Inadequate protections planned for Scott Islands

Canada's first marine National Wildlife Area will not provide meaningful protections for wildlife and the marine ecosystems upon which they depend

VANCOUVER, Dec. 31, 2016 /CNW/ - Planned regulations to create Canada's first marine National Wildlife Area (mNWA) for British Columbia's Scott Islands, published today in the Canada Gazette, do not meet WWF-Canada's standards for marine protection and are inadequate to protect the marine ecosystems and wildlife of the area, which includes several endangered and threatened species such as the blue whale and the black-footed albatross.

Why the protections aren't sufficient
Effective marine protected areas are off limits to industrial and commercial uses, including fishing, oil and gas extraction and seabed mining.

Under the planned regulations for Scott Islands:

  • Commercial fishing can continue, including harmful bottom trawling, longlining and gillnetting, posing a threat to habitat, seabirds and forage fish.
  • Nothing addresses risks from vessel traffic, such as underwater noise, ship strikes with wildlife and oil spills.
  • Nothing restricts future oil and gas development in the mNWA should the current moratorium be lifted.
  • Nothing addresses existing fisheries and their impact on forage fish or forage-fish habitats, although there is a prohibition on new forage-fish fisheries.
  • The proposed boundary was reduced to accommodate commercial fishing, but it excludes key seabird feeding habitat for Cassin's auklets and other species.

Information about the Scott Islands

  • 11,500 sq. km, twice the size of P.E.I.
  • Internationally recognized as important for seabirds
  • Highest concentration of breeding seabirds on entire Pacific coast, south of Alaska
  • Habitat for 11 species listed as threatened or endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), including:
    •  These seabirds: the black-footed and short-tailed albatrosses, the sooty and pink-footed shearwaters, the marbled and ancient murrelets.
    • These marine mammals: Steller sea lions, sea otters, grey whales, blue whales and killer whales.

Canadians support stronger protections
In October 2016, WWF-Canada published the results of a public opinion survey conducted by Environics that showed that Canadians support strong levels of marine protection. The survey found:

  • 91 per cent of Canadians overall support minimum standards for marine protected areas, including no oil or gas development and at least half of the area closed to commercial fishing.
  • 80 per cent of Canadians rejected oil and gas exploration within marine protected areas.
  • 63 per cent favoured limits on commercial fishing.

David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada, said:
"It's disappointing to see these inadequate regulations planned for Canada's first marine National Wildlife Area. These regulations will not properly protect the extraordinary number of seabirds and threatened and endangered wildlife in the region. Such weak protections are not an effective contribution to Canada's marine conservation goals. WWF-Canada will be working to strengthen protection for this site in hopes that Scott Islands meets at least a minimum standard before the regulations are finalized."

About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.

SOURCE WWF-Canada

For further information: Philippe Devos, director, media and communications, pdevos@wwfcanada.org, +1 416-453-0092

RELATED LINKS
www.wwf.ca

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