Canada passes law to help create representative system of marine parks

In June, Canada passed a bill to facilitate creation of a representative system of “national marine conservation areas”, or NMCAs, to be overseen by Parks Canada, the federal parks agency. Although the concept of NMCAs existed previously under national parks law, the new legislation provides clearer guidance for establishing and managing these protected areas.

NMCAs are designed to be models for sustainable use. Among the new law’s provisions are a ban on mineral and hydrocarbon development in NMCAs, and a requirement that each site include at least one zone that fully protects special features or sensitive ecosystem elements. The law instructs that NMCA management plans be based on principles of ecosystem management and the precautionary principle; this would include potential limits on fishing inside NMCAs.

Parks Canada is charged with creating a system of NMCAs to represent the range of ecosystems found in Canada’s Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific Oceans, as well as its Great Lakes. The first two NMCAs to be designated under the law are expected to be in Western Lake Superior (in the Great Lakes) and off the Queen Charlotte Islands on the Pacific coast, adjacent to the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.

Under Canadian law, NMCAs are differentiated from “Marine Protected Areas”. The latter term refers specifically to protected sites overseen by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans that are designated to protect specific marine resources and habitats. Francine Mercier, a senior planner for Parks Canada, said the two agencies are collaborating to ensure protection of a full representation of Canada’s marine habitats. “These will be complementary systems,” she said.

For more information:
Susan Katz, Director of Legislation and Policy, Parks Canada, 25 Eddy, 4th Floor, Hull, Quebec K1A 0M5, Canada. Tel: +1 819 994 2691; E-mail:

Doug Yurick, Chief, Marine Program Unit, Parks Canada, 25 Eddy, 4th Floor, Hull, Quebec K1A 0M5, Canada. Tel: +1 819 997 4910; E-mail:

No-take zones in Solitary Islands Marine Park (Australia) take effect

No-take zones comprising 12% of the 710-km2 Solitary Islands Marine Park in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, took effect August 1, 2002. Initial government proposals for the zoning scheme had set the no-take percentage at 7%, but that figure was increased in response to public comments and meetings with stakeholders. These “sanctuary zones” will prohibit all fishing activity, including recreational; scuba diving is still allowed. Criteria used in the selection of these areas included representation of habitat type, biodiversity, and various natural or cultural features.

The sanctuary zones will be buffered by “habitat protection zones” that encompass a further 54% of the park and allow for the use of certain types of commercial fishing gear (trawling is prohibited). Roughly one-third of the park will serve as a general use area, where most types of commercial fishing will be allowed. Recreational anglers, prohibited from the sanctuary zones, will have access to the remaining 88% of the park. The zoning scheme is the first comprehensive plan for any NSW-run marine park.

Under state law, the main objectives of NSW marine parks are to conserve marine biodiversity and habitats, and maintain ecological processes. Where consistent with the above objectives, management plans are also to provide for the sustainable use of fish and opportunities for public appreciation and enjoyment. The NSW government announced an AU $4 million (US $2.1 million) initiative to buy out 30 commercial fishermen from the Solitary Islands Marine Park to ensure that the zoning plan does not cause an unsustainable shift in commercial fishing to other areas of the park.

Also in New South Wales, a new zoning plan for the state-run Jervis Bay Marine Park will take effect on October 1. Roughly 20% of the 220-km2 park will be no-take zones.

For more information:
Libby Sterling, Marine Park Manager, Solitary Islands Marine Park, PO Box J297, Coffs Harbour Jetty, NSW 2450, Australia. Tel: +61 6652 0910; E-mail:; Web: