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Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) - Fisheries and Oceans Canada


Marine Protected Areas or MPAs are established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) under the Oceans Act to protect and conserve important fish and marine mammal habitats, endangered marine species, unique features and areas of high biological productivity or biodiversity.  Canada has committed to establishing a network of protected areas in our oceans to help meet a range of environmental and cultural conservation goals.


Process for Establishing and Managing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

The following framework for establishing and managing marine protected areas (MPAs) is defined by the Oceans Act.


Establishing and Managing MPAs under the Oceans Act

Step 1: Select Area of Interest (AOI)

  • Select the area of interest, primarily through the large ocean management area (LOMA)-based integrated oceans management (IOM) process, applying ecological and feasibility criteria to the ecologically and biologically significant areas (EBSAs), ecologically significant species (ESSs) and ecologically significant community properties (ESCPs) or to priority areas of ecological significance outside the LOMAs, and seek preliminary endorsement from interested parties.

Step 2: Conduct Overview and Assessment of AOI

  • Prepare an overview and assessment report for the AOI consisting of an ecological overview; a social, cultural and economic overview; and an assessment of how ecological, social, cultural and economic aspects interact.

Step 3: Develop Draft Regulatory Intent

  • Tailor conservation objectives identified during the EBSAs, ESSs and ESCPs exercise to the specific requirements of the AOI; identify regulatory/non-regulatory measures, that is, the management approach, needed to achieve these objectives.

Step 4: Consult with Stakeholders and Finalize Regulatory Intent and Cost-Benefit Overview

  • Consult with stakeholders on regulatory intent and provide information for the cost-benefit analysis required for the triage questionnaire, regulatory impact analysis statement (RIAS) and strategic environmental assessment.

Step 5: Develop Regulations for MPA Designation

  • Complete the Triage Questionnaire and strategic environmental assessment, plus the “regulatory package,” which includes the drafting instructions, RIAS and communication plan, following the Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulations. Proceed to pre-publication for public comment and adapt regulations as appropriate. Designation occurs when the regulations are published.

Step 6: Manage Marine Protected Area

  • Develop and implement a management plan for managing the MPA and implementing the MPA regulations.


Area of Interest Selection and Consultations- Maritimes Region

The most recent area of Interest (AOI) consultation period for DFO Maritimes Region ended in May 2010. DFO Maritimes Region will be recommending that one of the three candidate areas move forward as the next AOI on the Eastern Scotian Shelf. Once the AOI has been approved and announced, DFO will continue to work with its partners, stakeholders and other government agencies to develop conservation objectives, define boundaries and ultimately designate the AOI as a Marine Protected Area under the Oceans Act.


Socio-Economic Profiles

Socio-economic profiles, focussed mostly on fisheries information, are available for each of the three candidate Areas of Interest. These profiles are preliminary and a more detailed socio-economic assessment will occur once the Area of Interest has been selected.

  • Middle Bank -  (PDF)
  • Misaine Bank and Eastern Shoal - (PDF)


Laurentian Channel Area of Interest - Newfoundland and Labrador Region

On June 8th, 2010, the Laurentian Channel was announced as an Area of Interest (AOI) for potential designation as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) under the Oceans Act.

The Laurentian Channel is a deep submarine valley over 1200 km long. It extends from the intersection of the St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers to the edge of the continental shelf off Newfoundland. The Channel is approximately 35,840 km2 in total; however, the AOI is limited to an estimated 17,950 km2 off the southwest coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. Given the size of the Laurentian Channel AOI, if a MPA is established it will likely only take in a portion of this area.


Consultations - Newfoundland and Labrador Region

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Newfoundland and Labrador Region, has developed this Consultation Calendar to provide information to our clients regarding upcoming consultation/information meetings organized by the Department.


Spotlight on Marine Protected Areas in Canada Report

Reports on progress to date in protecting the marine environment through federal, provincial and territorial protected areas in Canada's three oceans and Great Lakes. The report was developed collaboratively, and contains national and regional marine protected area statistics and maps. Please visit Fisheries and Oceans Canada to view an interactive national map of the MPAs included in the report.


Two new MPAs have been designated since this report was first printed. In June 2010, Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site in British Columbia was established under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, and in August 2010, Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area in the Northwest Territories was designated under the Oceans Act.


MPAs in Atlantic Canada


Musquash MPA

Musquash Estuary Marine Protected Area is located 20 km southwest of Saint John, New Brunswick. It is unique among Bay of Fundy estuaries because of its large size and relatively undisturbed condition. The estuary supports diverse habitat, an abundance of wildlife and commercial fisheries.


Gully MPA

The Gully is the largest submarine canyon in eastern North America. Located off Nova Scotia near Sable Island, the Gully contains a rich diversity of marine habitats and species, including deep-sea corals and the northern bottlenose whale. The area is nationally and globally acknowledged as an important and exceptional marine habitat.


Eastport MPA

The Eastport Peninsula, one of the most picturesque areas of Bonavista Bay, is located approximately three hours drive from St. John's, Newfoundland. The rugged coastline is interrupted by a number of headlands, coves, and beaches. Numerous islands found in the area provide habitat for a variety of marine wildlife. The rich, productive waters surrounding the Eastport Peninsula are host to a wide range of groundfish, pelagic fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and aquatic plants. Since early settlement the people of the Eastport Peninsula have relied on the fishery for their economic subsistence.


Gilbert Bay MPA

Gilbert Bay is 47 km2 in size and is located approximately 300 km from Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Labrador's southeast coast. The bay is 20 km in length but less than 100 m deep with two narrow outlets to the sea, one at Williams Harbour Run and the other at Winard Tickle. This geophysical configuration contributes to the bay's unique character through semi-isolation from the Labrador Sea.


Basin Head MPA

Basin Head is a shallow coastal lagoon located on the eastern tip of Prince Edward Island, near the town of Souris. The lagoon is surrounded by both agricultural land and an extensive sand dune system. Approximately 5 kilometres long, Basin Head is a unique coastal environment that the community, conservation organizations, and both levels of government are working towards protecting for generations to come.


Coral Conservation Areas

Conservation and protection of corals and their habitats is a key component of meeting DFO integrated management objectives, such as those developed under the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management initiative.  In 2006, a Coral Conservation Plan for Maritimes Region was prepared to provide long term strategy to protecting and understanding these important benthic habitats.


Search Utility

Launch the CSU to find and display geographic data and information. 


GeoContent Generator

Explore the CGG to create searchable and geographically referenced metadata


Data Accessibility Tool

Learn more about the Data Accessibility Benchmarch Organixational Self-Assessment Tool

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