October 25, 2007 (Ottawa) Nature Canada today congratulated Prime Minister Stephen Harper on announcing the creation of a new national marine conservation area, on the northern shore of Lake Superior.
The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area will extend roughly 140 kilometres east of Thunder Bay, protecting endangered trout populations, caribou, peregrine falcons, eagles and herons. At one million hectares it will be the largest freshwater marine conservation area in the world.
“Protected areas like this one conserve some of our most important natural spaces, providing Canada and the world with clean air and water, abundant wildlife populations, healthy communities and strong economies,” said Julie Gelfand, President of Nature Canada. “I am encouraged by this Government’s efforts to preserve Canada’s pristine and most valuable ecosystems.”
National marine conservation areas are protected under the National Marine Conservation Areas Act (NMCAA) from such activities as ocean dumping, undersea mining, and oil and gas exploration and development.
Nature Canada lobbied to create the National Marine Conservation Areas Act, and has been working since then to ensure that Parks Canada receives the resources necessary to establish these protected areas. There are currently two other operating sites created and managed by Parks Canada: Fathom Five National Marine Park in Georgian Bay, Ontario, and Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park in Quebec.
The NMCAA is one of several acts of legislation in Canada created to conserve marine and land-based areas, including a new Oceans Act, National Parks Act and Species at Risk Act.
“Canada has world class environmental legislation in place and it’s essential that we use it effectively,” said Gelfand. “I hope that this positive announcement is followed by progress on other important marine conservation areas. The pace of protected areas establishment could certainly be quicker.”
Nature Canada has called for the establishment of a national system of marine protected areas by 2012, which would result in 14 new national marine conservation areas, including Bowie Seamount of the north coast of British Columbia and Iquali qluug off Baffin Island in Nunavut.
Canada still has a long way to go to become a global leader in nature conservation. Canada ranks 16th among OECD countries in the amount of lands set aside in terrestrial protected areas, and 70th globally in percentage of oceans protected.
Prime Minister Harper’s announcement today, and his move earlier this year to expand Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories, signals a positive trend.
“This government deserves credit for extending protection of wilderness areas in our far North earlier this year, and now in an important marine environment,” said Gelfand. “We are moving in the right direction.”
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