State of the Coast and Ocean

State of the environment reporting highlights the sustainability of a system. SOE reporting is used to:

  • Measure progress towards sustainability
  • Provide a comprehensive analysis of environmental conditions and trends
  • Contribute to informed and open decision making
  • Contribute to public awareness by providing scientific information about the environment in an easily understandable form
  • Assist in identifying data/information gaps

  • What is happening in the environment (i.e., what are the environmental conditions and trends)?
  • Why is it happening (i.e., how are human activities and other stresses linked to the issue in question)?
  • Why is it significant (i.e., what are the ecological and socioeconomic effects)?
  • What is being done about it (i.e., how is society responding to the issues through government and industry action and voluntary initiatives)?
  • Is this sustainable (i.e., are human actions depleting environmental capital and causing deterioration of ecosystem health)?

SOE reporting is part of a broader system of information that includes:

  • Monitoring and collecting data
  • Managing, storing, and accessing data
  • Providing analytical tools to interpret data
  • Creating understandable environmental indicators and reports
  • Developing mechanisms to incorporate environmental knowledge into decision making

1979: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recommended  

member countries prepare periodic national SOERs

1992: Agenda 21 promoted SOE reporting for informed decision making.

1992-1999: Numerous countries legislated national SOERs, and undertook first ones. 

1996: Canada published a SOER titled "State of Canada's Environment

1997 on: Many indicator initiatives initiated, stimulated by the work of the Commission for  

Sustainable Development (CSD). 

1997-2002: Series of global reports, including Global Environment OutlookWorld Resources and

State of the World.

2003-2008: Scattered commitment with a focus on developing more effective ways of delivery.

2009: "The Environmental State of Canada: 30 Years of Progress" was published. 

From a presentation titled: ‘State of the Environment Reporting for Coastal and Ocean Management’ by Jay Walmsley, PhD, Coastal and Oceans Management Division, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

The following definition is taken from the website of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency:

Environmental assessments (EA) support sustainable development by helping to eliminate or reduce a project's potential impact on the environment before it begins and ensuring that mitigation measures are applied once the project is initiated. EAs support informed decision making.

When development projects are proposed they must undergo an environmental assessment in order to identify potential impacts on the environment and the organisms that live in it. The assessment identifies potential mitigation measures to reduce or eliminate identified expected impacts and predicts whether the measures will be successful in preventing adverse effects.


Federal Environmental Assessment                                                                            

Recently, changes have been made to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 (CEAA) provides the current legislative basis for federal environmental assessments. Projects that are actively undergoing assessment subject to the CEAA and those projects that have been assessed under the CEAA are found in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry Internet Site (CEARIS).

Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, a Federal environmental assessment focuses on potential adverse environmental effects that are within federal jurisdiction, including:

  • fish and fish habitats;
  • other aquatic species; 
  • migratory birds;
  • federal lands;
  • effects that cross provincial or international boundaries;
  • effects that impact on Aboriginal peoples, such as their use of lands and resources for traditional purposes;
  • changes to the environment that are directly linked to or necessarily incidental to any federal decisions about a project.


Source: Canadian Environmental Assessment Act: Overview 


For more information about the CEAA, review the Act, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s Guidance Materials.


Provincial Environmental Assessment                                                                            

Policies and legislation concerning environmental assessments vary from province to province. Information about environmental assessments under provincial jurisdiction in the four Atlantic Canadian provinces can be found in the links below. The provincial website links also include related legislation and regulations, as well as lists of pending or completed assessments.

New Brunswick

Newfoundland and Labrador

Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island


The Ecosystem Indicator Partnership (ESIP)

ESIP is a committee of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment. ESIP is developing indicators for the Gulf of Maine and integrating regional data for a new Web-based reporting system for marine ecosystem monitoring. Activities of ESIP initially center on convening regional practitioners in six indicator areas:coastal development, contaminants and pathogens, eutrophication, aquatic habitat, fisheries and aquaculture, and climate change.

ESIP has recently released two facts sheets: one is about climate change and the other is about aquaculture

Canadian Sustainability Indicators Network (CSIN)

CSIN aims to advance best practices in measurement and sustainability indicator systems in Canada and beyond, in an effort to achieve progress toward global sustainable development. CSIN's thematic focus (2012-14) is "measuring the well-being of places, from the ground up". 

Compendium, a Global Directory to Indicator Initiatives 

Version two of the Compendium of Sustainable Development Indicator Initiatives is a worldwide directory of who is doing what in the field of sustainability indicators.  The compendium is hosted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). 

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