Protected Areas

Photo: stellar sea lions © Environment Canada
Stellar sea lions

Marine Protected Areas

Thousand km2, 1885 to May 2009
Graph: marine protected areas. Click for graphic description (new window).
Source: Environment Canada, 20092

Approximately 45,280 km2 (0.6%) of Canada’s oceans are protected.2 Although many protected areas on Canada’s coasts have marine components, the designation of specific marine protected areas is more recent. This includes some marine areas of global significance, such as the Gully Marine Protected Area, the largest underwater canyon in eastern North America, situated 200 km off the coast of Nova Scotia, and the Bowie Seamount, a large submarine volcano 180 km west of Haida Gwaii, B.C.

Gwaii Haanas Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site

Gwaii Haanas Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site is Canada’s newest marine protected area, covering 3,500 km2 of water and seabed. With the adjacent Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, a contiguous protected area of 5,000 km2 now extends from the alpine tundra of the mountaintops, through the temperate rainforest, to the deep ocean beyond the continental shelf. The marine area is noted for its diverse and unique ecosystems, which include deep-sea coral reefs, kelp forests, and eelgrass meadows. Nearly 3,500 marine species dwell in this area, including economically important fish and shellfish, breeding populations of seabirds, and marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and sea lions. The area will be cooperatively managed by the Haida Nation and the federal government.4, 5

The Gully Marine Protected Area

The Gully, comprising an area of 2,364 km2, is located offshore of Nova Scotia, near Sable Island. Its ecological significance is well established and includes the highest known diversity of coral in Atlantic Canada, 14 species of marine mammals, including the endangered Scotian Shelf population of northern bottlenose whales, and a wide variety of fish, seabirds, and bottom-dwelling animals.6, 7 The Gully is managed using a zonation system that protects the deep water from all extractive activities, allows some fishing in the canyon head and sides, feeder canyons, and on the continental slope, and allows activities in the adjacent sand banks if they do not disrupt the ecosystem beyond natural variability.8