Everybody this morning is joining us via video conference.
First, we have Dr. Isabelle Côté, professor of marine ecology, Simon Fraser University, from Burnaby, British Columbia. Second, we have Dr. Callum Roberts, professor of marine conservation, environment department, University of York, from the United Kingdom. Finally, third, and certainly not a stranger to this committee in terms of both his appearance and his work, is Dr. Boris Worm, professor of biology, Dalhousie University. He's currently in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Thank you for joining us this morning, everybody.
Dr. Worm, I'm going to leave you for last, because I understand you have a PowerPoint presentation for us.
We're having a hard time hearing Dr. Roberts, so we will start with Dr. Côté.
Normally this is how we do it. We start off with your statement. It can be 10 minutes, or less if you so desire, but we run up to about 10 minutes.
I'll just begin by thanking the committee for allowing me to contribute to the study of the Oceans Act's marine protected areas.
I'd like to give you just a little bit of background to explain my expertise in this area. Over the past three decades I've written more than 160 scientific papers on marine-related issues. My group pioneered the use of meta-analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation intervention.
Meta-analysis is a mathematical way to combine the results of many separate studies. Several of my papers have focused on using this method to measure the effectiveness of marine protected areas, particularly their effectiveness at rebuilding fish populations and understanding the characteristics of both MPAs and the fish themselves that lead to positive outcomes for protection.
I've acted as an expert for Parks Canada's science advisory group for the designation and zoning of Gwaii Haanas, an MCA in B.C. I was part of the Royal Society of Canada's panel on sustaining Canada's marine biodiversity. I have also served, since 2010, as an academic representative on the Bowie Seamount MPA advisory committee.
Today I would like to make three points about marine protected areas in general, which are relevant to our MPAs in Canada.
My first point is that we already know what it takes to make an MPA successful. There have been dozens upon dozens of studies to date that have compared the numbers, sizes, and diversity of fish and invertebrate species in and out of marine protected areas. Very few of these studies, you should note, have been conducted in Canada, largely because we don't have enough meaningful MPAs to do these kinds of studies.
The lessons we've learned from other countries, whether they're temperate or tropical, apply to our waters as well. When you bring all the results of these studies together in meta-analyses, they point to five characteristics of MPAs that are necessary to rebuild depleted populations. These five features have come to be known under the acronym NEOLI. “N” stands for no take; “E” for effectively enforced; “O” for old, meaning they're older than 10 years old; “L” for large, meaning that they're larger than 100 square kilometres; and “I” stands for isolated, usually by deep water or by sand.
The more of these features an MPA has, the more effective it is. MPAs with just one or two of these features have a biomass of fish that is not distinguishable from the biomass in unprotected areas. The benefits of protection start being seen in MPAs that have three of the features. In those MPAs there is about 30% more biomass than in unprotected sites, and the benefits increase greatly in MPAs that have four or five of these features. In MPAs that have five features, you see a whopping 244% more fish biomass than at unprotected sites.
These are figures across all species. If you focused only on the very large fish species, which are the species that are targeted by fishing, then the results are even more staggering, with upwards of 800% more biomass inside MPAs.
The five features all contribute to the success of MPAs, so we can't just create, for example, very large MPAs and then expect them to perform if they don't have the other characteristics as well.
My second point is that strict protection is crucial. This is the “N” in NEOLI. Many studies have compared the effectiveness of marine protected areas that are completely closed to all forms of exploitation or extraction with the effectiveness of MPAs that are only partially protected, meaning that they do allow some extraction or some exploitation within their boundaries. Again and again, the compilations of these studies in meta-analyses show that partially protected MPAs are far less effective at meeting conservation objectives than fully protected MPAs.
A recent paper by Sciberras and colleagues in 2013, for example, found that across more than 50 MPAs around the world, fish biomass was about 50% higher in partially protected areas than in unprotected areas, which is pretty good, but it was 90% higher in no-take areas compared with partially protected areas.
