Canada’s marine conservation toolbox wants an overhaul to counter local weather change

The impacts of local weather change have gotten more and more pervasive, bringing Canada’s lack of preparedness in its marine conservation measures into focus.

The North Atlantic proper whales — one of the most endangered large whales discovered off the japanese shores of Canada — are actually altering their habits and traditions.

Their pursuit of their favorite meals supply — small and nutritious crustaceans — has taken them additional north from the Bay of Fundy to new feeding grounds in the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence lately. This migration successfully renders the existing conservation area in the Bay of Fundy to guard the extremely threatened inhabitants ineffective.


To handle these more and more pervasive, climate-driven adjustments, we, a collaboration between conservation analysis and marine governance professionals from throughout Canada, developed five actionable solutions for Canada’s marine conservation below local weather change, with a modernized Oceans Act at its core.

Species are on the transfer

The shift within the feeding grounds of those whales appears to be carefully linked to warmer ocean temperatures, caused by ongoing and intensifying local weather change.

A whale and a whale calf swim on the surface of the water.
Rising ocean floor temperatures and a corresponding decline of small crustaceans, like zooplankton and krill, has pressured the North Atlantic proper whale to seek for new feeding grounds.
(FWC Fish and Wildlife Analysis Institute/flickr), CC BY-NC-ND

With greenhouse fuel emissions on an increase, our oceans absorb more heat, ultimately leading to higher surface temperatures in the important thing habitats of many iconic marine species, such because the North Atlantic proper whale. The quantity of crustaceans obtainable for North Atlantic proper whales to feed on seems to decline with greater temperatures.


Species are on the move quicker than ever right this moment, as they discover new ecosystems and create new ecological communities to remain inside their most well-liked surroundings.

Learn extra:
Species on the move: 4 ways conservation can adapt in an era of climate change


Whereas Canada has a marine conservation framework in place to guard marine biodiversity in its waters, this safety is firmly static in house and never ideally suited to our extremely dynamic oceans in occasions of a local weather emergency.

The unpredictable nature of our altering oceans poses an issue for a way we presently method marine conservation below the Oceans Act and different conservation frameworks in Canada such because the Species at Risk Act and Fisheries Act.


Canada’s marine protected areas

At the moment, 14 marine protected areas (MPAs) cowl about six per cent of Canada’s marine and coastal areas below the Oceans Act. These MPAs had been established to guard both distinctive species or their habitats.

Some iconic MPAs embrace the Gully MPA on the sting of the Atlantic Scotian Shelf, the Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPA west of Haida Gwaii within the Pacific Ocean and the lately established Tuvaijuittuq MPA within the Excessive Arctic.

Marine Protected Areas defend and restore endangered species, preserve biodiversity, improve the resilience of distinctive coastal ecosystems and in addition improve fisheries.

Very like the North Atlantic proper whales transferring away from their historic aggregation websites, adjustments are starting to seem in different Canadian waters and their protected areas.

New species like some tropical fishes are appearing more frequently, others are moving further north or into deeper waters, leaving the waters the place they had been protected.

Modernizing the Oceans Act

Now’s the time to acknowledge and deal with the fast shifts in Canada’s oceans. To satisfy this problem, Canada’s marine conservation toolbox — beginning with the Oceans Act — wants an overhaul.

The Oceans Act dates again to 1996 and whereas it has been amended a number of occasions since, it doesn’t point out local weather change as soon as.

Our recent research suggests amending the Oceans Act to explicitly contemplate local weather change impacts on marine ecosystems and species in ocean administration and contemplate relevant actions. If we need to transfer ahead with significant marine conservation in Canada, our central instrument for marine conservation wants to handle the pressing concern of world local weather change.

Not solely does the Oceans Act fail to handle the impacts of ongoing local weather change, research additionally discovered Canada is lagging far behind different comparable nations by way of integrating local weather change within the administration of its marine protected areas.

Adapting marine conservation to local weather change boils right down to altering laws and embracing new applied sciences corresponding to sensor-equipped robotic submarines and airborne drones. New applied sciences can bolster the prevailing marine conservation toolbox to handle the impacts of local weather change.

This was proven, for instance, within the current improvement of dynamic protection measures that used these applied sciences to trace and observe North Atlantic proper whales in Atlantic Canadian waters in actual time.

We advise combining these dynamic safety measures with the prevailing static MPA community in Canada’s oceans to permit for local weather change-induced species shifts.

Taking management in ocean conservation

Canada is rising as a worldwide chief in ocean conservation, dedicated to defending 30 per cent of Canada’s ocean by 2030.

Additionally it is dedicated to modernizing the Oceans Act “to explicitly consider climate change impacts on marine ecosystems […],” as acknowledged within the 2021 mandate letter for the minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Whereas these nationwide and worldwide commitments are an indication of progress in the direction of climate-adaptive marine conservation, Canada must step as much as the plate to safeguard its oceans from a altering local weather. It must overhaul its marine conservation toolbox.

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