Scenic view of Lancaster Sound © Parks Canada / D. Yurick Walrus © Parks Canada / M. Cyr
For example, Lancaster Sound was selected to represent the region bearing the same name because of its highly productive and diverse Arctic marine ecosystem, including large numbers of narwhals, belugas, bowhead whales, ringed seals, harp seals and walruses. It is also home to the largest polar bear populations in the Canadian Arctic as well as vast seabird populations.
Canada’s coastal waters include parts of the surrounding Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic oceans and the Great Lakes. Parks Canada has divided these waters into 29 “marine regions”.
When it passed the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act in 2002, Parliament stated that it is in the national interest to establish a system of national marine conservation areas (NMCAs) that represent the diversity of these marine regions. Once established, these NMCAs will be part of a unique network, protecting the diversity of Canada’s marine ecosystems and fostering Canadians’ discovery and enjoyment of them.
To establish an NMCA a series of steps are undertaken to identify and select an area, followed by a feasibility assessment and consultations before recommending the NMCA be established.
In each marine region an analysis is undertaken to outline its characteristics and identify the most representative marine areas within it. The site that is selected for establishment as an NMCA from among these representative marine areas must optimally portray the marine region’s characteristics, such as coastal and marine habitats, geology, oceanography, biological diversity and maritime history, while also taking into consideration factors such as existing and potential marine uses, Aboriginal treaties and claims and the potential for visitor experience and enjoyment.
An assessment of the feasibility of establishing an NMCA in the selected area is carried out jointly with the provincial or territorial government involved, and with the participation of local Aboriginal communities or organizations. The feasibility assessment includes the gathering of information describing the proposed NMCA and an analysis to determine areas requiring the highest level of protection within its proposed boundaries. Ecologically sustainable use for the benefit of current and future generations is the objective for much of an NMCA. Consultations are undertaken at various stages to enable community representatives and other interests to work on developing a shared vision for the area with Parks Canada.
The NMCA system
* For a larger version of this map, click here
© Parks Canada / Wayne Roach
When the feasibility assessment and public consultations are completed, recommendations are provided to the Ministers concerned for a decision on whether to proceed to negotiation of an agreement to establish the NMCA. The final step in NMCA establishment includes the development of an interim management plan and then obtaining Parliament’s approval to legally designate the area under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.