Nature Canada

Protected Areas Explained

Learn about the different types of protected areas that are present in Canada.

In Canada, we have various classifications for areas that are protected. Below, learn about what each classifications means.

What is a National Marine Conservation Area?

National Marine Conservation Areas are marine areas managed for sustainable use and containing smaller zones of high protection. They include the seabed, the water above it and any species which occur there. They may also take in wetlands, estuaries, islands and other coastal lands.

National Marine Conservation Areas are protected from such activities as dumping, undersea mining, and oil and gas exploration and development. National Marine Conservation Areas are established to represent a marine region and to demonstrate how protection and conservation practices can be harmonized with resource use in marine ecosystems.

What is a Marine Protected Area?

A Marine Protected Area is a section of sea that forms part of the internal waters of Canada, the territorial sea of Canada or the exclusive economic zone of Canada and has been designated for special protection. Areas are chosen based on fisheries resources, endangered or threatened marine species, unique and critical habitats, and/or high biodiversity.

What is a National Wildlife Areas?

National Wildlife Areas are owned by the federal government and conserve essential habitat for migratory birds, species at risk and other wildlife. These wild spaces can significantly contribute to Canada’s efforts to conserve our vast boreal forests, our three ocean coasts, and our northern ecosystems.

What is a Migratory Bird Sanctuary?

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries include a mix of public and private lands, and generally only focus on protecting birds and their breeding grounds during the nesting season.

These areas protect Canada’s most important migratory bird habitat, including critical nesting areas, migration staging areas, and coastal seabird islands.

What is an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas?

PCAs focus on protecting and conserving ecosystems through indigenous laws, governance and knowledge systems. Indigenous communities in these areas take on the responsibility of protecting and conserving ecosystems. While the individual conservation objectives of each IPCA will differ, all of them endeavor to elevate Indigenous rights and responsibilities, by affirming the validity of Indigenous legal traditions, customary and cultural practices as well as their abilities to help conserve biodiversity in Canada.

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