The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly pervasive, bringing Canada’s lack of preparedness in its marine conservation measures into focus.
The North Atlantic right whales — One of the most endangered large whales found off the eastern shores of Canada — are now changing their habits and traditions.
Their pursuit of their favourite food source — small and nutritious crustaceans — has taken them further north from the Bay of Fundy to New feeding grounds in the Gulf of St. LawrenceThese migrations have been increasing in recent years. This migration effectively renders the Existing conservation area in the Bay of FundyIt is futile to protect the most vulnerable population.
We are a collaboration of marine governance professionals and conservation researchers from across Canada to address these climate-driven problems. Five solutions that can be implemented immediately for Canada’s marine conservation under climate change, with a modernized Oceans Act at its core.
Species are on a move
These whales seem to be shifting their feeding grounds in close proximity Warmer ocean temperatures are linked– caused by climate change that is ongoing and intensifying.
Our oceans are at risk from rising greenhouse gas emissions. Absorb more heat, which ultimately leads to higher surface temperaturesThese habitats are the main habitats for many marine species, including the North Atlantic right whale. The number of crustaceans available to North Atlantic right Whales to eat seems to declineWith higher temperatures
Species are on a moveThey explore new ecosystems faster than ever and create new ecological communities to keep their environment intact.
Conservation can adapt to climate change: Four ways species are moving
Canada is a country that has been able to withstand the test of time. marine conservation frameworkProtecting marine biodiversity in its waters is a policy that is firmly fixed in space. It is not well suited to our highly dynamic oceans in times when there is a climate emergency.
How we approach marine conservation today under the Marine Conservation Act is complicated by the unpredictable nature of our changing seas. Oceans ActCanada, and other conservation frameworks such as the Species at Risk ActAnd Fisheries Act.
Canada’s marine protected areas
Today, 14 marine protected zones (MPAs). cover about six per cent of Canada’s marine and coastal areas under the Oceans Act. These MPAs are intended to protect endangered species or their habitats.
The iconic MPAs include: Gully MPAThe Atlantic Scotian Shelf lies at the edge of the Sgaan Kinghlas-Bowie Seamount MPAwest of Haida Gwaii on the Pacific Ocean and the newly established Tuvaijuittuq MPAHigh Arctic
Changes are beginning to take place in Canada’s waters and protected areas, much like the North Atlantic right-wing whales that have left their historic aggregation locations.
More species, such as some tropical fishes, are being discovered frequentlyOthers are Moving further north or deeper into the oceans is a good idea.Leave the waters as they were protected
Modernizing the Oceans Act
Now is the time to acknowledge and address the rapid shifts in Canada’s oceans. To meet this challenge, Canada’s marine conservation toolbox — starting with the Oceans Act — needs an overhaul.
The Oceans Act was established in 1996. It has been amended many times since then, but it doesn’t mention climate change.
Recent researchIt is suggested that the Oceans Act be amended to explicitly address climate change impacts on marine ecosystems, species in ocean management, and consider appropriate actions. We must address the urgent problem of global climate change in order to make Canada a leader in marine conservation.
The Oceans Act fails to address the ongoing impacts of climate change. ResearchCanada also ranks far behind comparable nations when it comes to integrating climate change into the management of its marine protected area.
Adapting marine protection to climate change means changing legislation and adopting new technologies, such as sensor-equipped robot submarines and drones. To address the effects of climate change, new technologies can be added to the existing marine conservation toolbox.
This was evident in the latest development of Protection measures that work dynamicallyThese technologies were used to track and monitor right whales in Atlantic Canadian waters.
We suggest combining these dynamic protection measures with the existing static MPA network in Canada’s oceans to allow for climate change-induced species shifts.
Ocean conservation leadership
Canada is emerging as a leader in ocean conservation and is committed to protecting it. 30 per cent of Canada’s ocean by 2030.
It is also committed to modernizing the Oceans Act “to explicitly consider climate change impacts on marine ecosystems […],” as stated in the 2021 mandate letterFor the minister of fisheries and oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
These international and national commitments are a sign that there is progress towards climate-adaptive marine conservancy. Canada must step up to protect its oceans from the changing climate. It needs to restructure its marine conservation tools.