Protected ocean reserves: How does Canada stack up?

National Geographic just posted a story on evolving plans to place large parts of the Pacific Ocean into protected marine reserves. Writer Monica Medina stresses the importance of size in establishing these protected zones.

When it comes to getting the greatest benefit out of no-take marine reserves, according to leading scientists, the bigger, the better.  Large ocean reserves allow for an entire ecosystem to be protected—which is particularly important for species in the Pacific with long migration routes and widely dispersed feeding patterns like the endangered blue whale and the black-footed albatross.

I was surprised at the scope of existing and planned protected areas in the Pacific. President Barack Obama has pledged to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which currently protects 215,000 sq. km., to as much as 2 million sq. km. Even more impressively, several tiny Pacific nations, including the Cook Islands, Palau, and Kiribati, last month announced plans for new or expanded no-take reserves within their territorial waters.

Pacific Reserves

Four years ago, Great Britain acted to protect 640,000 sq. km. of the Indian Ocean surrounding Chagos Island:

Indian Ocean

So how does Canada, with the world’s longest coastline, stack up? See for yourself:

Parcs Canada

Total marine protected area, including provincial reserves and protected portions of the Great Lakes: 65,000 sq. kilometres. That’s one-eighth of the ocean area protected by the Republic of Palau, population 21,000. And here I thought Canada was a world leader in the creation of marine protected areas. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has a somewhat dated rundown on Canadian ocean areas in need of protection.

This is a complicated topic. It’s possible the comparisons above, in terms of the level and type of protection, do not present a fair picture. I don’t have the knowledge or background to evaluate that. But plenty of people in Halifax do, and I’d love to hear from them.