Canada’s First Marine Protected Area
IMPORTANCE OF RACE ROCKS
In this province, people have long understood the importance of this area known as XwaYeN [shwai-yen], or Race Rocks. It’s long been an important showcase for a wide range of Pacific marine life. Whales, sea lions, birds, seals, and a host of other animals and plants all call this area their home.
I had the opportunity to visit Race Rocks this morning, and I can attest to what a unique place it is. On the tour, we saw a great deal of the marine life for which it has become so famous.
Indeed, its exceptional diversity makes Race Rocks an ideal area to observe and study the marine life to be found in this part of the world.
But this same diversity also means it must be treated carefully.
Race Rocks is a fragile place. It is a special place.
And as a special place, Race Rocks needs special protection.
Many concerned citizens — First Nations in particular — have long made a case for taking steps to protect Race Rocks and its surrounding waters. They argued that future generations deserve the same opportunity that we have to learn and benefit from its multitude of marine life.
And so far, some important steps have been taken to do exactly this.
As Minister Sawicki mentioned, British Columbia designated this area as an ecological reserve under the province’s Ecological Reserves Act in 1980. This designation’s goal was to preserve and protect the islands and the sea bed.
And two years ago, Race Rocks was identified as a candidate Marine Protected Area — or MPA — under Canada’s Oceans Act, in order to conserve and protect the living marine resources inhabiting the area.
What made this candidacy truly special was the high level of community support behind it. Indeed, my department places a high value on working together towards common goals for our oceans — our Oceans Act is an embodiment of this principle. Through the Act, we’re finding ways to work with communities, stakeholders, First Nations, and the provinces to enhance the well-being and long-term health of our oceans.
In keeping with this commitment, we worked closely with communities, scientists, First Nations and B.C. Parks to advance our common vision for this special place.
Two years ago, we established the Race Rocks Advisory Board to consult with a wide variety of interests, and to make recommendations about establishing this area as an official MPA. Over the last two years, the Board has done an excellent job of doing exactly this, and has built a strong case for protecting Race Rocks and its wealth of biodiversity.
And today, we’re taking the next step.
Today, I’m very pleased to recommend that Race Rocks be Canada’s first-ever Marine Protected Area, under the authority of the Oceans Act.
Race Rocks will now enjoy the benefits of being an MPA. In particular, the MPA designation will offer special protection to the living marine resources that inhabit the area.
MPA status will also provide for the conservation of this area’s natural beauty and ecological diversity, and give scientists and others involved with research and education the opportunity to better understand this important marine ecosystem.
It’s an excellent example of what we can accomplish by working together to protect and enhance our ocean areas. Indeed, if there has been a common thread throughout this initiative, it’s been the high degree of trust and goodwill that has emerged among a wide range of key stakeholders.
Governments. First Nations. Sport fishers. Eco-tourism operators. Scientists. Teachers. Environmental organizations. And a host of others.
As I mentioned earlier, First Nations in particular have long recognized the importance of Race Rocks. Their long-standing recognition of the cultural and historical importance of this place has played a key role in building the consensus we needed. For their dedication to this project, I commend them.
Lester B. Pearson College, too, has played a key role. Last year, the College established a project to broadcast live Internet images of Race Rocks’ marine environment, both above and below water. This innovative project has allowed people from all over the world to visit this extraordinary place without having an impact on the fragile marine environment. It’s also giving visitors a great opportunity to learn about the special relationship that Canada’s First Nations share with our marine ecosystem.
And our partners at the provincial level also deserve a word of thanks. This is truly a positive development, and an excellent example of the difference that strong intergovernmental relations can make.
Each of these voices helped to reinforce our position that this area is too special to be ignored. Today we are proving that we can all work together towards a common goal. And as a fitting next step, Race Rocks will now be managed co-operatively by the Advisory Board, along with First Nations, DFO and B.C. Parks.
CANADA’S OCEANS OBLIGATIONS
Today’s announcement also stands as a clear reminder of our shared commitment to sound oceans management.
Canada is an “ocean nation.” By geography. By history. By trade.
We have the longest coastline of any nation in the world, touching on three oceans. The sea and its resources have long played an important role in our development as a nation — and indeed, our very identity as Canadians.
But with this wonderful gift, comes a responsibility — an obligation to protect our oceans and the species that live in them. It was this recognition that led Canada to become the first country in the world to adopt its own Oceans Act in 1997.
I was Parliamentary Secretary of Fisheries and Oceans at the time, and I can attest to what a great achievement it was. It was seen as an expression of our changing attitudes toward our oceans. They were no longer looked upon as being limitless. Instead, they became something that we had to find ways to protect and improve.
Today, the Oceans Act enshrines our commitment to the well-being of our oceans. We’re taking a long-term “ecosystem” approach, and putting into practice principles like sustainable development, integrated management, and the precautionary approach.
Quite simply, the Act puts priority upon the wise management of our oceans. It gives us the legislative framework we need to exercise Canada’s ocean responsibilities in the modern context. And it gives us new ways of co-operating for the health of our oceans.
Through it, we’re finding ways to balance social, cultural, environmental and economic perspectives. We’re now actively engaging communities, stakeholders and citizens on the best possible mix of conservation, sustainable use and economic development for our oceans.
Today, we’re seeing that legislation in action.
Through the Oceans Act, we’re taking an important step to protect the species and habitat supported by Race Rocks.
Quite simply, the Act is giving us an important gift — the gift of a brighter future for Race Rocks. It is a gift that will benefit us now. And it is a gift that we can pass on to future generations of Canadians, making our nation’s proud maritime heritage stronger than ever.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m confident that Race Rocks’ status as an MPA — and its emergence as the first in a national network of MPAs — is something that all Canadians can feel proud of.
It symbolizes our shared commitment to protecting our natural marine heritage.
And it symbolizes the growing feeling among Canadians that we can work together to make a real difference in the world in which we live.
A difference that will be felt for years to come.
Once again, I’d like to thank you for joining us here today for this historic announcement.
(originally at http://www-comm.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/english/release/p-releas/2000/nr00120e.htm)
NR-PR-00-120E – September 14, 2000
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