ISSUES: Marine Protected Areas – Canada’s failure in the face of big business?


Everyone knows the Bay of Fundy … right? It is home to thousands of unusual and spectacular marine invertebrates as well as more beautiful birds than you can count and a dozen species of whales and seals including the endangered North Atlantic Right whale.  It has a billion dollar eco-economy based primarily on aquaculture, fisheries and tourism and the extreme tides have attracted interest in tidal power. It is unique, different, a one-of-kind ecosystem and home to the highest tides in the world as well as the highest biodiversity on the Atlantic coast of North America. We have know this for many, many years. In fact It’s been recognized since John James Audubon came here in the 1830s. Over the intervening years then there have been dozens and dozens of studies that showed just how important the Bay of Fundy is to its coastal residents, the coastal Provinces, Canada and, indeed, to this planet.

But coastal development continues unabated and the cumulative impacts are showing. The future of the Bay of Fundy remains uncertain as new developments, domestic pollution, nuclear power station impacts, boat traffic, ocean dumping, coastal mining and more heavy industry continues to invade the Bay.

Some progress has been made certainly. The Bay of Fundy is now recognized by the United Nations (UNESCO) as the Fundy Biosphere Reserve . While this has great promotional value, it offers little real protection and covers only a small portion of the Fundy Ecozone … the outer Bay having few designation in spite of the fact that its unique value has been clearly identified.

Biologist and Diver-Photographer Maria Buzeta has published the definitive work on Significant Areas in the Bay of Fundy. These are shown in the accompanying map. But in spite of this, most of these significant Fundy areas have not been officially recognized with protective designations. In that absence, development based on fossil fuels continues and the risk to the ecosystem rises as well. Coupled with other risks, the future looks bleak unless some moves are made.

The facts are on the table and the mechanism for protection exists within The Oceans Act. Read it! It states the reasons for declaring a Marine Protected Area. Most of the areas identified by Maria qualify. So the question is “Why?” Why have none of these areas been designated as MPAs or Areas of Significance?

I can hear the echo of a meeting now. “No, no, no … We must keep our options open. If we close the door, we could miss out on a spectacular economic development.”

Well, I know how it looks to me after all these years. It’s all about looking after big business and the hell with the coastal folks and the environment.

That’s how I see it tonight. How about you?

Art MacKay


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