Thank you, Chair, and my thanks to the committee for inviting me again to talk to this panel.
As I had presented in May, I wanted to take a slightly different angle today. I always enjoy showing a piece of data, because it gives us a grounding in which our discussion can be based.
I want you to look at the second slide of my presentation, “Human impacts on land and in the sea”. This is a map that was created last week, and this is the first time that, at a very fine spatial resolution of about 50 kilometres by 50 kilometres, we can map out all human impacts on the land and the sea. If you will, it's the environmental footprint that human activity has on land and sea.
I want you to notice two things. One is that, in the ocean, when you overlay our impacts—and this includes various impacts, from fishing to oil and gas to mining, and even to climate change and pollution—they tend to be much more evenly distributed than on land. On land, they tend to be more spatially concentrated in the areas where lots of people live. In the ocean, we have them more spread out, and that requires a different conservation strategy.
The second thing I want you to notice is that, in the ocean, there are very few places that have low impact, in contrast to land. In the ocean, most places have medium to high impacts, necessitating protecting the biological and socio-economic assets we have in the ocean against damage.
Although we have, for the first time, this unprecedented spatial detail that allows us to intelligently plan our use of the ocean, we have great uncertainty about what those impacts have been for those assets we're trying to protect. Because of that uncertainty, that is the very reason we need a global insurance policy to protect those assets. Just as we insure any other valuable assets we have, we need to do the same with the ocean.
Marine protected areas or other spatial management that effectively removes certain impacts from the ocean, or constrains them in sensitive areas, forms such an insurance policy. As you can see from the map on the next slide, Canada is still lagging behind in contributing to that insurance policy. Fortunately, we have made a commitment internationally to protecting 10% by 2020, and so to catch up with the rest of the world.
If you will allow me to bring this analogy of an insurance policy a little further, you may want to consider the next slide, where I list the key traits of an effective and reputable insurance policy like one you would personally choose for your home or car. This policy would be timely. It would allow you to insure your car as soon as you buy it. It would, of course, be cost-effective, as you are trying to minimize cost. You are trying to have it be comprehensive, so that all possible damages, such as liability for injuring others or damage to your car are covered.
You will want to have a well-managed and reputable company, staffed and funded to do the job of insuring your assets. You want it to be transparent and to have clear standards. You want to know exactly what you are signing.
Also, the very reason we sign an insurance policy is so that it accounts for the inherent uncertainty we all encounter in living our lives. Whether or not your house will burn down is very uncertain—it's actually extremely unlikely—yet we buy house insurance to prepare for that uncertain case.
What makes Bill C-55 effective, or what would make it even more effective? Building on this analogy, I think it allows the MPA process to be timely. Therefore, as soon as we find out that an area has large biological value, and/or that biological value or that asset is unduly threatened or harmed by various activities, we can take steps to protect it. That's a very important feature.
What's the most cost-effective approach of pursuing marine conservation? It's to protect large areas of biological value. In terms of economies of scale, it's more cost-effective to protect larger areas than smaller areas, and the 10% target allows just that.
It has to be comprehensive. Drs. Ban and Devillers brought up that a network or ecosystem approach to planning, not a piecemeal protective approach, would be very advantageous to having a comprehensive plan. This currently is not explicitly stated in the Oceans Act.
We talked about properly resourcing these to make it well managed. That's clearly something that still has to be improved, but what Bill C-55 offers is that it makes the whole affair more transparent by establishing clear ground rules and processes for establishing MPAs. However, we're still, as the other speakers have pointed out, missing minimum standards that we would demand from any insurance policy that we personally purchase. Finally, there is accounting for uncertainty, again the very reason we are doing this, and I was extremely happy to see the precautionary approach implemented in Bill C-55.
Generally, I think this is a big step forward. In conclusion, it takes overdue steps towards greater efficiency, transparency, and clarity in the MPA process. I want to point out this is something that everybody who's involved in this process was asking for, including resource users who, of course, need planning security to know what an MPA actually is and is not. To this end, I think that comprehensive minimum standards are needed so that there's no question what an MPA actually stands for, at a minimum, whereas that's currently not well defined in the Oceans Act.
I really want to talk about the ecosystem approach, which generally should underpin ocean management and which is not explicitly mentioned in Bill C-55, or in marine protected area management. Just to give you a quick example, here at the Ocean Frontier Institute at Dalhousie, we're working on a project to future-proof marine protected areas by accounting for climate change and how climate change may affect our protected area networks and the assets that we're trying to ensure. When those assets move or change in response to climate change, some of which is foreseeable, some of which is uncertain, we need to have both the legal and the scientific...and the planning tools to account for now. This is something we currently don't have, and to have such an ecosystem approach, I think, is sorely needed and it should be mentioned in the Oceans Act.
Then, finally, I think what we're also lacking is the commendable effort to protect 10% of Canada's waters as marine protected areas. It needs to be better integrated with other tools for ocean planning, fisheries management tools, and other ocean planning tools that are specified in the Oceans Act, the Fisheries Act, and other relevant acts. That comprehensive or integrated marine spatial planning is currently not happening nearly to the extent it could. We still have a siloed approach to marine conservation and marine planning, and I think as we're considering the ocean as a whole and we're trying to protect assets against a variety of threats or potential compromises or problems, this integrated marine spatial planning approach is needed and should be specified in the Oceans Act.
With that, I thank the committee again for including me in today's panel and I'm looking forward to your questions and discussion.