Partial protection is actually what we provide right now in most of the 10 Oceans Act MPAs we currently have. Five of our Oceans Act MPAs have no areas within them that are designated as no-take areas. The other five have some no-take areas that vary from 3% to 100%, but large proportions of some of these are open to exploitation.
My third point is related to this proportion of area that we need to protect. It's a clarification, really, on how much of the ocean we need to close. There are several reports and peer-reviewed papers that have specifically examined how much of the sea should be closed to fishing to meet a variety of goals, including protecting biodiversity, but also preserving ecosystem services such as fisheries yields, as well as achieving various socio-economic priorities. Interestingly, these reports and papers all point to around 30% of an area that needs to be closed.
Now, there are two things that really alarm me about this evidence.
The first is that our national goal of protecting 10% of our marine and coastal areas doesn't even come close to 30%. I know that 10% is a minimum target, but given that we now stand at 1% and that we only have about three years to reach our goal, I cannot imagine that we're going to go much beyond 10%.
The second thing that alarms me is that the results of these studies are actually very often misinterpreted as meaning that one third of the area of MPAs or of networks of MPAs should be designated no take. Just yesterday, for example, I reviewed a paper for DFO on design strategies for the northern shelf bioregional MPA network, and there it was—a recommendation that 30% of the MPA network should be in no-take reserves.
This interpretation is incorrect. The targets for strict protection documented in most of these studies do not apply to individual MPAs, and they don't apply to networks of MPAs. They apply to the whole ocean, or to the whole fishing grounds, or to the whole ecosystem that were targets of these studies.
This is critically important, because if Canada reaches its target of 10% of oceans under protection by 2020 and we implement this common misunderstanding, it means that a mere 3% of our waters are going to be strictly protected. I seriously question how effective that's going to be to sustain our marine biodiversity into the future, so I have two key recommendations that are really simple.
First, let's aim far higher than the 10% that we've set for ourselves. All the evidence right now tells us that 10% is simply not enough.
Second, let's not be shy about implementing no-take areas. They are really what works best when it comes to MPAs. I believe that it's time for everyone to start seeing no-take marine areas not as fortresses that keep fish and other harvestable species locked up and away from fishermen, but as fish banks with very high interest rates. In fact, these no-take MPAs are leaky fish banks, because the accumulated interest in the form of harvestable biomass spills out and enhances fisheries, if given enough time.
Now, I know that MPAs are not a silver bullet. They're definitely not the only tool in our tool box for managing the oceans, but they are a very effective tool that we're not using effectively at all right now.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much for the invitation to speak to you. I appreciate that, following Isabelle Côté's presentation, there's a lot that I don't need to say now, which is always convenient.
I know that in previous evidence you have heard some fairly glowing remarks about the English marine protected area network and how we've gone ahead and protected more than 20% of our seas in about six years or so. I think this is from Linda Nowlan, who is from the West Coast Environmental Law Association.
Let me just put a slightly different complexion on the experience of England so far. I might title this, “How not to build a national network of marine protected areas”. I have to say, I have skin in this game, in that I was part of a science advisory group that was helping to oversee the process. I also provided advice on design criteria.
To start at the beginning, we created a marine act and passed that in 2009, enabling us to create a national network of marine protected areas; so far, so good. Then the government's agencies, the U.K. equivalent of DFO put together a “cookbook” on how to establish or design a network of marine protected areas. The advice was based on very good science, and if you follow the recipe in this cookbook, then you're going to come up with a network that covers the right habitats to the right degree, and puts them in big enough marine protected areas, close enough that they are well connected.
Then, taking good advice that stakeholders should be a key part of the process of establishing protected areas, the government set up four stakeholder bodies with broad participation, and asked them to meet a number of times over two years to design a network according to these criteria.
