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National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada
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Canada’s National Marine Conservation Areas System Plan
National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada Program
Parks Canada is responsible for National Parks and National Historic Sites. It is also charged with setting up a national system of marine protected areas, the National Marine Conservation Areas Program, to represent the full range of marine ecosystems found in Canada's Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans, and the Great Lakes.
Canada has over 243,000 km of coastline along three oceans and another 9500 km along the Great Lakes - the longest coastline in the world. The vast marine ecosystems off these coasts are varied, productive - and precious. We have a responsibility, both at the national and international levels, to protect examples of this marine heritage for present and future generations.
National Marine Conservation Areas, or NMCA for short, are marine areas managed for sustainable use and containing smaller zones of high protection. They include the seabed, the water column above it and they may also take in wetlands, estuaries, islands and other coastal lands.
NMCAs are protected from such activities as ocean dumping, undersea mining, and oil and gas exploration and development. Traditional fishing activities would be permitted, but managed with the conservation of the ecosystem as the main goal.
NMCAs are established to represent a marine region and to demonstrate how protection and conservation practices can be harmonized with resource use in marine ecosystems. Their management requires the development of partnerships with regional stakeholders, coastal communities, Aboriginal peoples, provincial or territorial governments and other federal departments and agencies.
The NMCA Program is designed to:
National Marine Conservation Areas are established in a manner set out in the National Marine Conservation Areas Policy and guided by the national system plan, Sea to Sea to Sea. As Parks Canada's goal is to represent each of the 29 marine regions, establishment of new NMCAs is focused on the unrepresented regions.
The steps in the establishment of a new NMCA are as follows:
1. Identifying representative marine areas (candidate sites) takes into consideration:
2. Selecting a potential NMCA from the candidate sites identified involves looking at:
3. Assessing the feasibility of a NMCA requires the cooperation and support of:
Extensive local consultations are undertaken. Working groups or advisory bodies may be set up to develop and assess proposals. Proposals may also be considered within other appropriate planning processes.
4. Negotiating an agreement
If the feasibility study demonstrates support for the initiative, a federal/provincial or federal/territorial agreement will be negotiated to set out the terms and conditions under which the NMCA will be established and managed.
5. Establishment of a NMCA
NMCAs are established under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.
Currently, there are two operating sites within the NMCA program: Fathom Five National Marine Park in Georgian Bay, Ontario, and Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park in Quebec. The latter was established by special complementary federal and provincial legislation allowing for co-operative management with the Province of Quebec (Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act).