Ministerial Question Period: Marine Protected Areas

By: The Hon. Rodger Cuzner

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Beach and waterfront, Vancouver

Hon. Rodger Cuzner: Minister, I have a question on Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs. Your government has been very aggressive and ambitious with respect to Marine Protected Areas, wanting to look after coastal and marine environments and grow them 25% by 2025, and 30% by 2030.

In Nova Scotia, there was talk about a process entered into on the Eastern Shore Islands. Could you update the Senate on where we are in that process, including in relation to your global targets?

Hon. Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard: We really want to achieve our global targets. I also want to talk about the importance of marine protected areas, because they are our nurseries. These are the areas that enable fishers to protect our fisheries for the future. A lot of important work remains to raise awareness among fishers who are concerned that it may harm them in terms of catches.

We’re constantly working to raise awareness among fishers, but we’re also working with Indigenous communities, who place great emphasis on protecting species in accordance with their knowledge.

Senator Cuzner: Earlier, I mentioned the record catches in Atlantic Canada. In 2017-18, two MPAs were established just off the coast of Cape Breton, in the Gully and St. Anns Bank.

Many things impact the level of the catch. Do you have the science within the department to determine whether the MPAs are having that type of impact on the overall catch or the great success that they’ve been having?

Ms. Lebouthillier: When it comes to marine protected areas, we’re working to ensure that these sectors are able to protect biodiversity. I signed an agreement with the United Nations, the BBNJ Agreement, to protect our fishery.

With what is happening in the ocean as a result of climate change, everything below the water is constantly moving under our feet, so that’s why we need science. A marine area that is protected today may change in 15 or 20 years because the fish move around under the water.

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