The first big mistake was to leave fish out of MPAs. These MPAs then suddenly became focused on seabed habitats only. The argument was—and this was from the fishing organizations—that because fish move around and things in the water column move around, they can't be protected using MPAs. This flies in the face of all of the evidence that Isabelle has already talked to you about and that I'm sure previous speakers have talked to you about, but this was the process that we had then.
The next thing that really was a departure from common sense was to ignore historical evidence of change in ecosystems around the U.K. We took the present situation and asked, “What's it like now?” and set our conservation objectives on the basis of what things were like at that moment. One of the paradoxes of this is that if you like the look of what you have now, then you'll be fine protecting it from essentially nothing, because existing activities are obviously compatible with nature conservation.
For 90% of the different habitats that were identified and made part of this process, the conservation objective set was to maintain the habitat in the present condition; only 10% of the habitats were restored. This ignored historical evidence that showed that many fish species had declined by greater than 95% in abundance over the last hundred years or so, and that much of the seabed habitat of complex invertebrate structures had been swept away by bottom trawls and dredges. That was another big mistake.
Once the stakeholder groups gave their advice, that advice was checked by the science advisory panel and was found to be good. The designs that they came up with would achieve almost all of the objectives and criteria. That was then passed on to the minister.
If you want to build on a process of trust and goodwill, you don't then ignore what your stakeholders say and consult on only a minority of the protected areas that were being recommended. As soon as you do that, you no longer have a network of protected areas, so it begs the question why you went to such elaborate lengths to put together these design criteria, if in the end all you were going to do was cherry-pick a few sites.
The other thing the minister did—and this was post hoc—was to say, “Although we said we want you to work on best available evidence, now we want best evidence.” Again, there is a strong suspicion that this was because of pressure from the fishing industry coming after the process and saying, “Sorry, we're not going to go with this, and we want you to whittle down the number of protected areas that are going to be established.”
Another problem, another flaw, is that instead of settling on a number of simple marine protected area types that have a particular type of protection—for example, completely no take in one type, and exclusion of mobile fishing gear like bottom trawls and dredges in another type—the government, in its wisdom, decided that it would set management objectives habitat by habitat. Let's say you have a marine protected area with 10 different habitats. That means you have to have 10 different kinds of management going on in the protected area, which swiftly makes it completely impossible to implement as a practical approach.
Another thing that happened at this stage was that 65 no-take zones were dropped from the plan, all of them. There is not a single proposed no-take marine protected area left in the U.K. national plan at the moment, so we are in a position of having probably the world's most elaborate network of paper parks at the moment. Since the establishment of these protected areas—and I'm putting “protected areas” in inverted commas—no new management has been applied to any of them.
Although it looks good on paper—there are now 50 marine protected areas around England, for example, with 30 around Scotland—the English ones are not worth anything. They're completely paper parks. The Scottish ones go a bit further towards genuine protection. There is a significant area of those that is protected from mobile fishing gear, but again very little of that is actually no take, which is the gold standard of protection and which science says will deliver the highest level of benefits.
We have many pitfalls, and I think negative role models are a good thing for people to learn from, as are positive role models.
I'd just like to make one final comment on the coverage of marine protected areas. I authored a study, probably one of the ones Isabelle was referring to, on how much of the sea you need to protect. All of her comments are absolutely right. Ten per cent is an unashamedly political target for the establishment of MPAs. It's more than nothing, and it's not so bold that it's unlikely ever to be achieved, but it is a political target.
If you want to actually ramp up towards having a real, genuine, biological benefit that is going to be fish in the bank, for example, that will sustain fisheries, and that will provide resilience against global change, you need much more than that. I would say that the studies are showing that we need in excess of 30%, so a target of 30% by 2020 is now being promoted by environmental organizations. I'm fully behind that. Ten per cent by 2020 is a waypoint, on the way towards effective ocean governance and protection. We really need to be moving in the direction of 30%, and even potentially higher than that. But we need to do it in an adaptive way as we're going beyond these higher values.
