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National and Marine Wildlife Areas

National Wildlife Areas

To protect both wildlife, especially migratory wildlife and species at risk, and their habitat, the Canada Wildlife Act was passed in 1973 to authorize the establishment of protected areas known as National Wildlife Areas (NWAs). There are 51 NWAs across Canada protecting a total of over 529 000 hectares. They are regions which include relatively undisturbed ecosystems containing nationally significant aquatic and/or terrestrial habitats necessary for animals or plants to survive.

National Wildlife Areas are created and managed for the purposes of wildlife research, conservation, and interpretation. Regulated hunting is permitted in some locations. Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) uses an ecosystem approach to manage and plan for NWAs. This approach requires the cooperation of public and private institutions to manage landscapes with a common goal of habitat protection.

Source: Environment Canada’s website.

Find National Wildlife Areas by Provinces and Territories

Click here to learn about the 54 National Wildlife Areas across Canada.

Sea Wolf Island National Wildlife Area

Sea Wolf Island National Wildlife Area (NWA), locally referred to as Margaree Island, is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 4 kilometers (km) off the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Marine Wildlife Areas

To address coastal and offshore conservation issues, the Canada Wildlife Act was amended in 1994 to extend provisions for National Wildlife Areas to be identified as Marine Wildlife Areas (MWAs) beyond the 12 nautical mile territorial sea limit out to the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone limit. At present, there are several candidate sites under study.

Many birds depend on offshore coastal habitats for breeding, feeding, moulting, migratory stopovers, and overwintering.

Offshore habitats include:

  • the waters surrounding islands where birds nest
  • polynyas (openings enclosed in ice)
  • upwelling areas, where cold, heavy subsurface water rises toward the surface, especially along the western coasts of continents, displacing the surface water
  • seamounts (elevations of the sea floor)

Coastal habitats include:

  • sheltered, rocky bays
  • salt, brackish, and freshwater marshes
  • mudflats
  • river estuaries

Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area

The Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area (NWA) is the first protected marine area established under the Canada Wildlife Act, established on June 27th, 2018. It conserves a vital marine area for millions of seabirds on the Pacific coast.

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