By Richard Bell
In a recent telephone interview, Jeff MacDonald, the Director General of Oceans Management and Fisheries Policy at DFO in Ottawa, spoke with the Cooperatorabout some of the issues that have come up in the on-going debate over the Eastern Shore Islands Marine Protected Area (ESI MPA).
MacDonald agreed that under international best practices, “securing community support for an MPA is essential. For any MPA, if the majority of people are supportive, they’re much more likely to participate in monitoring and enforcement, in making the MPA a source of community pride.”
Opponents of the ESI MPA insist that DFO intends to “impose” this MPA on the area, regardless of how much community opposition there might be. “Just because we’ve identified an area as an AOI does not mean that an MPA is inevitable,” MacDonald said. “We have a couple of examples I can think of, one in Newfoundland, and one in British Columbia. There are several things that can cause this: a change in the ecosystem biologically, or very high socio-economic opportunities, or a lack of community support.”
In the discussion of how DFO would manage the ESI MPA, several people had mentioned two MPAs on First Nations land on in the Western Arctic, suggesting there might be lessons to be learned that would be relevant to the Nova Scotia context.
MacDonald was careful to distinguish the legal differences between the government’s negotiations with First Nations peoples covered by treaties, and negotiations with non-treaty groups.
“In the Western Arctic cases, the way we work together to co-manage, it’s all laid out in the treaty,” MacDonald said. “We work for general agreement on things like how we’re going to monitor whether we’re being effective in meeting the MPA’s conservation objections, or about what kind of data we need to collect, and who should be in charge of enforcement.. Our goal is to come to a common agreement before we move ahead.”
Although things are legally different in a non-treaty context, MacDonald said there were still substantial opportunities for community participation. “Without a treaty, you’re not dealing with the constitutional rights issues of the Western Arctic,” MacDonald said. “But just because there’s no treaty doesn’t mean you can’t create a community co-management system where everyone agrees on certain procedures that have to be followed and thresholds that have to be reached for a decision to be approved.”
Opponents of the ESI MPA have suggested that having set a deadline of protecting 10% of Canadian waters by 2020 in order to meet the requirements of an international treaty will force DFO to “impose” the ESI MPA.
MacDonald agreed that trying to go too fast could create problems. “If what we said was there are sites we absolutely have to have to meet the target, that would for sure create unnecessary pressure. So yes, we have set out targets, but we sought areas that were greater than the total we needed, that if we got them all, we would overshoot the target. That way, regardless of whether one area is going slower, we wouldn’t put the entire 2020 target at risk. And in some places, after negotiation, the area ended up bigger than what we started with.”
[See "MPA Opponent Rips "Gang of Three," also in the April 2019 printed issue of the Cooperator, for claims about DFO imposing an MPA.]