Elizabeth May calls for Approval of the Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area and a Major Expansion of Marine Sanctuaries

Green Party leader and MP Elizabeth May called today for the  federal and provincial governments to approve the creation of a Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) and to  quickly move to fully protect at least 30% of Canada’s marine  ecosystems.

“Perhaps the most neglected natural areas on Earth are our marine environments,  for the simple reason that humans live on land and not under water. But  our oceans harbor most life on the planet. The Strait of Georgia in  particular has extremely diverse marine environments harboring  incredible creatures, from the endangered southern resident orcas to  glass sponges in Saanich Inlet to a phenomenal diversity of fish,  invertebrates, birds, and marine mammals throughout the region,” stated  Ms. May. “As the new Member of Parliament representing the region of the proposed Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area, I’m  hoping that the federal and provincial governments will give approval  for the establishment of this first rate marine sanctuary soon. It would be a phenomenal marine complement to the Gulf Islands National Park  Reserve.”

The BC and federal governments signed a Memorandum Of Understanding in 2003 to undertake studies on the scientific and socio-economic feasibility  of creating an NMCA in the waters stretching from the Haro Strait and  Saanich Inlet by Victoria, north to the waters around Gabriola Island  near Nanaimo.

National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs) administered by Parks Canada and  Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) administered by the Department of  Fisheries and Oceans, offer protection to marine ecosystems, ranging  from restrictions on certain practices and harvesting of some species to fully-protecting all marine life in “no take” areas. Worldwide,  “no-take” MPAs have dramatically increased the populations and size of  commercial and non-commercial species. This includes increasing the net  amount of commercially available fisheries, as protected fish and  invertebrate populations inside MPA’s grow and spill over into adjacent  areas where they can be harvested. Unfortunately less than 0.01% of  Canada’s and BC’s marine waters are in fully-protected “no-take” areas.

“While BC is still blessed with productive and diverse marine environments,  today’s richness pales in comparison to the abundance of life in years  past. At one time the seas teemed with so many salmon, lingcod,  rockfish, invertebrates, birds, whales, and seals that early European  settlers thought the marine wealth to be inexhaustible. An extensive  network of real marine protection can help our oceans approach their  former biological magnificence, brimming with life to sustain all the  citizens of this country,” stated Ms. May

Parks Canada has a goal of representing each of Canada’s 29 natural marine  regions in a system of National Marine Conservation Areas. Currently  only four NMCA’s have been declared, including one in BC – the Gwaii  Haanas (South Moresby) NMCA and Haida Heritage Site announced last year. NMCA’s prohibit ocean dumping, seabed mining and oil and gas  exploration and development, and can also restrict harvesting of certain species, including zoning some fully-protected “no-take” areas.

“Scientists around the world and in Canada have been calling for the protection of  at least 30% of the oceans in fully-protected ‘no-take’ marine  sanctuaries. I fully support this goal and will push hard as Canada’s  first Green MP to see to it that the glacial pace of marine protection  is stepped-up before our oceans are emptied out,” stated Ms. May. “June 8 is Oceans Day and what better way to celebrate that special day than  with the announcement of a new National Marine Conservation Area in the  Strait of Georgia?”