Marine Habitat

Marine Protected Areas

Nudibranch. Photo by Karlista RickersonBritish Columbia’s marine life is amazingly rich. In fact, most of BC’s overall biodiversity occurs in the ocean.

Yet while more than 13% of BC’s land has protected status, less than 2% of our marine environment is protected!  At the same time, many marine species are in steep decline or at risk.

What’s needed is a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) along the BC coast, to help conserve marine plants and animals and the habitats on which they depend.

MPAs can:

  • provide sanctuaries for threatened species
  • improve fishing opportunities
  • aid scientific research
  • provide outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities
  • generate increased public awareness of marine life
  • bring social and economic benefits to coastal communities

MPAs are like an “insurance policy” -- a smart investment to guard against errors in fisheries management or the impacts of environmental changes such as global warming. 

Overall size and protection levels within MPAs may vary. It’s important that we create MPAs for every type of marine habitat, since each type supports a different set of fish, shellfish, birds and other species.

At the very least, oil, gas and mineral exploration and development, dredging, dumping, bottom trawling and open netcage fish farming should be prohibited in every MPA.

Beyond this, MPAs should include a “no-take” zone (closed to fishing or other harvesting), to allow fish and other animals to grow to maturity and reproduce. From studying existing MPAs worldwide, scientists have learned that no-take zones help to increases species diversity, sizes and populations -- both inside and outside the no-take zone. 

Humans have caused a great deal of damage to our world's oceans. But fortunately, along with the ability to cause harm, we have the ability to heal. Creating a network of MPAs could buy us the time we need to learn to properly safeguard our amazing marine resources.

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