Marine areas

Less than 1% of its ocean area protected, Canada is far behind other countries in marine conservation.

Current status of oceans and solutions to be explored

Canada boasts an exceptional marine heritage. The same is the case for Quebec, focus of interest of the chapter.  This heritage provides significant resources for our lifestyles (seafood, traditions, recreational opportunities, marine transportation, major basis of ecological equilibrium, etc.).

But the current state of the global marine environment is alarming. Unfortunately, Canadian waters, including those around Quebec, are no exception, as has been noted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (see the 2010 report). Problems include overfishing and pollution (including nutrient-rich run-off). In addition, the significant amounts of CO2 emissions we produce have caused the warming and acidification of the oceans, jeopardizing all marine biodiversity.

Solutions exist. What is needed is to:

• Create a vast network of Marine Protected Areas representative of the diversity of marine ecosystems and optimized to support sustainable human activities;
• Avoid or limit mining and hydrocarbon extraction, except in cases when they are deemed necessary and socially acceptable, in which case they need to be strictly regulated;
• Prevent, reduce and strictly control toxic substances, pathogens and nutrients (fertilizer, wastewater, etc.) which are released into the marine environment;
• Fish sustainably so that fishing can continue over the long-term;
• Evaluate, monitor and control all other uses of the marine environment through spatial planning and appropriate environmental assessment.
Individuals, organizations, and governments each have an important role to play. CPAWS Quebec works with and supports all stakeholders in their marine conservation efforts.

How CPAWS implements such solutions

CPAWS has unique expertise in marine conservation. In 2008, the organization produced a status report on marine area protection in Canada. In 2011, at the 2nd International Marine Conservation Congress, we joined with several well-known Canadian university researchers to release a series of science-based guidelines for the establishment of networks of marine protected areas. In 2011, CPAWS Quebec also jointly organized the province's first symposium on marine protected areas.

CPAWS Quebec works with major players to ensure they make progress on the national and international goals they have established. CPAWS Quebec also works with many communities to advance concrete projects for marine protected areas, such as the Îles-de-la-Madeleine Shelf, the waters around the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, and the Cree's Tawich project in James Bay. We are also very involved in the prevention of marine pollution, in particular regarding the riskes posed by development of a petroleum industry in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

Take action to improve the protection of your marine environment

CPAWS is proposing the protection of twelve outstanding marine sites. Three of these sites are located in Quebec: the Îles-de-la-Madeleine Shelf, the waters around the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, and the Tawich project in James Bay. These sites contain habitat essential for a wide range of marine species at risk such as the Piping plover, the Beluga and the Blue whale.

Why is there urgency to protect these 12 marine areas?

• With less than 1% of its ocean area protected, Canada is far behind other countries in marine conservation.
• In the Convention on Biological Diversity, the federal government committed to establishing a network of marine protected areas before 2012.
• The 12 Sites identified by CPAWS are priorities for protection.
• These 12 marine areas are home to several endangered species and comprise critical habitat for several varieties of fishes.
• Protection of these sites will represent an important step toward the creation of a comprehensive network of marine protected areas to which Canada committed itself in the International Convention on Biological Diversity.

Learn more about our endangered whales and the solutions to save them:


*French to English translation

Take action

Add your voice for protecting Canada's oceans!
I support protecting Canada's oceans. I urge governments to quickly establish 12 new marine protected areas recommended by CPAWS and create networks of marine protected areas in all of our oceans.
Take action
Protect Québec's biodiversity
Ask the government of Québec to respect the international biodiversity targets, which aim for a minimum of 17% of protected areas by 2020, and to commit to doing more starting today: 25% of protected areas by 2025!
Take action


How deep did Canada dare?

Assessing national progress towards marine protection to December 2012.

Dare to be deep : charting Canada’s course to 2020

2014 CPAWS oceans report.