This blueprint will guide the implementation of the world’s largest Indigenous-led, collaboratively developed marine protected area network
VANCOUVER, Feb. 05, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — After years of work by First Nations, provincial, and federal governments, an action plan for a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Northern Shelf Bioregion has been adopted.
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WWF-Canada applauds progress on this Indigenous-led and collaboratively developed effort that will double coverage of MPAs in this 100,000-square-kilometre region, also known as the Great Bear Sea, to 30 per cent and guide the creation of what will become Canada’s first-ever planned MPA network.
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WWF-Canada looks forward to Canada’s swift implementation of priority sites by 2025 and formal designation of these areas as MPAs alongside robust protections and management plans.
The Northern Shelf Bioregion is a place where fin whales, humpbacks and orcas swim past deep fjords, rocky islands and glass sponge reefs; where sea birds forage in coastal estuaries, giant kelp beds and along rocky coastlines; and where wolves and the pale spirit bear roam the sea’s neighbouring namesake, the Great Bear Rainforest.
The proposed areas identified in the Northern Shelf Bioregion MPA Network Action Plan, when implemented with existing MPAs, will collectively conserve the region’s unique wildlife and diverse habitats, rebuild abundance and ecosystem resilience, and deliver positive outcomes for communities across the entire region.
While this is a big step forward, there is a lot of work to be done. The implementation of sites will require formalizing protection measures to limit incompatible activities. With declines in species and ecosystem health—and as the Great Bear Sea braces for increases in shipping and development as well as climate variability—protections are needed sooner rather than later.
WWF-Canada hopes to see a similar approach to the establishment of future protected areas and networks that prioritizes both Indigenous governance and stewardship along with systematic conservation planning.
Hussein Alidina, lead specialist for marine conservation at WWF-Canada, says:
“The Northern Shelf Bioregion MPA Network Action Plan will lead to the creation of Canada’s first systematically planned marine protected area network and is a groundbreaking model for collaborative governance. In a process that is being led and implemented with Indigenous nations, the action plan is an important step in advancing both marine conservation and Indigenous reconciliation. We now need to rapidly shift our attention to implementation of these marine protected areas and do what needs to be done to make them a reality.”
For more information on the Great Bear Sea MPA Network: https://wwf.ca/great-bear-sea/
About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada is committed to equitable and effective conservation actions that restore nature, reverse wildlife loss and fight climate change. We draw on scientific analysis and Indigenous guidance to ensure all our efforts connect to a single goal: a future where wildlife, nature and people thrive. For more information visit wwf.ca.