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A Review of Canada's Implementation of the Oceans Act since 1997—From Leader to Follower?

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With the passage of the Oceans Act in 1997, Canada was considered a global leader in modern oceans management. With provisions for marine protected areas (MPAs) and integrated oceans management, the Oceans Act was meant to address the existing piecemeal approach to oceans management, by moving to a new approach founded in the concepts of sustainable development and ecosystem-based management. However, the past 13 years of implementation of the Act have highlighted a number of challenges that are affecting the degree to which oceans management is actually changing “in the water.” Most fundamental is the lack of adequate governance mechanisms that will ensure compliance by all parts of the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and by other federal departments, and enhanced collaboration with all levels of government, including provinces, territories and First Nations. Coupled with inadequate funding, no timelines for completion of plans for MPAs, and the lack of accountability mechanisms, Canada's ocean estate continues to be managed on the piecemeal, sector-by-sector approach that the Oceans Act was meant to replace. More recently, global best practice in MPA establishment is moving to networks and huge MPAs that are fully protected from all human activities, while broader oceans management is moving from an integrated approach to one that includes marine spatial planning and ocean zoning. Canada is just beginning to explore how these new practices could be implemented in its ocean estate, and needs to move more rapidly in order to better conserve and manage ocean ecosystems.
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Keywords: Canada Oceans Act; oceans integrated planning; oceans management; oceans regulation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Oceans and Great Freshwater Lakes Program, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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