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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- The Government of Canada took at step toward its commitment to protecting Canada's oceans by announcing three areas of interest (AOIs) as candidates for the establishment of Nova Scotia's next marine protected area (MPA). These candidates are all offshore areas off the coast of Nova Scotia: Middle Bank, St. Anns Bank, and Misaine Bank and the Eastern Shoal.
At the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development, Canada committed to creating a national network of marine protected areas by 2012, but we are lagging behind on this target. In the Scotian shelf and Bay of Fundy region, our three existing protected areas add up to only one half of one per cent of the marine environment, and protect only a fraction of the Region's habitat types.
"We congratulate DFO on this important step to help our oceans recover," says Dr. Robert Rangeley, Vice-President Atlantic for WWF-Canada. "Nova Scotia has made great progress in protecting significant areas on land, and now we are taking some much needed steps to protect important species and habitats in the ocean."
MPAs are areas of the ocean designed to protect biodiversity. The benefits of marine protected areas include: more plants and animals per cubic metre of ocean, a wider range of species, and larger fish that produce more young - which could lead to a rebound of overfished stocks and mean long-term profits for fishing communities.
WWF-Canada, the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) have been advocating for a well-planned network of MPAs that protects ecologically significant areas and streamlines rules for resource users while boosting opportunities for eco-tourism. Protected area networks are recognized by scientists as the most important tool for helping ecosystems cope with climate change impacts on our oceans.
"We are really pleased to see the process of choosing a new off-shore marine protected area go forward," says Shannon Arnold, Marine Coordinator for Halifax's Ecology Action Centre. "Ocean management is a true test of collaboration - trying to balance sustainable economic development with conservation. Kudos to the new provincial government for working with DFO to clear some long-standing stumbling blocks and getting back on track to fulfilling Canada's commitments to ocean planning."
The next step in the selection process will involve a 60-day public consultation period, beginning on October 13th, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), with the new AOI being selected in early 2010.
"MPAs create safe places in the ocean where areas are legally protected from harmful activities to allow for recovery of species and habitats which improves the overall health of the ocean," says Ashley Sprague, Marine Coordinator for CPAWS-NS. "Healthy oceans are important to all Nova Scotians, so this is your chance to have a say in the future of Nova Scotia's oceans and we strongly encourage the public to get involved in the upcoming consultation process."
More information about the issue can be found by visiting www.wwf.ca/oceansaction, and by joining the Facebook Group: "Oceans Action for the Scotian Shelf and Bay of Fundy".