4.0 Public Understanding, Appreciation, and Enjoyment of National Marine Conservation Areas

Parks Canada has an important leadership role in marine environmental education. Its interpretation and public education programs are intended to promote the development of an environmental consciousness in all Canadians and a willingness to take personal and collective action to better protect and maintain the marine environment.

Through interpretation programs, Parks Canada challenges visitors to develop a better understanding and appreciation of the area's marine heritage and the issues affecting it and the surrounding region. Through public education programs, and in cooperation with others, Parks Canada hopes to foster a stronger environmental ethic among all Canadians and to broaden support for marine conservation, including the establishment of marine conservation areas and other marine protected areas. These programs will also promote the wise use and stewardship of marine resources by local people and visitors.

Only recreational activities that are compatible with the long-term protection of the marine conservation area and that allow visitors to enjoy the marine environment for what it is and on its own terms will be encouraged. Visitors will be encouraged to develop the knowledge, skills and camaraderie required to visit marine conservation areas safely with minimal disturbance to the environment and to develop an appreciation and respect for local traditions and ways of life.

In responding to visitor needs for services, facilities and access to marine conservation areas, Parks Canada must act with care and imagination. Their provision will depend on the sensitivity of a particular environment to human impact. Marine conservation areas offer rare and outstanding opportunities to experience and learn about Canada's marine heritage. They cannot, however, accommodate every kind of service and facility requested by the public. The difficulties of access and movement within marine areas make it essential that services and facilities be designed to allow for safe contact with the water.

4.1 Management of Visitor Activities

The Visitor Activity Management Process will be used to match visitor interests with specific educational and outdoor recreation opportunities determined for each marine conservation area through the management plan.

Parks Canada will encourage those outdoor recreational uses of a marine conservation area that broaden visitor understanding and appreciation of the natural environment, and that cause minimal disturbance to the environment, wildlife and local life styles.

In providing opportunities for outdoor recreation, Parks Canada will take into account the different needs of visitors depending on their age, physical capabilities and levels of skill and knowledge to function safely in the marine environment.

Parks Canada will encourage the private sector and non-governmental organizations to provide skills and knowledge development programs to increase visitor understanding and enjoyment of the marine conservation areas.

As new or modified forms of outdoor recreation emerge, each will be assessed for its appropriateness nationally before consideration in the management planning process. Individual management plans will then specify the types and ranges of both new and existing appropriate outdoor recreation activities and their supporting facilities. Parks Canada will also review its national directives periodically to ensure that new forms of outdoor recreation are adequately considered.

An integrated visitor activities data base will be developed and kept up to date for each national marine conservation area to provide, along with research, monitoring and evaluation, the visitor information required for management decisions and state of the parks reporting to Parliament. The information gained will be used to add to or improve existing opportunities, and in the development and review of management plans, service plans, and visitor risk management programs. Both activity data and infrastructure and environment data will be incorporated into risk assessments. Risk control measures will consider the experience needs of the visitor and promote visitor self-reliance accordingly.

Parks Canada will use a variety of direct and indirect strategies for managing public use. Examples of direct strategies include zoning, rationing use intensity, restricting activities, and law enforcement. Examples of indirect strategies include facility design, information dispersal, and cost-recovery mechanisms.

Provisions for public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the cultural resources located in national marine conservation areas, and associated activities, services and facilities, will be made in accordance with the Cultural Resource Management Policy.

4.2 Interpretation and Public Education

Parks Canada will cooperate with others in developing marine conservation area interpretation and public education programs that will provide visitors and all Canadians with accurate information of the area's marine ecosystems, key environmental issues and the various programs that have been implemented for the protection and wise use of these ecosystems.

Visitors will be informed of activities permitted in the conservation area, and the services and facilities available to them in the area and surrounding region. In particular, visitors will be made aware of the dependence of local people on the area's marine resources, and will be asked to respect their values and traditions during their visit.

Various marine conservation interpretation programs will be made available to visitors, including those with disabilities, in a manner which causes little or no disturbance to the natural environment.

Parks Canada will cooperate with schools, universities and other learning institutions in developing public education programs, and to encourage the use of marine conservation areas as centres for environmental education and research.

4.3 Visitor Services and Facilities

Parks Canada will only provide facilities and services in marine conservation areas that are deemed essential for interpretation, public education and recreational activities in the approved management plan.

In developing facilities within a marine conservation area, impacts on the area's resources and established uses such as fishing will be minimized, and due attention will be given to visitor risk management.

The establishment of artificial reefs to attract marine organisms for display purposes, the intentional sinking of vessels or other man-made objects for recreational diving, and similar facilities will not be permitted in marine conservation areas.

Parks Canada will encourage visitors to become familiar with the skills, knowledge and equipment they should have in order to safely undertake outdoor activities in the marine conservation area.

Parks Canada will coordinate accident prevention and search and rescue services in and around marine conservation areas with the Canadian Coast Guard and other agencies involved in public safety.

Parks Canada will work with the tourism sector to fulfill public needs for a broad range of services and facilities adjacent to the marine conservation areas, and will locate its own administrative facilities accordingly.

Private and voluntary organizations, such as cooperating associations, will be encouraged to plan, develop and operate essential visitor services and facilities within a marine conservation area.

4.4 Tenure

No lands or foreshore areas within a marine conservation area will be made available for private cottages, camps, seasonal camping areas, or for any exclusive recreational use by individuals or organizations. In areas where settlement has already occupied shorelines in locations contemplated for a national marine conservation area, the boundary may include such shorelines since they are often important biological areas. In such cases, a shoreline zoning classification system will be developed to regulate nearshore developments.

Limited tenure may be granted on marine conservation area lands and waters in the form of permits, leases, or licences of occupation for the provision of essential services and facilities for visitors.

Upon the expiry of a lease, licence, or permit of occupation (when not already provided in an existing agreement), a replacement instrument may be negotiated if the purpose is supported by the conservation area management plan; if the holder has complied with the terms and conditions of the expiring agreement; and if the granting of a replacement agreement is consistent with federal government policy on fair access.