It takes a long time to establish national marine protected areas

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, the hon. parliamentary secretary knows I support Bill C-55. I am very pleased to see the amendments to the Oceans Act. I am also very grateful that amendments I made in committee were accepted by the committee and supported by the government.

Certainly, we know it takes a long time to establish national marine protected areas. By way of example, in my riding, what is still called the southern Strait of Georgia national marine conservation area, or as we call it the Salish Sea, was initially put forward so long ago, in the 1970s, that it was endorsed by Jacques Cousteau. We await the creation of this protected area. I wonder if the hon. parliamentary secretary can shed any light on how he sees the timing for the Salish Sea national protected area, adjacent to the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

Terry Beech – Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating and thanking the member opposite for her great work on the bill. We appreciate her amendments and her feedback throughout.

I appreciate the comments she makes about the timeliness of these protections. The average time it has taken for previous marine protected areas to go through has been somewhere between seven to 10 years. The way we propose to address that time crunch, all those years where critical habitat might not be protected, is to implement this new tool called interim protection MPAs.

How this would work is that within the first 24 months, when a number of consultations are going on and science is being conducted, when we first realize and identify the protections that need to occur, there would be an ability to put in an interim protection. It would freeze the footprint. This would mean that existing activities would be able to continue, and there is a definition I could get into about what qualifies as an existing activity, and then the minister would have up to five years to implement the full marine protected area. Hopefully, that will help solve problems like the very long process that has been witnessed in other projects, like in the Salish Sea.