The pledge commits – or, in some cases, re-engages – Canada to take a variety of actions, including protecting 30% of marine waters by 2030, restoring fish stocks, reducing plastic in the ocean and the creation of a sustainability plan. “Having the longest coastline in the world, Canada recognizes that our economy and our well-being are deeply linked to the health of our oceans and that we have a responsibility to protect them,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement accompanying the document.
“This is why we are committed to working with our international leaders of the Oceanic Panel and developing a comprehensive blue economy strategy. We’re also calling on more world leaders and other partners to join us in turning our goals into reality. ”
Other countries supporting the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy are Norway, Australia, Japan, Ghana, Indonesia and Chile.
“Historically, the ocean agenda has never been focused and integrated on an international basis, and we are, I think, in history where everyone agrees that the health of the ocean should be a concern”, said Jean-Guy Forgeron, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister for Strategic Policy at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Canada has already made these promises
The commitment to conserve 30% of Canada’s oceans by 2030 was announced in July when Canada joined the Global Oceans Alliance, led by the United Kingdom.
To date, Ottawa has achieved 14% of the goal by establishing marine protected areas and marine refuges.
The process met with opposition from the fishing industry and some provincial governments in Atlantic Canada, who questioned the economic impact of closing areas to extractive activities.
“It’s not easy,” Smith said. “There is no easy fruit to creating a protected ocean space. And it’s a very aggressive program. ”
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is expected to bring forward draft regulations to the Fisheries Act this month that will explain how it intends to rebuild fish stocks that are affected by overfishing.
The federal government is also promising a New Year’s discussion paper on ‘boat-to-plate traceability’ to ensure consumers are getting what they pay for and to help eradicate illegal fishing and fish rights. no one on board ships elsewhere.
“I think we will see in the coming months, not years, if this government implements this new strategy to which it has subscribed,” said Josh Laughren, executive director of the environmental group Oceana Canada.
“This is not the first time that governments have entered into long-term non-binding commitments, and people tend to be wary of more of these. ”
Anya Waite, of the Ocean Frontier Institute at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said the oceans are too important to the future of the planet not to take action to protect them.
“The ocean controls our climate, carries 100 times the heat of the atmosphere and 50 times the carbon,” she said. “If we don’t have the oceans front and center, we can’t understand climate change and we need the development of the blue economy to include sustainability. ”
A vision contrary to a key commitment
While the measures are welcomed by the environmental movement, skepticism remains about the effectiveness of setting aside 30% of the ocean by 2030, or 30 by 30.
It has been proposed to the United States Congress and is under consideration by the new Biden administration.
Ray Hilborn, of the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences, said it was a mistake.
“All that 30 by 30 will do is move the fishing effort from one place to another,” Hilborn told CBC News. “So if the fishing effort is the root of the problem, you don’t solve it; you just move the problem from one place to another. ”
He said countries like Canada and the United States have fishing regimes that can better protect species through specific measures like gear changes.
‘There is still a lot to do’
Hilborn acknowledged that some areas need to close, but not permanently. He cited the North Atlantic right whale, which has moved away from critical habitat areas in southern Nova Scotia to head for the Gulf of St. Lawrence in search of prey.
“If climate change is to change where the problems are, we need dynamic management,” he said.
Laughren supports the measures emanating from the high-level panel and gives the Trudeau government the benefit of the doubt.
“I think the government deserves some credit for making ocean and ocean conservation a priority over the past few years, with a long way to go,” he said.
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