Positions On Issues

Marine Protected Areas and Marine Conservation Areas

The BC Seafood Alliance agrees in principle with the formation of both Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) and Marine Conservation Areas (MCA’s). They can be part of an overall strategy to conserve marine ecosystems and can include, within their borders, sustainable seafood harvesting and farming opportunities. We are concerned, however, about the apparent lack of balance in considering the needs of the seafood business in planning the policies, legislation, and programs to manage the marine environment..

This document outlines recommendations of the B.C. Seafood Alliance with respect to MPA’s and MCA’s.

1. The strategies for developing Marine Protected Areas should explicitly recognize the importance of the objective of promoting and enhancing seafood production through strategic use of MPA’s.

The Seafood Alliance is fully prepared to work with both the federal and provincial governments to ensure that the objectives of MPA’s and MCA’s are met while still providing for a strong environmentally sustainable commercial seafood harvesting and farming industry. There is no an organization who’s membership has collectively spent more time on and under the Pacific Coast waters of British Columbia than the BC Seafood Alliance.

We believe that Marine Protected Areas are not only part of an overall strategy to conserve marine ecosystems, but that they should also be used as part of a strategy to promote sustainable seafood harvesting and farming opportunities. Unfortunately, this does not seem to have been recognized by governments as the Pacific coast MPA strategy documentation does not recognize the economic importance of the seafood industry in Canada and the potential for MPA’s to make a positive contribution to the industry.

2. Marine Protected Areas and Marine Conservation Areas are not necessarily "no take" or "no production" zones.

The fundamental objectives for MPA’s as outlined by government are the objectives for good fisheries management. Given the general application of the MPA strategy vision and objectives, it may be more productive to identify the entire west coast of B.C. as a Marine Protected Area. This would be followed by identifying, classifying and designating zones within the coast-wide MPA. This is more in line with the approach used for the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where the MPA covers an enormous area, but there are differing designations throughout the range of the MPA which still allow 95% of the area to be accessible to commercial fishing of some form or other.

We would like to see governments ensure the public understands that MPA’s and MCA’s are not necessarily going to be "no take" and "no production" zones ­ a wide variety of objectives and thus a wide variety of zoning designations is preferable (for example if bio-diversity is an objective for a particular area, and that area has a growing sea urchin population which is taking over, it may be prudent to harvest urchins from the area). We must develop reasons and scientifically defensible criteria for any and all levels of "no take zones" in the marine environment which are over and above the regular management measures taken by DFO.

3. The seafood industry must be compensated for any exclusion from licensed harvesting or tenured seafood production resulting from "no take" zones.

When Parks Canada creates a terrestrial park, there is no question that any private owners or crown tenure holders on the land are compensated, either a fee simple purchase of land or buying out the value associated with tenures such as trapping or timber tenures. Just because marine resources are considered common property (as are trees on crown land), does not mean that those who have licences to harvest or tenures to utilize marine areas do not experience an economic loss and are not entitled to compensation for that loss.

The seafood industry should be compensated for any exclusion from licensed harvesting or tenured seafood production resulting from "no take" zones. A requirement for compensating for losses is not formally addressed anywhere in the legislation or policies for MPA’s or MCA’s. This would be unthinkable in a terrestrial environment ­ why has it not been considered in the marine environment where the licensed authority to harvest or utilize "crown resources" is no different from timber harvest rights on crown land?

4. The stewardship and sustainable management of the marine environment in Canada should be the responsibility of one agency.

There is a great deal of confusion about the various responsibilities of various agencies and their planning processes for the marine environment. There is an enormous amount of overlap and duplication of effort in this area with a corresponding waste of tax payers dollars.

Under the Oceans Act, DFO has announced a number of pilot MPA sites and public consultation on each one of these areas. DFO also has public information out about Integrated Coastal Zone Management. Theoretically, the Oceans Act sets the framework for an all inclusive ecosystem approach to the management of Canada’s oceans and oceans resources. We do not see this happening.

Parks Canada has proposals and plans for Marine Conservation Areas. They have identified four locations in the Central Coast, a large area surrounding South Moresby Island, a large area off Pacific Rim National Park, and a large area in the Southern Gulf Islands as potential Marine Conservation Areas. The proposed legislation requires Management Advisory Committees in each Marine Conservation Area to advise the Minister on the development and implementation of management plans for the area, while the policy allows fishing to be managed by DFO or where appropriate, by provincial authorities.

Environment Canada is in charge of implementing the new Species At Risk Act that will potentially manage and set aside "residences" of threatened or endangered species. This legislation, which is largely thought of and written around terrestrial species, applies to species in the marine environment. Recovery plans could very well include management measures and zoning similar to MPA’s and MCA’s. This is being done despite the fact that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has the authority and the expertise to manage marine species at risk.

The provincial Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management is developing coastal zone plans (click here for more info).

The provincial government also has a network of areas that they call MPA’s - marine parks, marine heritage sites, and marine ecological reserves.

Industry and public stakeholders are confused and do not have the time or money to participate in all of the consultation processes on all of the initiatives. The federal government needs to put one federal agency in charge of the stewardship and sustainable management of the marine environment in Canada ­ that agency should be the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Using words like cooperation and coordination is not good enough because despite these good words, each agency continues to set its own agenda, process, priorities, and activities.


British Columbia has the opportunity to be a world leader in sustainable marine resource management and seafood production at the same time.

We are concerned, however, about the apparent lack of balance in considering the needs of the seafood business in the policies, legislation, programs, and processes around the plethora of initiatives to plan and manage the marine environment.

Fundamentally, the participants in the seafood business in B.C., from the harvester and farmer, to the processors and marketers, need:

an environmentally sustainable and stable access to marine resources;
assurance that if valuable licensed or tenured resource access is expropriated, compensation will be provided; and 
a simple and cost effective method of having a real say in the management of marine resources.