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Oceana Canada Applauds Major Step to Protect B.C. Seamounts

Oceana Canada
Oceana Canada

93% of the underwater mountains off the coast of British Columbia are to become the second-largest Marine Protected Area in Canada

OTTAWA, Feb. 07, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Traditional, Unceded Territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg People - February 7, 2023 – Oceana Canada is celebrating the commitment by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to publish draft regulations to protect a 133,019-km2 area off the West Coast of Vancouver Island, home of hydrothermal vents and 93 per cent of Canada’s known underwater mountains, called seamounts. The proposed regulations come after years of hard work by Indigenous Peoples, stakeholders, government agencies and conservation groups to protect the area, four times the size of Vancouver Island, as it is set to become the newest and second largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Canada.

A Memorandum of Understanding agreement has been reached between Canada and the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, the Council of the Haida Nation, Pacheedaht First Nation, and Quatsino First Nation to cooperatively manage the proposed new MPA.

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In July 2018, Oceana Canada partnered with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Haida Nation, and Ocean Networks Canada to explore the seamounts and identify marine species. Through this deep-sea exploration, the research revealed the existence of centuries-old forests of red tree corals and glass sponges that provide habitat for numerous animals, including sea lilies, basket stars, octopuses, prowfish and many long-lived rockfish. Above the seamounts, the upwelling of deep nutrient-rich water fuels the growth in planktonic life that attracts larger species such as tunas, sharks and whales such as humpbacks, as well as seabirds including tufted puffins.

“The stunning diversity and abundance of life on the seamounts leave no room for hesitation about protecting them,” said Dr. Robert Rangeley, Science Director, Oceana Canada. “The fragile nature of the seamounts and their importance to marine life mean that we just can't allow any activities that may threaten them, like dragging fishing gear or deep-sea mining. This is a critical step toward protecting this extremely important marine ecosystem.”

Today’s announcement was made at IMPAC5, a global forum on marine habitat protection, being hosted in and around Vancouver, B.C. It reflects the intent to provide permanent protection for marine habitats from destructive activities that have threatened many fragile seamounts and hydrothermal vents around the world, endangering the health of entire ecosystems. Oceana Canada will continue to advocate for the formal creation of the MPA and the implementation of co-management with First Nations in the region: the Council of the Haida Nation, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, the Pacheedaht and Quatsino First Nations.

The MPA, named Tang. ɢwan · ḥačxʷiqak · Tsig̱is by Haida, Nuu-chah-nulth and Quatsino First Nations, contributes to Canada’s international commitments to protect 25 per cent of its marine and coastal areas by 2025. Once draft regulations are made public, there will be a 30-day public commentary period, after which Fisheries and Oceans Canada will make its final decision on the designation of these seamounts as an MPA.

Learn more about the importance of protecting marine habitat and see rare and stunning footage from Oceana Canada’s expedition to the Northeast Pacific Seamounts with DFO, the Haida Nation, and Ocean Networks Canada at protectoceans.ca/expeditions/northeast.

Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future.

Contacts: Angela Pinzon, Pilot PMR, angela.pinzon@pilotpmr.com, 647-295-0517 and Lesley Wilmot, Oceana Canada, lwilmot@oceana.ca, 647-535-6326