Welcome back, everyone. We are now in public and, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we're continuing our study of the Oceans Act's marine protected areas.
Let me say for the sake of our witnesses that we have just returned from the Maritimes. We have travelled to British Columbia and the Northwest Territories as well and have heard from numerous witnesses.
We are certainly interested in hearing from our next guests. They were also in the former study from the environment committee. They spoke quite a bit, I understand, and now they are here to talk about marine protected areas.
From Parks Canada, we first have Rob Prosper, vice-president, protected areas establishment and conservation, and Kevin McNamee, director of the protected areas establishment branch. These two individuals are no strangers to this sort of committee business.
As you know, but I guess it bears repeating, you have up to 10 minutes each, if you wish, and then we go to questions.
Mr. Prosper, I'm going to start with you. Are you both doing 10 minutes each? No? Just one of you, and that will be you, Mr. Prosper. Very well, then, please proceed, sir, for up to 10 minutes.
Mr. Chairman and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans regarding your study on marine protected areas.
Parks Canada is the federal agency charged by Parliament with managing an impressive network of 46 national parks, four national marine conservation areas, or NMCAs, 168 national historic sites, and the Rouge National Urban Park. All told, this network protects almost 350,000 square kilometres of Canada's lands and waters, equivalent to an area of one third of Ontario. There is a commitment to add an additional 109,000 square kilometres of protected marine waters in Lancaster Sound.
Established in 1911, Parks Canada is the world's oldest national parks service. In 1998, Parks Canada became a separate agency to ensure that Canada's national parks, national marine conservation areas, and related heritage sites are protected and presented by Parks Canada for this and future generations.
In passing the Parks Canada Agency Act, Parliament declared it “in the national interest” for Parks Canada “to protect...nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage”, and “to present that heritage...for public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment...thereby enhancing pride, encouraging stewardship and giving expression to our identity as Canadians”.
Through the Parks Canada Agency Act, Parliament directed Parks Canada to maintain long-term plans for establishing a system of national marine conservation areas, and the act confirms that Parks Canada is responsible for negotiating and recommending to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change the establishment of new national marine conservation areas, or NMCAs.
It is through the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act of 2002 that Parks Canada establishes, administers, and manages national marine conservation areas.
In the preamble to this act, Parliament outlined its vision for NMCAs, affirming the need to
||establish a system of marine conservation areas that are representative of the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific Oceans and the Great Lakes and are of sufficient extent and such configuration as to maintain healthy marine ecosystems,
||ensure that Canada contributes to international efforts for the establishment of a worldwide network of representative marine protected areas,
||...provide opportunities for the people of Canada and of the world to appreciate and enjoy Canada’s natural and cultural marine heritage,
|| recognize that the marine environment is fundamental to the social, cultural and economic well-being of people living in coastal communities,
|| provide opportunities, through the zoning of marine conservation areas, for the ecologically sustainable use of marine resources for the lasting benefit of coastal communities,
||promote an understanding of the marine environment and provide opportunities for research and monitoring,
|| consider traditional ecological knowledge in the planning and management of national marine conservation areas....
The act further directs that NMCAs are established
|| for the purpose of protecting and conserving representative marine areas for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people of Canada and the world
and that they
||shall be managed and used in a sustainable manner that meets the needs of present and future generations without compromising the structure and function of the ecosystems, including the submerged lands and water column, with which they are associated.
To that end, non-renewable resource exploration, extraction, and ocean dumping are prohibited by law.
Parliament also directed that each NMCA
||shall be divided into zones, which must include at least one zone that fosters and encourages ecologically sustainable use of marine resources and at least one zone that fully protects special features or sensitive elements of ecosystems, and may include other types of zones.
In short, Parks Canada does not just establish new NMCAs and then throw away the key. Our parliamentary mandate is to both protect and ensure that visitors use, benefit, and enjoy these special places, leaving them unimpaired for future generations.
To date, five of the 29 marine regions that constitute the NMCA system are represented by four NMCAs that protect 15,740 square kilometres of marine and freshwater ecosystems.
In setting priorities for new NMCAs, Parks Canada's focus is on candidate sites located in unrepresented natural regions. To summarize, we have identified potential NMCAs in the 24 remaining regions, except for one on the west coast.
We have confirmed candidate sites in 11 of the 24 unrepresented marine regions. Of these 11 sites, feasibility assessments are under way in two marine regions and pending in three additional regions, and we are beginning negotiations on an IIBA for an NMCA in Lancaster Sound.
