Thank you very much for the chance to be here today and the invitation. I work with the International Union for Conservation of Nature on one of the commissions, the World Commission on Protected Areas.
I think you all know about the IUCN, so I'll spare you a long introduction to it. I'll only say that it is a unique institution and it has government members and NGO members. Canada is a member, and DFO is a member, recently returned actually to the IUCN.
We welcome this bill to amend the Oceans Act and facilitate the creation of new marine protected areas in Canada. It's good news. We have a few recommendations to strengthen the act.
The first is to use an internationally accepted definition of MPAs, and put that in the act. The IUCN has spent a lot of time defining what a protected area is. It has a definition that has wide global currency, which defines a protected area as “a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.”
As I said, this definition is globally recognized. It was voted on, including by Canada. It applies equally on land or sea. The definition is equivalent to the one used in the Convention on Biological Diversity. Given the widespread currency of this definition and the fact that Canada has already agreed to it, our suggestion is to use this definition in the bill for MPAs.
There is other value in doing this. We report on our protected areas system through the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and we report to a system that is jointly managed by UNEP and IUCN, according to this definition. There's real value in doing that.
The second point is, after we have a definition of “protected areas”, we need a management purpose. I think this is lacking in the act. What are these places being managed for? Establishing a management purpose allows us to measure whether we're being successful in that management purpose.
Other organizations, including Parks Canada, including the United States' national park system for their land as well as marine parks, use the term “ecological integrity” as a management goal, so you know what you're managing for. It's an ecosystem-based approach. It's measurable, it's science based, and it's been shown to be applicable to a range of different ecosystems.
We could easily take the definition out of the Canada National Parks Act and adapt it to the Oceans Act as follows: “Ecological integrity means, with respect to a marine protected area, a condition that is determined to be characteristic of its marine region and likely to persist, including abiotic”—or non-living—“components and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes.”
If we have that as a management purpose, the additional suggestion is to add a clause—and this would be consistent with the Canada National Parks Act—to say that maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, should be the first and overriding priority of the minister when considering all aspects of the management of marine protected areas.
This just clarifies a “nature first” protection role for marine protected areas, as it does for other kinds of protected areas. It's unambiguous and clear.
The final point I wanted to make is that it's important to provide clarity on the permitted activities within marine protected areas, and I know you've been debating this since you started this committee, including this morning.
A point I'd like to make is that marine protected areas provide benchmarks. When we manage the oceans or the land, it's an experiment. We say, “If we do this management action, this is what the likely outcome will be.”
A basic scientific idea is that you need a benchmark for your experiment. Marine protected areas or protected areas on land provide a scientific benchmark so that we can understand the impacts of our management. It's part of a larger sustainable management system.
As well as playing this key role in fisheries management, MPAs conserve representative ecosystems and rare ecosystems. They can do a range of things. They protect fish nursery and there are countless other benefits. Just before the break, I know you were talking about the spillover effect. The spillover effect is real. It's true that it comes more from larger protected areas, but there is demonstrated spillover from smaller protected areas. On the east coast, if you look at the haddock box, which isn't yet a marine protected area but is another effective area-based conservation measure, the best place to do haddock fishing there is right outside the haddock box. The catches, because of the spillover effect, are phenomenal.
At the last World Conservation Congress, which is IUCN's meeting and where resolutions are passed, there was a resolution passed on industrial activities in protected areas. I'm going to read this resolution because I think it's relevant here, and suggest it could be included in the language. The IUCN resolution, also passed by both the government house and the NGO house, said:
Calls on governments to prohibit environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure development in all IUCN categories of protected area, and to take measures to ensure that all activities are compatible with the conservation objectives of these areas, through appropriate, transparent and rigorous pre-emptive appraisal processes, such as international best practice environmental and social impact assessments, strategic environmental assessments, and appropriate regulation....
This resolution applies to all categories of protected areas on land and sea. I'll note there are certain categories of marine protected areas that are open to locally based benefit fishing, but it prohibits large-scale industrial commercial fishing, seabed mining, and oil and gas extraction.
To conclude, in the current management systems that we employ we're trying to do sustainable development on the entire ocean, not only within protected areas. Protected areas are part of a sustainable management solution for the larger ocean. We've been generally failing to do sustainable development on our oceans. We've had declines in biological diversity and productivity in ocean ecosystems. Global fish catches have declined consistently since 1989. This downward trend is projected to continue.
In Canada, despite DFO having some great scientists, we know that 45% of Canada's fish stocks can't be determined because of lack of data. We know that only 24% of fish stocks are considered healthy. To move to an era of successful ocean management, we need to be brave in charting a new course, and well-managed protected areas are a bright beacon on that course.
Marine protected areas are globally recognized—there's no debate about this—as being key tools to protect important habitats and representative samples of marine life, and they can assist in restoring the productivity of the oceans to avoid further degradation. However, in order for them to work, they must be well managed, well designed, and well protected.
In closing, the IUCN-WCPA strongly asserts that MPAs are a necessary part of oceans management. Let's get this Oceans Act amendment right so MPAs can play a role in conserving Canada's ocean ecosystems and help support Canada's $6.6-billion fishing industry.