The fourth element of the ecological management approach is the development and implementation of sector-specific policies, plans and programs. The sustainable use of biological resources and ecosystems is essential to the well-being of members of society and is necessary to conserve biodiversity.
There are numerous policies, laws and programs in effect in Canada to support the sustainable use of biological resources. These include soil conservation programs, sustainable harvesting rates for wildlife, trapping and fishing, sustainable grazing rates on agricultural lands, and the sustainable use of forest resources. Unfortunately, there have also been instances where unsustainable resource use has resulted in adverse impacts to the economy and community social well-being. Canada is responding to resource management issues that have arisen from such practices. For example, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan is being implemented in response to very significant declines in waterfowl populations. The tourism industry is developing environmental codes of practice to promote the sustainable use of wildlife, parks and other resources necessary to sustain the growing eco-tourism sector.
Indigenous communities are playing an increasingly significant role in the development of cooperative regimes to sustain our resources for future generations. Other sectors of society are becoming increasingly aware of the need to conserve biodiversity and use biological resources in a sustainable manner.
In some instances it may be possible to develop opportunities for the secondary processing of biological resources as a means of increasing employment, profits and economic diversity. Where such opportunities exist, they should be pursued as a means of supporting sustainable harvest rates for biological resources.
Biological systems are dynamic and can change significantly in biological productivity, species distribution and abundance. Consequently, resource managers and users must be aware of natural adjustments and fluctuations and respond with appropriate management practices.
In the following section, strategic directions 1.32 to 1.38 apply to all renewable resource sectors. This is followed by sections addressing agricultural, aquatic, and forested areas.
The agriculture and agri-food industry is a major contributor to the Canadian economy, accounting for eight percent of the Gross Domestic Product and 15 percent of total employment. Approximately seven percent of Canada's total land base is under some form of agricultural production, with one half million farmers engaged in primary food production worth $18 billion annually. Over one million individuals are employed in the food processing sector, which in 1992 was the second largest manufacturing industry in Canada, worth a total of $43.6 billion.
Just as humans depend upon the products of agriculture, agriculture depends upon biological resources and ecosystems that provide the raw materials to produce new and better food plants, breeds of animals, and other products.
International access to diverse genetic resources is necessary for us because almost all major Canadian crops and domestic animals originated in other parts of the world. We must continue to be involved in global cooperative efforts in conservation and germplasm exchange in order to maintain a broad genetic base that will ensure our competitive position in the international market place.
Genetic resources can be preserved in specialized facilities, on farms or in the wild. In Canada, ex situ preservation plays a critical role in providing continued access to viable seed stocks and cell lines, that would otherwise be lost as wild populations and species and traditional crops and breeds change or become extinct. Efforts are underway in Canada to preserve rare breeds of domesticated plants and animals in on-farm conditions.
On a broader scale, the impact of agriculture on other aspects of biodiversity has been recognized and, in many cases, solutions have been identified and are being implemented. Governments, agricultural producers, conservation organizations and others are addressing problems associated with soil erosion, the chemical contamination of water, wetland drainage, urban encroachment, wildlife and habitat impacts, energy efficiency, air and climate influences, pollution and waste management. In 1991 it was estimated that 87% of Canada's original prairie grassland had been converted to farmland. Canada has established Grasslands National Park to maintain a representative example of the arid shortgrass grassland region.
There is growing recognition within the farm sector that agriculture can benefit, in certain circumstances, from the maintenance and enhancement of populations of wild flora and fauna. Governments are funding research and technology transfer programs to assist farmers in adopting practices that minimize impacts on surrounding ecosystems. Efforts must continue to optimize the use of agricultural lands by determining the most suitable crops for particular soil types and other conditions. Optimizing the use of agricultural lands is not only an essential element of agricultural sustainability, but also can significantly contribute to the conservation of biodiversity by maintaining or enhancing crop production without expanding the agricultural land base.
It is essential that individual landowners and agricultural producers continue to be involved in the development and implementation of environmentally sustainable agricultural policies and programs.
