A group of international researchers is calling on the Government of Canada to “strengthen and solidify” its conservation strategy to further protect the country’s marine protected areas (MPAs).
Dr. Rodolphe Devillers, professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences – who specializes in marine conservation – is a part of the group that raised its concerns in a letter published in the June 2019 issue of the journal Science.
Other authors include Dr. Christopher J. Lemieux from the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University; Paul A. Gray, from BALCAMAN Consulting, which is based in Nanaimo, B.C.; and Dr. Joachim Claudet, from the National Center for Scientific Research, at PSL Université Paris.
The researchers want the federal government to transform marine refuges into MPAs.
Marine refuges, also known internationally as other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs), are currently subject to fewer restrictions than MPAs.
“Canada’s OECMs will be regulated by laws pertaining to fishing, not by the stricter requirements that apply to MPAs,” the researchers say in their letter.
“Because of the more lenient designation, industrial activities will be permitted in OECMs on a case-by-case basis. In light of mounting scientific evidence of the negligible conservation benefits provided by weakly protected areas, the recent designation of OECMs raises doubt about the overall effectiveness of Canada’s marine conservation program.”
They added: “OECMs can in some contexts deliver important social and ecological benefits, but designating fisheries management areas as OECMs should not be the primary foundation of a national marine conservation strategy.”
A November 2018 Gazette news story featured Dr. Devillers’s work and other research focused on meeting Canada’s biodiversity conservation targets.