CANCUN, MEXICO--(Marketwired - Dec. 3, 2016) - Canada is taking action in the conservation and long-term protection of marine biodiversity. At the recent Convention on Biological Diversity at the Conference of the Parties (COP13), the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced a new initiative that will facilitate meeting Canada's marine conservation targets, and another that demonstrates Canada's commitment to ensuring the long-term viability of the Sargasso Sea, a globally significant marine ecosystem.
The Minister announced, on behalf of the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the proposed establishment of Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area (NWA), the first under the Canada Wildlife Act. This area is home to over two million seabirds, making it the highest concentration of seabirds as well as the most important nesting and breeding ground for seabirds in British Columbia.
Minister LeBlanc discussed additional ways Canada will achieve meeting its international targets to increase the amount of marine and coastal areas that are protected to 5% by 2017 and 10% by 2020. Canada's plan consists of advancing work in areas progressing towards establishment, such as the proposed Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area, and several proposed Oceans Act Marine Protected Areas, including Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs, Laurentian Channel and Banc des Américains. The Minister also highlighted progress achieved for the designation of St. Anns Bank for which stakeholder input will be sought in the near future.
Finally, Minister LeBlanc signed the 'Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea'. The Sargasso Sea, located near Bermuda, provides habitat, spawning areas, migration pathways and feeding ground to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including some endangered and commercially important species.
The Convention focused on actions to ensure the conservation, sustainable use, management, and restoration of biological diversity and ecosystems. While at the Convention, the Minister also continued discussions with his international counterparts on other effective area-based conservation measures and the need for science-based decision making.
"Conservation and protection of marine environments is important for aquatic biodiversity and the fisheries sector. Our Government is taking concrete steps to reaching our international targets for protecting our marine and coastal areas. The proposed designation of Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area is a great example of effective ocean management and marine conservation. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has developed science-based guidance to help us determine other effective area-based conservation measures. I look forward to working with my provincial counterparts on these important initiatives, and to hearing the views of Canadians on how the proposed regulations assure the protection of identified key species and habitats."
- The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
"I am delighted that Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area will be the first marine National Wildlife Area in Canada. The area is home to 40% of all breeding seabirds in the Canadian Pacific. I look forward to working with my colleague the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and stakeholders to hear their views on the proposed protections and how they can be improved, not only for sea birds but for other key species and habitats there and elsewhere in the ecosystem."
- The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada
"The Sargasso Sea is the birthplace of all American and European eels. We have a regulated eel fishery in the Maritime Provinces, and it's therefore important that Canada works with other nations in the protection of this unique habitat. I heartily applaud the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, for leading Canada in becoming a signatory to the Hamilton Declaration in order to collaborate with other nations to preserve this important ecosystem."
- Senator Wilfred Moore
"I am delighted that Canada will participate in the stewardship of this unique and vitally important marine environment. As a tri-coastal country, Canada has extremely valuable experience that will be a great asset to the Sargasso Sea conservancy effort."
- Government of Bermuda Minister of the Environment, The Hon. N. Cole Simons, JP, MP.
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Canada Signs the 'Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea'
The Sargasso Sea, located near Bermuda, is a unique, high-seas marine ecosystem. The ecologically and biologically significant area is unique because it is an area of open ocean bounded on all sides by the clockwise flow of major ocean currents.
The area is named for the Sargassum seaweed - a holopelagic, golden drift algae that forms extensive floating mats on the surface of the ocean. This unique ecosystem is home to a wide range of species, including several identified for protection. It provides habitat, spawning areas, migration pathways, and feeding groups to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including some endangered and commercially important species.
The majority of the ecosystem lies beyond national jurisdictions. The 'Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea' was first signed in Hamilton, Bermuda on March 11, 2014. The Declaration resulted in the creation of the Sargasso Sea Commission, which includes a number of international signatories, including Bermuda, United Kingdom, United States of America, and Monaco, as well as collaborating partners, such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Dalhousie University Marine and Environmental Law Institute, working together to protect the area.
The Commission uses the best available scientific research to better understand the unique ecosystem and support efforts to conserve and protect the Sargasso Sea.
Canada's Commitment to Ocean Conservation and Protection
The Government of Canada remains committed, both domestically and internationally, to conserving and protecting precious marine environments. Signing the Declaration ensures the long-term viability of the globally significant Sargasso Sea ecosystem.
The area plays an important role in the wider North Atlantic ecosystem, serving as habitat, foraging and spawning grounds and as a migratory corridor for many species important to Atlantic Canada. The mats formed by the Sargassum algae are home to many species and provide a protective 'nursery' for juvenile fish and turtles. The area is considered the primary spawning ground for American eel, which then migrates to freshwater and is harvested commercially in shore-based fisheries on Canada's Atlantic coast.
Most recently, in the summer of 2016, Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducted oceanographic and seabed research in the area as part of a scientific expedition from Nova Scotia to Bermuda.
Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area
The proposed Scott Islands Protected Marine Area, also known as the Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area (NWA), located off the northern tip of Vancouver Island, will be the first protected marine area established under the Canada Wildlife Act.
The establishment of the NWA will increase marine protection in Canada by 11,546 km2, and would enable effective long-term conservation of the highest concentration of breeding seabirds in the Canadian Pacific, as well as many other marine species, including species listed under the Species at Risk Act. The area sustains 90 percent of Canada's Tufted Puffins, 95 percent of Pacific Canada's Common Murre, 50 percent of the world's Cassin's Auklets and 7 percent of the global population of Rhinoceros Auklet.
The surrounding waters provide key feeding habitat for the birds that nest on the islands, and also attract an additional 5-10 million migratory birds annually that may travel vast distances across the Pacific to feed on the abundance of small fish and zooplankton in the area.
The Government of Canada committed to establishing the proposed Scott Islands marine NWA in Budgets 2007 and 2013. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is leading the establishment process, and target date for publication in Canada Gazette, Part I of the proposed Scott Islands Protected Marine Area Regulations is December 2016.
Establishment of the Scott Islands NWA, along with the implementation of conservation measures via the Regulations, would prevent activities from occurring in the marine National Wildlife Area that would threaten the vitality of the Scott Islands as important habitat for seabirds.
The prohibition against fishing for Pacific sand lance, Pacific saury and North Pacific krill will be of benefit to the many marine species that feed on these fish, not just the seabirds. Establishment of the marine NWA will allow for an enhanced focus on monitoring and research in order to meet the conservation objectives for the area, the main one being to conserve migratory seabirds.
The establishment of the Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area will complement existing provincial protected area designations for the five islands that make up the Scott Islands archipelago.