VANCOUVER — The Government of Canada announced today the establishment of an 11,580–square–kilometre federal marine protected area in the Laurentian Channel that will prohibit oil and gas development. The announcement by Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard Minister Jonathan Wilkinson included a commitment that Canada will now apply stronger standards to protected areas designated in Canada’s oceans.
Minister Wilkinson said Canada will ban industrial activities including oil and gas exploration and development, mining, dumping and bottom trawling within all future federally designated marine protected areas. This announcement adopts several recommendations presented in the September 2018 National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards. The Laurentian Channel provides important habitat for the endangered porbeagle shark and is a migration route for many marine mammals, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
“We applaud government’s commitment to safeguarding the biologically rich Laurentian Channel in a way that meets internationally recognized standards for marine protection,” David Suzuki Foundation science projects manager Bill Wareham said. “This decision meets Canadians’ expectations that oil rigs, mining and other heavy industry don’t belong in areas designed to provide refuge for whales, fish, seabirds and other marine life.”
This prohibition of industrial activities ensures significant environmental protection standards for areas counted toward Canada’s marine protection commitments under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The 192 state parties in the CBD, including Canada, agreed to protect at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine ecosystems by 2020. With the protection of Laurentian Channel, Canada claims 8.27 per cent of its marine environment is now under protected area status.
The minister has pledged to conduct reviews of existing federally designated marine protected areas and other marine refuge areas that do not meet international standards, vowing not to include these areas in the calculations to meet international targets. The David Suzuki Foundation encourages government to continue assessing all types of activities that can negatively affect the conservation values in marine protected areas.
“These new protection standards represent true leadership and a significant improvement in Canada’s commitment to meet its international targets and protect 10 per cent of marine areas by 2020,” Wareham said. “We encourage government to continue its leadership role in protecting Canada’s marine life, and to ensure these new standards apply to all areas it expects to count toward internationally established protection targets.”
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