That's fully justified, and what is remarkable is that we ever considered that we could do very much at all with 10%. It's really at the level of tokenism at that sort of protective stage. We need to get beyond that to make ocean management effective.
Thanks again for inviting me. It's a pleasure to talk to you again, in this case about protected areas.
The title slide shows two bottlenose whales, which are the species that are protected by the east coast's first sizable MPA, the Gully MPA, which is 14 years old now, and which has actually been successful in achieving its objectives. We have a positive precedent on this coast, and I think we can build on this.
The next slide shows the latest data on global coverage of protected areas worldwide. In red is the total coverage, all protected areas of any kind in the ocean. In blue are the strongly protected areas, those that fulfill the gold standard that Callum Roberts mentioned. What you can see is that the growth rate of protected areas has been pretty steady at 8% per year since 1960, which is a very healthy growth rate if you consider a current stock portfolio. For example, strongly protected areas, since 2000, have been increasing at 20% per year. For this reason, protected areas have become a major target for impact investment from big foundations and governments because they are growing at a very rapid rate, much like renewable energies.
Why are protected areas growing so rapidly? It's because an increasing number of governments realize that they're not just good tools for protecting biodiversity. They're also tools for recovering and safeguarding fisheries that have been compromised in the past. Of course, this has happened in Canada as well. We did a study with a large interdisciplinary panel of fisheries experts from around the world. I think it is today still the most comprehensive study on how to bring fisheries back from the brink. It's called “Rebuilding Global Fisheries”, published in Science a few years ago. What we showed there was that closed and protected areas were the second most important tool after dealing with different fishing gears, like the trawls and dredges that Callum Roberts mentioned. Those areas were the second most important tool, not for protecting whales, dolphins, and seabirds, but for bringing fisheries back. As such, they have worked. These are case studies we have compiled from around the world where fisheries actually have started to recover, because of, among other things, closed areas, which are part of the tool box, but they're a key part of the tool box, in fact, the second most important part of the tool box globally speaking.
Protected areas in Canada have also yielded some surprises. Apart from protecting endangered species and helping out fisheries, we see that protected areas are a key tool for enhancing tourism. In this slide, we can see kayakers in the Musquash protected area in New Brunswick; divers in Race Rocks, B.C.; bottlenose whales, which are doing fairly well, in the Gully protected area, which is 14 years old; and we see a typical sight in the past two years of cruise ships in Halifax harbour. The reason for that is that ocean tourism is one of the most rapid growth sectors in tourism, and of any industry worldwide, in fact. All of these cruise ships were not there 10 years ago. One reason they're coming to our area now is that they pass through the Gully MPA, which nobody, as it was protected, ever thought would become a tourism destination. It has become a major whale-watching hotspot for those cruise ships, among other attractions.
There is one important point I would like to make that the previous speakers have not made. The recent study just out last month in Nature showed there is something very important that MPAs need to have on top of good protection and the other criteria that were mentioned—like they're large and they're protected for some time—and that is that they're appropriately staffed and funded. In fact, staffing was the most important predictor worldwide in this study of increases in fish biomass in the reserves and of other desirable socio-economic outcomes.
This is a cautionary note, I think, to the Canadian process. As we're ramping up protected areas to that interim target of 10% by 2020, we have to make sure those areas are managed, staffed, and funded in the future; otherwise, they will not provide the full benefits they could provide. I think this is a very important result out in the scientific literature just this past month.
The other aspect that we're missing in Canada—and this point was made by the previous speaker—is that the areas need to be strongly protected, and Canada lags woefully behind other G20 nations in strongly protecting the areas that we do protect. The reason for that is that the Canadian process is very fair and inclusive, and I will say, somewhat lengthy. I understand that there's a need for that, and particularly aboriginal and fishing groups have been extremely extensively consulted, more than I'm aware of in the U.S., in the U.K., and other nations like us. This has slowed the process down, but it has also made the process very inclusive and comprehensive.
