May 22, 2015 18:05 ET

WWF-Canada Applauds Funds for Marine Protection, but Pushes for Higher MPA Standards

TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - May 22, 2015) - WWF-Canada applauds today's announcement of over $57 million in Government support for Pacific salmon research, marine science facility upgrades, and the designation of four Marine Protected Area candidate sites. However, WWF cautions that the dollars might not add up to meaningful protection for some of Canada's most valuable ocean environments.

"This much needed funding for research facilities, marine science and the creation of Marine Protected Areas is something to applaud -- with just over 1% of Canada's oceans under federal protection, it's encouraging to see St. Ann's Bank in Nova Scotia and other sites gaining permanent protection," said David Miller, President & CEO of WWF Canada.

But even with the final designation of four out of eight Marine Protected Area (MPA) candidate sites, Canada still needs to pick up the pace to reach its international commitment to protect at least 10% of its marine environment by 2020.

WWF is also concerned that some proposed MPA sites aren't up to standard, especially the Laurentian Channel. Located off the coast of Newfoundland and home to endangered sharks, turtles and cold-water corals, this candidate for "protected area" would still be 100% open to oil and gas exploration and exploitation.

"WWF is extremely concerned about the proposed Laurentian Channel MPA due to the potential for oil and gas exploration and exploitation to be carried out across the entire protected area," said David Miller. "100% oil and gas within an MPA not only sets a bad precedent for the quality of Canada's future protected areas, but it also drastically increases risks for threatened species including sharks, whales, sea turtles and corals."

WWF is calling on the government to implement stronger conservation standards for all MPAs. This includes better management measures and plans, an exclusion of oil and gas and mining activities within MPA boundaries, and making at least 30% of all its marine regions "no-take" zones, where extractive uses such as commercial fishing are not allowed.

In addition to the $37 million earmarked under the National Conservation Plan for marine protection over the next five years, WWF estimates that a yearly investment of $45 million is necessary to increase marine protection and to develop and implement associated planning in Canada.

"We need more MPAs, and we need them to be at the highest standard possible. While today's announcement is a step in the right direction, if we don't establish more high-quality protected areas in our oceans -- and if we don't do it faster -- we're at risk of reducing some of Canada's richest oceans areas to nothing more than lines on a map," said David Miller.

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