Protecting Oceans with Effective MPAs

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) conserve biodiversity, sustain healthy fisheries, sequester carbon, support tourism, and provide for coastal communities. Investments in MPAs produce economic benefits significantly  greater than the cost of establishment. MPA  planning processes offer an opportunity for long term investment in coastal communities, including stakeholder support funding, local job creation (in outreach, planning and management), and indirect benefits for tourism and local businesses. Providing upfront commitments for long term investments will help ensure community support for marine protection.

Over the past five years, Canada has gone from global laggard to potential leader in terms of ocean protection. In August 2019, Canada announced that it had protected 13.8% of its ocean territory, significantly exceeding the 10% by 2020 target under the CBD. This included the protection of many iconic but vulnerable ecosystems including the Laurentian Channel, Tallurutiup Imanga and the Scott Islands. This tremendous achievement proves what can be done when there is political will and wise investment.

Recent studies have calculated that we need to protect 30-70% of the ocean to effectively protect and restore biodiversity.  In doing so we could restore the health of our oceans within 30 years with an estimated global economic return of about $10 per every $1 invested, creating more than one million new jobs. Polling shows that Canadians do not think that current levels of protection are enough. With a mandate and commitment to protect 25% of Canada’s ocean by 2025, and to achieve and advocate for protecting 30% by 2030, Canada is charting the right course.


1)  Deliver on the commitment to protect 25% of Canada’s ocean by 2025 and 30% by 2030, by establishing new MPAs and MPA networks, National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs), and marine Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas.

In addition to helping maintain vital ocean ecosystem services, investments in MPAs are investments in coastal communities. Establishing new MPAs would support long term job creation in remote coastal areas, investment in coastal infrastructure, and indirect benefits through goods and services provided during planning and management. Beyond establishing new sites, it is important that the government develops an official policy to support implementation of its MPA protection standards across all federal agencies.

2) Invest in the ongoing management and monitoring of MPAs.
In addition to establishing new MPAs,  it is critical that the government invest sufficient resources for ongoing management and monitoring. (Note that further recommendations on investments in management, monitoring and enforcement are provided in the subsequent section on Managing Healthy Oceans.)


1) Oceans Act MPAs and MPA  network planning: $185 million over 2020-2021, and then $72 million per year ongoing.

2) National Marine Conservation Areas and marine National Wildlife Areas: $140 million over 2020-2021,  which may include stimulus funding, and then $53 million per year ongoing.

3) Management of National Marine Conservation Areas and marine National Wildlife Areas: $20 million over the next two years (2020-2022) and then $20 million per year ongoing.

Alexandra Barron –
Gauri Sreenivasan –
Jay Ritchlin –