I think that the process being so inclusive is a good thing. Unfortunately, it has resulted in strong protections, like in the U.K., falling a little bit behind, and that goal of strongly protecting the areas that we do protect has not yet been fulfilled. We need to pay more attention to that while talking to these interest groups.
I will make a final point that Canadians as a whole, as a population—apart from special interest groups that harvest from the ocean—very strongly support increased ocean protection. We actually measured this scientifically. There is a paper in preparation to be published later this year where we surveyed young people in schools and adults in Nova Scotia in 2013. People thought that a lot more of the ocean was already protected, and that is not the case. For youth, it peaked at about 11% to 25% and, for adults, it peaked at 2% to 10%.
When they are asked how much they would like to see eventually protected, the numbers are much higher, and they're at or in excess of the 30% target that Callum and Isabelle have mentioned. This says that people intuitively wish for a level of protection that actually matches what scientists around the world are recommending. This is the Canadian public that was polled here, and I feel quite strongly that the Canadian public has not had a proper say in this process. It has been very much about interest groups, which are important. They need to be heard, and they have talked to this committee repeatedly, but I think there are also 35 million other Canadians who have a voice and who very evidently care about increased ocean protection.
In order to draw these people in and give them the tools to have a voice and an informed opinion about how much of the ocean is already protected and how much should be protected based on scientific evidence, I will make the point that ocean education is something that is very important. I'm happy to report that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is funding a program that Dalhousie University and the National Film Board are running called “Ocean School”, where we're bringing ocean education into schools across Canada and other countries.
We tested this recently in France, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Manitoba with great success, giving students immersive experiences and the tools and data they need to make informed decisions about the oceans. I think this is something we haven't done enough of in this country and around the world. We've committed to doing it under the Galway agreement, and we're providing the tools to do this.
Let me wrap up with conclusions. There are four points I would like to make. First, marine protected areas are a key tool of modern marine governance. They are used around the world. Canada has lagged behind. We're catching up now on a tight timeline, but we need more strongly protected MPAs to realize the full benefits.
Second, as I said, strong protection also entails proper staffing and funding once the MPAs are in place.
Third, the process here is extremely thorough. It's well executed. I hope it can be sped up enough to meet the Aichi target that the previous Conservative government agreed to reach, and that's now being implemented.
Finally, there's this point that I see through polling but I also see through talking to Canadians every day in various fora, which is that a large majority in the country strongly supports increased ocean protections for the benefits that have been mentioned and that have been so thoroughly documented elsewhere and in Canada.
Thank you very much.
Now we go to the questions and answers. Just as a reminder to our witnesses, if you wish to get in on the conversation or you want to put in your opinion, or you have a question, just raise your hand and hopefully the person asking the question will notice you and we'd be able to refer to you at that point.
As a reminder to my colleagues here, please, when you're asking your question, say the name of the person you are addressing. It makes it a lot easier for them, especially since they're joining us by video conference.
The final thing is, if we lose you in the midst of all this, if your video disappears, we will call you and we'll patch you back in that way. That's just in case. We had a couple of glitches there from Dr. Côté, but if we lose you, Dr. Côté, we'll call you back.
To begin the questions, we'll have Ms. Jordan for seven minutes, please.
I think the Fundy example is a glowing one. I can send some of the related papers and documentation to the committee. It was very science-based. It was science actually done at Dalhousie University by Professor Chris Taggart and his associates, documenting very carefully the seasonal and spacial distribution of endangered right whales, of which there were only 300 left, which were also protected under the Species at Risk Act. They worked with the shipping industry to help reroute shipping lanes in a way that would avoid the particular habitat for the right whale.
As you possibly know, the right whales are now relocating, possibly due to the impact of the changing climate, to the gulf region. They are much more commonly seen now in the gulf region. There have been ships striking them as well. Shipping in that region would have to be addressed once we know exactly where the new critical habitat for the right whales is in that region. It can be done. As I mentioned earlier, all ships have automatic identification systems by which we can track their movements second by second in real time across the regions.
