Ottawa would consider the creation of a dozen new marine protected areas in Atlantic Canada, according to documents that the federal government shared with stakeholders.
CBC News received maps distributed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada as part of its recent consultations.
There are 24 new areas that the government could potentially transform into protected areas on the Scotian Shelf, including Bras d’Or Lake in Cape Breton and a dozen areas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
One of the proposed areas encompasses a small portion of the Minas Basin, but excludes the Bay of Fundy tidal power project site. Two large offshore areas are also under study, as well as smaller areas along the southern coast of the province.
In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the network plan includes the Cape Breton Bowl, a marine area already known to be under study . This area is located between Cheticamp in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and St. George’s Bay in western Newfoundland.
Where do these plans come from?
The maps sent to CBC News reveal potential protected areas that are under study but have not been made public.
These maps were created by a team of Mi’kmaq consultants who combined data from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to create a network plan. It is a mixture of existing marine protected areas, sites proposed as potential protected areas, and what the government calls “sites of interest”.
CBC News protects the identity of the person who sent the photo, taken during the last days at a meeting, but indicates that it does not come from this First Nations team.
Jeff MacDonald, Director General of Oceans Management at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, says the federal department was “on the verge” of making these network plans public.
“These maps were not done by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, but they would come from sessions where we shared information,” says MacDonald, who does not want to comment on the content of these plans.
An economic and political challenge in the Atlantic
As the Trudeau government works to fulfill its commitment to protect 10% of the country’s oceans by 2020, the number of Marine Protected Areas and their size have become political issues in the Atlantic.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and his counterpart in Newfoundland and Labrador Dwight Ball have both recently expressed concerns about the impact these environmental conservation measures could have on the environment. the oil and gas industry , as well as the fishing industry.
Leonard Leblanc, president of the Nova Scotia Fishermen’s Coalition, says that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has been able to consult this plan.
“I had, I do not know if it’s luck or misfortune, getting the card from DFO,” he says. “There are some areas that hit us pretty fast. ”
“There are not big sites they want that will not have an impact on fishermen,” says Leblanc. “It could eliminate fishing communities completely if it is not done in a way that is fair and allocates traditional fisheries. ”
“We are not prepared to separate from our historic areas where we have fished for several generations,” he says.
The president of the Coalition says that fishermen are wary but open to discussion, which is essential according to him. “We always wanted to talk about something that could be better for our waters. ”
Protect 10% of the country’s oceans by 2020
Marine biologist Susanna Fuller believes that the cards revealed by CBC News are authentic. “It’s good that we finally have a plan,” she says. “Will all these areas become marine protected areas? Probably not. Some of them ? Yes.”
Fuller does not believe that the darker predictions of some players in the fishing industry are realistic. “We know there will be no marine protected areas where there are important fisheries. It’s assured, “she says.
If these potential protection zones were created, this would represent a significant increase in protected areas on the Scotian Shelf. There are currently two in this area: St. Ann’s Bank east of Cape Breton, where commercial human activities are prohibited in three quarters of the area; and the Gully, east of Sable Island.
Susanna Fuller warns that even if the study areas are eventually implemented, do not expect this to happen for years.
“The problem right now is that we do not have a lot of experience, because before 2015, we had less than 1% of protection zones,” she says.
Canada is therefore working hard to achieve its goal of protecting 10% of its ocean heritage by 2020. “I think we could be in an excellent position in 2030,” she says.
Leonard Leblanc, for his part, argues that fishermen have already adopted several sustainable fishing initiatives. “It’s not fair to DFO. A lot of change has come from the industry, “says the president of the Nova Scotia Fishermen’s Coalition.
“We have a lot of conservation regulations, we have the precautionary rule, we have a lot of things put in place,” says Mr. Leblanc. “Even if we do not have marine protected areas for fishing, it would not be the end of the world. “
Simon Morgan was born and raised in Ottawa. Simon has worked as a freelance journalist for nearly a decade and written for The Ottawa Sun, the Vancouver Sun and the Star. As a journalist for Island Daily Tribune, Simon mostly covers community events and human interest stories.