February 21, 2005 02:00 ET

Oceans forum best chance to restore the Eastern Scotian Shelf

A forum to be held in Halifax, February 22-23, 2005 will provide Canada's best opportunity to protect and enhance the Eastern Scotian Shelf ecosystem according to World Wildlife Fund Canada Attention: City Editor, Environment Editor, News Editor, Science Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor HALIFAX, N.S.--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 21, 2005) - A forum to be held in Halifax, February 22-23, 2005 will provide Canada's best opportunity to protect and enhance the Eastern Scotian Shelf ecosystem according to World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada). The Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management (ESSIM) Forum Workshop, led by the Oceans and Coastal Management Division of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, will bring close to150 people from government, industry and other sectors together to discuss a draft management plan for the area.

"This forum and the planning process behind it provide a real opportunity to restore the health of this marine ecosystem and achieve a balance between conservation and commercial uses," said Dr. Robert Rangeley, Atlantic Director, WWF-Canada.

Overfishing on the Eastern Scotian Shelf led to the collapse of once-abundant commercial groundfish populations by the early 1990s. Species such as cod were severely depleted, which changed the structure of the ecosystem. Despite more than a decade long moratorium, cod populations and the ecosystem have not recovered. The more recent expansion of the offshore oil and gas industry has introduced a new set of pressures on the already stressed Eastern Scotian Shelf ecosystem.

"WWF-Canada has been an active participant in the ESSIM initiative since the beginning and we recognize that continued government leadership and stakeholder participation are required to finalize and implement the plan," said Rangeley.

The draft management plan to be presented at the forum outlines a process to ensure that industrial activities on the Eastern Scotian Shelf, such as commercial fishing and oil and gas development, coexist while minimizing their impacts on the ecosystem. If an action plan can be agreed upon by stakeholders and implemented, it may be possible to return the Eastern Scotian Shelf to the healthy productive ecosystem it once was.

"Globally we have not done a great job managing activities and impacts on our oceans," concluded Rangeley. "Here in Nova Scotia, through this process, we have an opportunity to set an example for the world in how to properly balance conservation and development. If we miss this opportunity, the continual decline in the health of Canada's oceans and the economic hardship inflicted on the residents of coastal communities will continue. By working together to rebuild a healthy ecosystem, we can help these communities regain their vibrancy."


WWF-Canada's involvement in the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management (ESSIM) Initiative

The pace of industrial development in Atlantic Canadian waters has greatly exceeded that of conservation planning. This has resulted in widespread ecological impacts and subsequent socioeconomic hardships in many coastal communities. Dramatic declines in once-abundant commercial fish species, such as Atlantic cod, and evidence of cumulative impacts from ocean activities suggest that species and sector-based approaches to management are ineffective.

An alternative approach to oceans management is needed, one that aims to restore and conserve healthy ecosystems and coordinate management among different sectors. Under the Oceans Act, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has the mandate to develop regional-scale integrated management plans for Canada's oceans.

The Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management Initiative (ESSIM) is a pilot study for DFO's integrated management program. Integrated management is a collaborative process that is designed to solve problems among users and allow multiple activities to take place without harming the marine environment in which they take place.

WWF-Canada has been involved in ESSIM since its inception in 1998. Over the last several years we have been active in working groups that have developed ecosystem and human use objectives, which comprise an important component of the Draft Eastern Scotian Shelf Ocean Management Plan.

WWF-Canada supports the development of the draft Eastern Scotian Shelf Ocean Management Plan. Implementation of a plan such as this will help achieve a balance between conservation and industrial development because it acknowledges that healthy industries, such as fishing, depend on healthy ecosystems. This approach is consistent with WWF-Canada's 'Conservation First' principle, which states:

"There should be no new or expanded large-scale industrial development in Canada until a network of protected areas is reserved which adequately represents the natural region(s) affected by development."

WWF-Canada wants to ensure that this commitment to conservation is retained in the final plan. Effective implementation of the plan will require continued commitment from DFO, and active engagement by other relevant government agencies and industry representatives resulting in "real change on the water."

As a pilot study, ESSIM will set a precedent for integrated management in the rest of Canada, including areas such as the Grand Banks, and throughout the world.


Contact Information

  • Coburn Mclean, Program Coordinator, World Wildlife Fund Canada
    Primary Phone: 902-482-1105 ext. 0