This is also something that is easily enforceable and it does not require heavy-handed regulation, necessarily. Roseway Basin is another right whale hot spot off the coast of southwestern Nova Scotia. Dr. Taggart actually worked with the International Maritime Organization and the shipping industry on a voluntary basis so that they reroute their ships around their critical habitat, which again came at a minimal cost. They all did. It worked on a voluntary basis. It actually didn't take regulation in this case.
Again, on a case-by-case basis it can be worked out. It requires data and it requires a commitment from all stakeholders.
One thing you have to do is to look at the historical context of fishing. Where people have fished for long periods of time, what tends to happen is that we remove the large-bodied animals. We deplete those populations. We start moving on to less desirable species, and then those species get depleted and we move to others. Progressively, we ramp up fishing technology to become more efficient, which also means it is more invasive and destructive.
One problem we see is the supplanting of, let's say, hook-and-line and net fisheries for species like cod, with bottom trawls. The bottom trawls are then supplanted by bottom trawls for prawns, which have finer-mesh nets. Those also are used alongside scallop dredges of seabed habitat. Progressively, what we see is a reduction in abundance, diversity, habitat complexity, integrity, and viability. We've seen that happen over very large areas of the sea around northern Europe, eastern Canada, and eastern U.S.A, for example. It's a progressive process.
We have to start thinking about how we rebuild populations to levels that are much more productive, where habitats are able to recover, where long-lived species are able to rebuild their populations, and where big fish can survive for long enough that they become highly successful reproductively and are the engines of reproduction within a population. We need to provide space for ecosystems to achieve that level of complexity, integrity, high biomass, and high diversity once again.
If you want the cod back in eastern Canada, you need to get the prawn trawls out of large areas of the fishing grounds there, because they're catching juvenile cod. They're not going to be surviving up to reproductively active ages. We see this in the Irish Sea in the U.K. The cod population was hammered, and then we replaced that fishery with fisheries for prawns and scallops. As long as that fine-mesh netting is going on, there is no prospect of recovery of the biggest species that have been lost as a consequence.
If we want those back, we need spatial management. There need to be areas that are off-limits to mobile fishing gear. There need to be areas that are zoned for prawn trawling, which are going to be exploited in that way. We need scallop-dredging zones, but we need no-take zones too. It's part of the portfolio of management to achieve a broad mix of outcomes for the marine environment.
Apart from anything else, we need to rev up the engine of ocean ecological processes once again, because they underpin the habitability, not only of the sea but of the planet as a whole. The oceans occupy most of the living space on the planet, which means that what goes on in them is profoundly important to all of us. If we let those ocean ecosystems get knocked down to the low abundances and diversity that we're seeing, then we're in trouble over the long term. It's part of improving the resilience of the system and enabling it to recover to levels of higher productivity. That will sustain fisheries and surrounding areas, and that's a good management portfolio.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our witnesses.
Dr. Côté, I know my colleague was questioning the economic and social effects of establishing MPAs and making them no-take zones. You made reference to 10% being nowhere near the level we should be. We should be more up around 30%.
Being from Newfoundland and representing an area that's very connected to the fishery, if I as an MP—or even the chair, Mr. Simms, who is also from Newfoundland—were to institute a 30% MPA with no take around the island of Newfoundland, we wouldn't be able to go back to Newfoundland and we would be shutting down many small communities. To say that there is economic benefit from it that moves outside the MPA.... I mean, you're still outside the area in which people traditionally made their living and supported their families and supported their communities.
I remember the days of the cod moratorium 25 years ago that shut down the cod fishery, which Newfoundland was well connected to, and it devastated rural Newfoundland, literally. Communities basically became non-existent because of it. To say, in a place such as Newfoundland, 30% with no take is, I think, beyond reachable on many of our coastlines and in many of our communities.
Could you comment on this?