New Brunswick 'lagging behind' protecting important marine areas
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society spokesperson hopes province will expand protected marine areas
New Brunswick is "lagging behind" other Canadian jurisdictions when it comes to protecting marine areas, according to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
The national charity that works to protect public land, water and parks called to protect 30 per cent of Canada's ocean and coastal areas by 2030 in their 2019 report on the state of Canada's oceans, released this week.
The report said Canada has made more progress on protecting its oceans in the last three years than it ever has before. However, New Brunswick has yet to establish any new protected marine areas.
Roberta Clowater, executive director of the society's New Brunswick chapter, said the federal government has been committed to ocean nature protection through the multilateral treaty Convention on Biological Diversity and that federal Liberals have been working toward having 10 per cent of Canada's oceans in protected areas by 2020.
As of late April, Canada has reached 8.2 per cent of the conservation target.
But Clowater said there's room for improvement in New Brunswick.
"New Brunswick is kind of lagging behind a lot of the other jurisdictions," she said. "We didn't have any new marine protected areas established in the waters off our coast over the past little while"
Other jurisdictions such as Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories have all established new protected areas.
"There's room for improvement, that's for sure, off the coast of New Brunswick," Clowater said.
Clowater said she hopes to challenge provincial leadership to work with the federal government more and engage in discussions on how to protect marine areas.
What more needs to be done?
Clowater said the province needs to take action to establish marine-protected areas in the Bay of Fundy, Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait.
Another area of note is the Shediac Valley, 1,500 square kilometres of water in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off the coast of the Acadian Peninsula.
The area was identified by Ottawa a number of years ago as an area of interest because it was spawning a nursery of yellowtail flounder, Atlantic cod as well as the endangered winter skate.
Shediac Valley has more recently seen an uptick in north Atlantic right whale feeding activity, as they have begun to migrate there from their traditional feeding grounds in the Bay of Fundy to find food.
Economic value in protected areas
"We think that there's been traditionally a lack of political will in New Brunswick to work with the federal government on marine protection measures off the coast" Clowater said.
"We think that there's not as much understanding of the actual nature tourism and economic value of having marine protected areas, even though in other parts of Canada it is recognized."
Clowater continued to say that there are thousands of jobs in the Bay of Fundy which would all benefit more from protecting areas of the ocean, as nature and marine tourism is a large contributor to the local economy.
"There is a lot of quiet support in New Brunswick and we need some of those quiet supporters to start speaking up and to become more active in their engagement with politicians," Clowater said.
"To encourage that political will so that the politicians here can follow the good example and great momentum that's happening at the national level in other provinces but also around the globe."
The environmental group said New Brunswick is taking important steps toward protecting juvenile lobster and salmon populations, but there's still more the province can do to preserve long-term marine conservation.
When asked what's stopping New Brunswick from establishing new protected marine areas, a spokesperson for the provincial Department of Environment and Local Government said that this falls under Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Robin Jahn, a communications officer for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said the department is contributing to the 10 per cent conservation target through marine refuges and marine protected areas.
"Marine refuges are present along the coast of New Brunswick in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and contribute to the protection of a number of species and their habitat, such as juvenile lobster and Atlantic salmon," Jahn said in an email.
"In the Bay of Fundy, the Musquash Estuary Marine Protected Area is a productive habitat, and home to many birds, mammals, fish, invertebrates and marine plants."
Jahn said before a new conservation area is identified, "extensive consultations and discussions based on scientific and Indigenous knowledge will be taken into account to determine what kind of protection is needed and where."
With files from Shift New Brunswick