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In accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Conference of the Parties Decision VII/22, the Executive Secretary of the CBD Secretariat called upon governments, nongovernment organizations, Indigenous Peoples, and academia from around the world to submit case-studies on successful and unsuccessful implementation of Integrated Marine and Coastal Area Management (IMCAM), as well as any relevant information relating to the lessons learned from the implementation of IMCAM.
As part of that review, MAARS prepared and submitted a paper on ESSIM: Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management Plan – A case-study of a successful IMCAM plan (ESSIM) plan lacking leadership for implementation.
Initially, ESSIM stakeholders and DFO, working in partnership through a transparent public process, advanced the ESSIM initiative, which resulted in a proposed ESSIM Plan, backed with broad support from stakeholders and regional offices of DFO. The ESSIM Plan addresses numerous concerns and issues from a diversity of resource users, government offices, Aboriginal Peoples, academics, and non-government organizations. However, since being submitted to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for signature, the ESSIM Plan has suffered from “a sudden lack of national leadership for approval and implementation”.
The MAARS case-study on ESSIM briefly backdrops the history of oceans management in Canada, and the benchmarks set internationally by the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the requirements under Canada’s Oceans Act to initiate oceans management through the creation of Large Ocean Management Areas (LOMAs). The ESSIM initiative was announced in 1998 as the test pilot for Canada’s first integrated oceans management area.
The authors of the report question why has the ESSIM Plan not been signed off by the Minister after almost 10 years of effort? Given that the ESSIM Plan has been ready since 2007, ESSIM has a multi-sectoral Stakeholder Advisory Council ready to move ahead, and that the Minister has recently approved and signed off the Beaufort Sea Plan, we can draw the conclusion that there is a lack of national leadership to implement ESSIM.
The Stakeholder Advisory Council is made of 32 regional members, representing government, Aboriginal Peoples, industry, fisheries, academia and others who volunteer their time to develop the Plan. The lack of national implementation leadership is disheartening to say the least.
Species at risk programs and listings have also suffered from a lack of Ministerial direction and lack of an approved overarching policy to effectively and measurably implement Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA).
Earlier last year, Environment Canada released a Draft Species at Risk Act Overarching Policy Framework, in an attempt to fill the federal policy gap between SARA legislative requirements and practical on-the-ground implementation of SARA. Interests were invited to comment on the Draft Policy Framework.
Since enactment in 2002, SARA continues to flounder. On the one hand, volunteer efforts on-the-ground continue to drive SARA implementation. On the other hand, Canada’s overarching economic policy of resource exploration and exploitation at the cost to biodiversity, undermines the broad intent and purposes of SARA, as well as many on-the-ground efforts. A reconciliation of SARA and government policy is required at the highest levels. However, the Draft Policy Framework provides nothing new in the way of national policy to clarify or guide towards full and meaningful implementation of SARA. Leadership is woefully unprepared or blind to the facts and reality of SARA and its significance to Canadians and Aboriginal Peoples.
MAPC and IKANAWTIKET responded to the call for comments on the Draft Policy Framework with a Policy Critique on the Draft Species at Risk Act Overarching Policy Framework.
The Policy Critique highlights the growing call for a new approach toward the governance and use of natural resources in Canada and why SARA is poised to initiate real action in real time with real results. As Canada’s leading national legislation for the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Canada, SARA requires:
- new knowledge to be acquired about biodiversity, including scientific, Aboriginal knowledge, and community knowledge;
- supports for Canadians to protect biodiversity;
- critical assessments of habitats, species, and threats;
- legal enforceable protection of SARA Listed species and their critical habitats;
- broad strategies to bring private, public, and voluntary sectors together to recover species and habitats – mainstream biodiversity protection and public involvement;
- specific and measurable plans and actions to achieve recovery; and
- building Canadian’s awareness about the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.
For the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, SARA is much more. It is an opportunity for Aboriginal Peoples to be involved in decision-making about natural biodiversity in Canada. Through SARA, Aboriginal Peoples can begin to reverse the constraints of subjugation, dispossession, disinheritance, denial of natural biodiversity and natural habitats, and disrespect for Aboriginal Knowledge about those.
Another area suffering from lack of vision and implementation is Canada’s network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs are vital elements of Canada’s Oceans Strategy and also international efforts to achieve, at minimum, 10% formal protection of the world’s marine environment. MPAs are envisioned as starting points or staging grounds to learn about the oceans, provide sanctuary for marine species, and test new methods and ideas in the search for a balance between economic development, social advancement, and environmental integrity in our increasingly important oceans.
After years of DFO promotion for the creation of new MPAs under the Oceans Act, 1997, much remains unrealized and Canadians grow weary of many promises without concrete actions. Less than 1% of Canada oceans receive some protection as a patchy smattering of MPAs. Even less area is fully protected as marine parks. The only way forward is for the whole of the Government of Canada: federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal, along with Aboriginal Peoples, and with the whole of society (academia, non-government organizations, industry and citizens), to buy-into and advance a cohesive, comprehensive, and strategic national network of connected, representative, and fully funded MPAs. However, DFO still remains alone, among the Government of Canada, to keep kicking at the file, with no new money and no new political will.
Responding to a request from the Regional Director Generals of both Gulf and Maritimes Region. The Maritime Aboriginal Aquatic Resources Secretariate prepared a Reply Commentary on the Draft National Framework for Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas: A short critique exposing voids in the vision, goals, and manner of bioregion formation for MPAs and a network of MPAs.
We do not buy that changing the boundaries of bioregions, or redrafting visions and promises from yesteryear, or spending time and money on desktop exercises to produce paper networks, is a new breath of air in the increasingly stale MPA file, or that a new framework will suddenly change minds about Canada’s oceans.
What is more worrisome, is that Canada’s vision for MPAs has grown cloudy after 13 years of neglect by politicians and governments.
Does a rebranding, through a new Draft National Framework for MPAs make MPAs any more palatable? We maintain that MPAs, MPA networks, and regional classifications do not need to change. What does need to change is the attitude of the Government of Canada and society about the need to have MPAs. If funded and advanced, we can work within the current system to create MPAs. If Canada cannot advance the Oceans file beyond DFO, then we are simply blowing against a prevailing wind of excessive exploration and exploitation for wealth creation alone without any regard or conscience for fulfilling Canada’s obligations for sustainable development, the application of the precautionary approach, or our International commitments to the CBD and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.