BC Leads Canada in Ocean Protection

VANCOUVER, June 1, 2016 /CNW/ - "British Columbia is way ahead," says Christina Burridge, executive director of the BC Seafood Alliance, "according to Environment and Climate Change Canada's February 2016 report on Canada's protected areas (http://www.ec.gc.ca/indicateurs-indicators/478A1D3D-5B40-4DF4-B4E2-EE41C4EB470D/ProtectedAreas_EN.pdf).  We have both sustainable fisheries providing food for Canada and the world and areas of marine protection supporting healthy resources and ecosystems in our part of the Pacific Ocean."

The ECCC report calculates areas protected using international standards and is part of Canada's reporting on its commitments to meet its 2010 Convention on Biodiversity targets, calling for "at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas" to be conserved by 2020.  The first priority of federal fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo's mandate is "increase the proportion of Canada's marine and coastal areas that are protected—to 5% by 2017 and 10% by 2020—supported by new investments in community consultation and science."

"Wild seafood in BC is actively part of the solution to getting to five and ten", says Burridge. "BC residents want more than ever to buy local, sustainable seafood. Our fisheries embrace Marine Stewardship Council certification, Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch and Oceanwise endorsements." 

Based on data current to December 2014, the ECCC report shows that for BC 6.9% of the Northern Shelf, 4.5% of the Strait of Georgia, 2.8% of the Southern Shelf, and 2.0% of the offshore is protected.  "Add in areas in the process of being protected, such as the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound sponge reefs and the Scott Islands National Marine Wildlife Area, and we are at 14.9% for the Northern Shelf, the area where we catch most of our seafood." 

By contrast the ECCC report identifies no other Canadian ocean region as exceeding 1.2 per cent of protected area.

"Fishermen understand instinctively that a healthy ocean means healthy fisheries.  Practical protection brings benefits to families and communities up and down the coast and provides food for our country and the world," Burridge said, adding that current science suggests that well managed fisheries contribute more to biodiversity than the large scale no take zones used in jurisdictions with less effective regulation and management.  Other studies show that seafood harvesting contributes far less greenhouse gas emissions than the provision of most other forms of animal protein.

"Celebrate this Oceans Day on 8 June by enjoying wild BC salmon, prawns, tuna, halibut, sablefish, rockfish, sole and other groundfish species, as well as specialty items like sea urchins and geoduck," Burridge suggests, "they're healthy choices that are good for you and the environment."

The BC Seafood Alliance is an umbrella organization whose members represent approximately 90% of the value of wild harvested seafood from Canada's West Coast, worth some $850 million annually.

SOURCE BC Seafood Alliance

For further information: Christina Burridge, Executive Director, (604) 377.9213; cburridge@telus.net

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