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Federal government establishes advisory panel on Marine Protected Areas

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In an effort to standardize what is and isn’t allowed in a Marine Protected Area the federal government is putting together a national advisory panel on the issue.

Dominic LeBlanc, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced the panel on protection standards in marine protected areas today, March 6.

"Our Government is committed to reaching our marine conservation targets through sound science and transparent decision-making, and in meaningful consultation with Canadians,” LeBlanc said in a release. “We've heard from Canadians that they expect certain standards to be in place in all Marine Protected Areas. This panel will offer guidance on the best way to determine what protections should be in place in our protected areas."

Currently, the type of activities allowed or prohibited within each federally regulated protected area varies based on the tool used to manage the area. The panel will provide advice on standards for Oceans Act Marine Protected Areas (OA MPAs) and marine refuges established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs) established by Parks Canada, and National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) established by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The panel will be co-chaired by Mary Simon and Rémi Bujold. Panel members are David Anderson, Darcy Dobell, Tom Hayes, Marc Léger, and Chief Maureen Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh Nation. They will meet in person across the country over the next few months and will seek perspectives from provinces and territories, Indigenous peoples, stakeholders, experts and the public.

According to government, the panel will take into account the best available science and Indigenous traditional knowledge.

"Canada has the longest coastline in the world which is also the home of Inuit and First Nations,” Mary Simon, co-chair, said in a release. “Indigenous coastal communities have survived because of our ability to manage and protect our marine resources that remain as important to our future as they were to our past. It is natural that we bring our knowledge and become partners with Canada to manage and protect our marine areas."

The panel is currently gathering information to provide advice on the development of categories of standards for allowable and prohibited activities within protected areas. The public can also provide written submissions online.

The panel will be meeting in Vancouver today until April 8, where presentations will be delivered by representatives from Indigenous groups, the fishing industry, the shipping industry, environmental non-government organizations and other marine users.

The panel is to provide its recommendations in a final report to the minister by Sept. 15.

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