Creating new NMCAs is about developing relationships and trust with other governments, indigenous peoples, local communities, and stakeholders. The work involved in establishing new sites includes undertaking socio-economic and ecological traditional knowledge studies; consulting stakeholders, communities, and the public; engaging and consulting indigenous peoples; and, defining boundaries and negotiating agreements with provincial and territorial governments as well as indigenous governments.
A critical part of our establishment process is the level of engagement with indigenous peoples. The use of co-operative management boards with indigenous organizations to manage NMCAs is a meaningful way for indigenous peoples to continue stewardship, in partnership with Parks Canada, over their traditionally used areas on their own terms, including directing how we use traditional knowledge to inform decisions.
There are several common elements to the co-operative management boards: they seek to establish a collaborative relationship; land claim agreements make the establishment of such boards mandatory; indigenous organizations nominate their own representatives; the government provides financial and secretariat support; the boards increasingly work on a consensus basis, in that disputes are worked out by the board; and, each plays an important role in the development of a management plan.
All told, Parks Canada works with more than 300 indigenous communities. These strong local relationships are essential to delivering our mandate, and they contribute to the process of reconciliation between Canada and indigenous people. These relationships are founded on a shared vision that protecting land and waters is the foundation for indigenous peoples to maintain cultural continuity with their traditional lands and waters and is essential to the well-being of us all.
This past August, the Governments of Canada and Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association signed an MOU—a memorandum of understanding—committing the three parties to the protection of Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound, as a national marine conservation area. It confirmed: a boundary of 109,000 square kilometres, making this the largest protected area in Canada; interim protection from any future hydrocarbon exploration or development, including seismic, for the area; negotiation of an Inuit impact and benefit agreement as required under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, which would commence with a goal of completing negotiation by March 2019; and, development of an interim management plan with public consultation.
Reaching an agreement on a boundary for an NMCA in Lancaster Sound was made possible for several reasons: the government and Inuit collaborated through a feasibility assessment process, including consultation, arriving at a consensus decision on the boundary; the boundary was determined through the use of western science and traditional knowledge as provided by residents of five communities; participants viewed Lancaster Sound not just as one of the planet's most important ecosystems, but as a cultural seascape that has sustained Inuit for thousands of years; Shell Canada Limited voluntarily donated its 30 hydrocarbon permits covering 8,600 square kilometres, in the hope that this would result in the establishment of the NMCA; and, Canada and Inuit have agreed to develop a partnership through an NMCA that will ensure environmental, social, and economic benefits flow to Inuit.
In conclusion, from Parks Canada's perspective, the key attributes to success in establishing and managing protected areas are political leadership and commitment; public and stakeholder support; funding; engagement, collaboration, and ongoing consultation with indigenous peoples while respecting modern and historic treaties; utilizing science and traditional knowledge to inform decisions; and finally, recognizing that the work we undertake is to contribute to the overall conservation and health of our planet.
It's a great question. In part, we've benefited from the fact that we had a number of processes already in play: Lancaster Sound, the southern Strait of Georgia, and the îles de la Madeleine. As we've seen in Lancaster, that's going to contribute to the target.
This point may have been made to the committee before, but I think we have benefited immensely from the fact that the targets were publicly placed into the mandate letters of both our minister, the , as well as the .
Just by doing that, every federal department and the external stakeholders knew that this was the mandate that ministers had to deliver. In our experience on Lancaster Sound, we had tremendous collaboration with, for example, the Department of Natural Resources Canada in developing the mineral and energy resource assessment.
We will take the necessary time to build the collaborative relationships with indigenous people. That's fundamental to our process. What we have done is look at whether there are some ways to accelerate certain things. Also, is there a way to count at a particular point in our process? In Lancaster Sound, what we did was to negotiate a memorandum of understanding so that the three critical parties arrived at a consensus that they put into a memorandum of understanding, which said that this is the boundary, these are the next steps, interim protection will apply to the area, so in essence it's protected, and the boundary is agreed to, and now let's work out the arrangements with Inuit.
Those are some of the ways.
Thank you very much. I probably won't take all of the 10 minutes.
I'd like to begin by providing you a bit of background on who I am and wherein lies my expertise. This might help people frame their questions later.