Through research, training and technology transfer, facilitate the further adoption of environmentally sustainable farm practices, including those that:
Maintain or develop in situ and ex situ conservation mechanisms to support the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources essential to agriculture by:
Aquatic areas include freshwater, marine and wetland ecosystems. For centuries humans have used these ecosystems for food, recreation, sewage treatment, transportation, irrigation, cultural and spiritual purposes. Ground and surface waters are used as sources of potable water, and access to water has been a determining factor in the location of towns, cities, farms and other settlements. Globally, aquatic ecosystems produce the largest single source of animal protein for human consumption. Aquatic resources are also used for medicines and as raw material for manufacturing industries. Marine ecosystems play a significant ecological role, exerting influence over global processes such as the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
While humans have benefited enormously from aquatic ecosystems, they have not always used these resources in a sustainable manner. Some aquatic ecosystems have been stressed by commercial exploitation, long-range transport of contaminants, loss of habitat, and local and regional developments.
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence ecosystems have been greatly modified by intensive fishing, introduced species, pollutants and habitat changes. On the Atlantic coast, major reductions of groundfish species such as the northern cod appear to be due to a number of factors, including high exploitation, predation, inappropriate harvesting practices and environmental variants that have affected the survival of very young fish as well as growth rates and behaviour. On the Pacific coast, salmon, halibut and herring have gone through major fluctuations due to fishing pressure and environmental changes.
Significant reductions in population size and distribution can erode genetic diversity and ultimately lead to the extinction of species. In communities that depend upon biological resources, significant reduction in aquatic resource harvesting levels can devastate local economies and social well-being.
Canada is responding to aquatic resource issues in a variety of ways: financial and human resources are being devoted to solving management issues; habitat restoration and protection programs are being implemented; and restoration and rehabilitation programs are being developed and implemented to address water quality concerns. Canada is also continuing to work with other countries to address international aquatic resource issues.
Reduce to acceptable levels, or eliminate, adverse impacts of species introductions on aquatic biodiversity resulting from aquaculture projects, fisheries enhancement programs and interbasin transfers of water and organisms.
Conserve ocean-based fisheries resources by:
Maintain or develop in situ and ex situ mechanisms to support the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of aquatic biological resources by:
Forests cover half of Canada and are essential to the survival of many species. As well as being ecologically significant on a global scale, forests are important contributors to our economic and social well-being. About 300 communities depend largely on forestry and more than 800,000 people work in the forest products industry or for organizations associated with it. In 1993, forest product exports contributed $22.4 billion to our net balance of trade.
Forest resources provide food, fuel and medicines for many communities, and are used for hunting, trapping, gathering, spiritual or religious purposes, and wilderness experiences. Being able to access and enjoy forested areas greatly improves our quality of life. While it is difficult to assign a monetary value to the social and cultural benefits of forests, these extremely important values must be considered in determining appropriate forest uses.
Given the importance of forests to Canadians, and the diverse uses that occur in these areas, it is essential that integrated management practices continue to be improved and implemented. Management decisions must be based on our best understanding of forest ecosystems and the implications of various forest uses.
Governments, forestry companies, woodlot owners, conservation groups and other organizations and individuals are directing resources towards addressing forest issues. Research and new technologies are improving forest management practices. Greater effort is being directed at improving forest inventories and reducing adverse impacts on soil, water and wildlife. A variety of mechanisms, such as land-use planning, forest management plans and guidelines are being implemented to solve conflicts between users. Protected areas have been and will continue to be established in support of the conservation of forest biodiversity. In 1992, Canada's national forest strategy, Sustainable Forests: A Canadian Commitment, was published. Now being implemented, this strategy provides a framework for jurisdictions to address forest issues and realize opportunities. The Canadian Biodiversity Strategy does not repeat all of the elements of the national forest strategy, but rather attempts to build upon those elements that are most relevant to the objectives of the Biodiversity Convention.
Continue to develop and implement improved forest management practices that provide for the sustainable use of forests while maintaining the regional forest mosaic. Use practices that are as consistent as is practical, with natural disturbance regimes, patterns and processes.
In consultation with regional and urban governments, landowners and lease holders, identify and correct policies that discourage the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of forest biological resources on private lands and leased crown lands.