival as the air we breathe and if we truly want to protect the planet, we must protect the oceans," Murray told a news conference.
The new proposed MPA off the west coast of Vancouver Island, known as the Tang.ɢwan – ḥačxwiqak – Tsig̱is MPA, moved forward this week after Canada and local First Nations signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperatively manage the area.
The area covers 133,019 square km (51,360 square miles), roughly half the size of New Zealand, and is home to 46 towering underwater mountains and all of Canada's known hydrothermal vents, rare deep-sea hot spots that support unique marine species.
Canada and First Nations have been working on protecting the area since 2017, when measures to prevent certain fishing activities were put in place. Designating it an MPA would expand protection to the unique seafloor features.
"These underexplored ecosystems, three kilometres beneath the ocean surface, are likely home to marine life found nowhere else in the world," said Kate MacMillan, Ocean Conservation Manager for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
(Reporting by Nia Williams in British Columbia; editing by Jonathan Oatis)