Growing concern by coastal nations about the health of the world's oceans, the loss of biodiversity, the sustainability of fish stocks, and the long term viability of marine fisheries that support coastal communities, has led to increasing international and national demands for establishment of MPAs and MPA Networks.
Canada's Oceans Act (1996) calls on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to lead and coordinate the development and implementation of a national system of MPAs within the context of ICOM. The primary goal of Canada's MPA network development is to provide long-term protection of marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and special natural features, and MPAs are considered a key conservation tool for ICOM. Nationally MPAs protect less than 1% of Canada marine waters, and within Newfoundland and Labrador, only 152 km² or less than 0.02% of marine areas are protected by an MPA. MPA Network development will utilize a range of different area-based protection tools available under federal and provincial legislation that meet the following definition of an MPA:
Marine Protected Area (MPA): "A clearly defined marine geographical space recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values."
Canada's National approach to network development is outlined in Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas (2011). The development of this National Framework was led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in collaboration with federal and provincial/territorial partners, and provides strategic direction for bioregional MPA network design and establishment. An MPA Network is defined as:
"A collection of individual marine protected areas that operate cooperatively and synergistically, at various spatial scales, and with a range of protection levels, in order to fulfill ecological aims more effectively and comprehensively than individual sites could alone."
Governance and stakeholder engagement for MPA network development will be established at the bioregional scale (link to 5.1), and will be guided by the National Framework, but led by regional governance structures using a regional approach. For more information on network planning visit here.