Protecting Canada’s Marine Areas

As part of International Oceans Day, Keith Ashfield, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, publicly released the Pacific Region Cold-water Coral and Sponge Strategy. This marine conservation initiative was first started in 2006 by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and is directed towards studying and managing these often neglected sea floor inhabitants.

Despite their unglamorous nature, corals and sponges play an important role in ocean ecosystems. As filter feeders, they help maintain the delicate balance of the ocean. Additionally, the bodies of corals and sponges form habitats for other animals, such as rockfish. They need conservation. However, sponges and corals are not very well studied and are easily damaged by human activities. As well, the location of many of Canada’s coral reefs are not documented, which makes it difficult to protect them from fisheries and other industries. If the strategy is to succeed, more basic research into sponges and corals will be required.

At the same time, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is also urging the Canadian government to look at the marine ecosystem as a whole and establish 12 new protected areas by the end of 2012, calling it an “ambitious but doable target”.

orca whale 3 a marine mammalThe twelve sites that CPAWS recommends for protection include areas in the Pacific Ocean that are home to tufted puffins, endangered orca whales and species of rockfish. In the Atlantic, they suggest protecting zones off the Eastern coast which are home to endangered leatherback turtles, several species of whales, and a variety of commercial fish. And in the Northern waters, Lancaster Sound and areas of James Bay are highlighted as important marine areas, partly for the Narwhal and Bowhead whales they are home to.

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Alison Wheatley

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