As a step towards fulfilling the commitment to protect 10 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2020, the government has proposed establishment of Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area (NWA), the first under the Canada Wildlife Act.
The new initiative 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 announcement was made by the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Scott Islands are located off the northern tip of Vancouver Island and are considered one of the most important seabird breeding areas in Pacific Canada. The Islands are home to 90 per cent of Canada’s tufted puffins, 70 per cent of the world’s Cassin’s auklets, and are the only Pacific breeding colony of common murres. The surrounding nutrient-rich ocean waters create productive feeding grounds that support a great diversity of marine life, it is also an important area for sea otters, Steller sea lions and several species of whales.
As per the proposal, the mNWA is intended to protect the foraging habitat of the seabirds, and covers a total area of 11,540 km2. Based on the regulatory strategy, released in 2013, activities like bottom trawling, long-lining and industrial shipping would be allowed to continue in the proposed MPA.
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada has expressed her desire to work with stakeholders and her Cabinet colleagues to improve the protection measures for seabirds and expand them to other species, within the Scott Islands mNWA.
Canada’s overall 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.