Marine Protected Areas | WWF-Canada
	© Andrew S. Wright  / WWF-Canada

Marine Protected Areas

Oceans at risk

Our oceans are in crisis worldwide. About one in four species of sharks, rays and skates on Earth are now threatened with extinction, due primarily to overfishing. On all three of Canada’s coasts, according to the WWF-Canada’s Living Planet Report, monitored populations of marine fish, birds, mammals and reptiles, dropped on average by nine per cent overall between 1970 and 2014. In Atlantic Canada, marine fish – species such as cod, mackerel and tuna, as well as sharks, skates and rays – have declined by 38 per cent during that time.

Humans are having a major impact on our oceans. Overfishing and bycatch remain some of the biggest threats to marine species. Climate change threatens ocean life, as marine ecosystems continue to deteriorate due to ocean warming and acidification.

Healthy oceans need protection

Healthy oceans depend on a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) to help protect species, habitats and ecosystems. MPAs shelter ocean life and habitats so they can recover from human impacts like pollution or overfishing. They are similar to protected areas on land, such as National Parks: sites set aside to conserve the natural environment for the long term, protecting not just one single species, but the ecosystem as a whole.
WWF-Canada seeks to support and even surpass Canada’s commitment to protect 10 per cent of its marine spaces by 2020. WWF strongly supports and encourages efforts by Canada and other nations around the world to develop and implement networks of MPAs with high ecological standards. Effective MPAs are off-limits to industrial uses, including oil and gas extraction, commercial fishing and seabed mining.

About marine protected areas and refuges

Marine protected areas can be created by federal, provincial and territorial governments using a variety of legislation including the Oceans Act, Canada Wildlife Act and the National Marine Conservation Act.  
Marine refuges are fisheries closures, put in place under the Fisheries Act to protect marine ecosystems and species. They can be created much more quickly than Oceans Act MPAs. However, marine refuges may only protect a single species and many do not restrict harmful activities like mineral or oil and gas extraction. 
Marine protected areas in Canada have widely differing rules and regulations. Even when an area is said to be protected, it may not be sufficiently protected to help wildlife recover from human impacts. 
For example, oil and gas exploration and exploitation is banned in the Oceans Act MPA St. Anns Bank. But nearby, in the proposed Laurentian Channel MPA, oil and gas exploration and exploitation will be allowed in 80 per cent of the protected area if it goes through as planned.


	© WWF Canada
Marine protected areas are an essential part of protecting healthy oceans. Check out the infographic to learn more.
	© Natalie Bowes / WWF-Canada
Pacific white-sided dolphins in Hecate Strait, a Marine Protected Area off the coast of B.C.

Canada has many Marine Protected Areas, of varying sizes and with different levels of protection. This interactive map allows you to explore some of the existing MPAs (purple) and proposed (blue) MPA sites identified by the federal government in all three of Canada's oceans and the Great Lakes.

  • Proposed
  • Protected

Proposed MPA Sites

Existing MPA Sites