Nature Canada
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Good news for oceans! Laurentian Whale Passage receives full government protection

Whales, turtles and fish will no longer have to compete with oil and gas in Canada’s marine protected areas.

On Thursday, the government made two big announcements: the Laurentian Whale Passage will become officially protected and new standards are being introduced to ban harmful industry from all marine protected areas across the country.

This is a big win for nature. On the East Coast, 20 species of whales and dolphins travel in the migratory passage every year, and it’s also a refuge for other species such as the at-risk Leatherback Sea Turtle. Across the country, struggling marine species that depend on protected areas to survive will also benefit.

While we expect industrial activity to stop in national parks and wilderness areas, the same protections didn’t exist for their marine counterparts- until now.

What was decided?

At an announcement in Montreal, Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Jonathan Wilkinson announced a total ban on oil and gas work, as well as mining, waste-dumping and bottom-trawling in all marine protected areas.

“We’re losing species’ populations at a frightening pace – including fish, turtles, whales and other marine life. One way we can combat this trend is by creating marine protected areas dedicated to conservation of wildlife and biodiversity. Real protection means no oil, gas or mining activities in these areas. It’s encouraging to see the government is taking that seriously,” said Gauri Sreenivasan, Nature Canada’s Director of Campaigns.

“Ensuring high-quality protection is equally necessary for other types of protected areas, such as marine refuges,” she added.

Public concern for the Laurentian Whale Passage helped spur the government to look more widely at the issue of what is allowed in marine protected areas. Tens of thousands of citizens made their views known. A National Advisory Panel on the issue was struck in 2018 to bring policy recommendations to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

Nature Canada’s letter writing campaign to ask Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Jonathan Wilkinson to protect the Laurentian Channel demonstrated widespread support for greater marine protections on the East Coast. Over 7730 Canadians wrote to the Minister to ask for a new Marine Protected Area that prohibited oil, gas and mining in the Channel.

A second campaign produced a petition with 3500 signatures, calling for a blanket policy that would ban these harmful industrial activities in all Marine Protected Areas forever. The letter and petition were delivered to the Minister earlier this month.

Government of Canada Delivers

Today, the Government of Canada has delivered on both of those important asks. The Laurentian Channel announcement brings Canada closer to protecting 10% of its marine area by 2020—now over 8%.

This outcome reflects long-term advocacy efforts by local communities, Indigenous peoples and conservation organizations, including CPAWs, WWF and Ecology Action Centre.

The advisory panel was also clear that Indigenous peoples need to be full partners in all decision making regarding marine protection. We look forward to the government’s affirmation that Indigenous rights and Indigenous-led conservation will be central to ocean protection approaches in Canada.

“Canadians are deeply concerned with the threat of species extinction,” noted Graham Saul, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “We congratulate the government in protecting wildlife and oceans today, and look forward to collaborating with governments, Indigenous peoples and communities to double protected areas in Canada by 2020.”

Media Coverage On this announcement

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