I'm an academic. I've worked in research in deep-sea ecology since 1983, so it's been quite a while. In 1999, along with two other academic researchers, we drafted the candidacy proposal for Canada's first marine protected area, the Endeavour hydrothermal vents, an area of deep-sea hot springs off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
For the last seven years, I've been a member of the leadership of the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network, which is a strategic network partnership between academia and DFO that has been working, among other things, on developing criteria for the selection and networking of marine protected areas.
I am also a member of the deep ocean stewardship initiative, which is an international ad hoc organization of researchers that supports the paired engagement of science and policy-making in efforts to protect the deep ocean.
In my capacity as chief scientist with Ocean Networks Canada, I've worked closely with DFO in developing a monitoring capacity for the very remote and very deep Endeavour hydrothermal vents marine protected area.
The focus of my opening statement here will be the criteria and process for both establishing and, most important, maintaining marine protected areas so that the intended benefits can be achieved. In particular, I'm referring to benefits that are related to the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of ecosystem services, those services that are provided to society by intact marine ecosystems.
I'm primarily motivated by recent global trends to create very large MPAs in remote areas as most states look to fulfilling their obligations to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and to achieving the 10% EEZ MPA goal by 2020. This creation of both offshore and remote MPAs is in some ways the easy way out.
I listened earlier to the Parks Canada description of how, when you have few stakeholders, it's sometimes easier and more expeditious to avoid lengthy and difficult stakeholder interactions related to fisheries, coastal development, and land claims, but I think that in this context it's really important to point out that the most diverse, most productive, and primarily the most threatened marine ecosystems are in Canada's Pacific and Atlantic coastal zones, not way offshore and in remote Arctic waters. That's not where the immediate need for protection lies. At the same time, these offshore and remote Arctic waters are not representative of coastal marine ecosystems in what I will refer to as “southern coastal Canada”.
That was the first point I wanted to make. It's important to protect these areas offshore, but at the same time, let's not do this and then not worry about things that are more difficult to achieve, where we have much of our biodiversity and much of the most threatened ecosystems.
Let's assume anyway that Canada is going to follow, to some extent, this global trend and create future MPAs in these remote regions. How are we going to go about monitoring these MPAs and know that we're actually achieving our conservation objectives?
My experience in working with DFO on monitoring of the Endeavour MPA has been really rewarding, but it has also made me aware that DFO does not have the capacity to monitor our existing MPA network on a regular basis without help from academia. We've had a very successful partnership, but this will need to continue as we go forward.
This is particularly important for remote deep-sea MPAs, where we essentially require robotic submersibles to survey and to collect samples. In many ways, much of the biodiversity we're trying to protect with these MPAs lies on the sea floor itself, not in the water column, and this is, in many ways, in deep water sites, the most inaccessible.
I really strongly recommend, therefore, that any increase in the number and size of marine protected areas in Canada be accompanied by a proportional increase in monitoring capacity. I can provide some specific examples for later questions on why we need to be monitoring, but I wanted to make this initial point. Also, I think the partnership that's been developing between DFO and academic researchers for MPA network research and developing and monitoring is one example of how both the costs and the responsibilities for this really important conservation tool can be shared between government and other stakeholders.
These are the two points I wanted to make. I'm happy to take questions.
I can answer them in both official languages.
I think we need to make a distinction between enforcement and monitoring.
By monitoring, I'm referring to actually monitoring the ecosystems that are present in the MPAs to make sure that we are achieving our conservation objectives. This can involve doing surveys of the abundance of organisms and their general health.
The enforcement part is something else, where we actually have to manage territorial intrusions into the protected area or manage activities that are not allowed within certain zones. I can't really comment on the enforcement part of this.
What I'm trying to make a point about here is the importance of monitoring the ecosystem itself. If something goes wrong, or if we see that things are going in a direction that we don't wish them to, then we need to look at whether this is a result of natural change that we don't understand at all or a result of uncontrolled human intervention.
If I may, I'll make a second point about the critical importance of monitoring to establish a baseline so that we can understand how quickly things can change naturally within a marine protected area. Before we come along a couple of years later and say that “the area wasn't like this two years ago, so who's to blame?”, we really need to get a grasp of the range of natural change in these MPAs and within these ecosystems, and what is outside of what we would normally expect from natural change. We don't really have that baseline in many of these cases.
Closer to the coast, I think we can make use of traditional knowledge for that, but as we move offshore, where we know very little, there we have to use other, more sophisticated tools, mainly technology.