By Richard Bell
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has identified a 2,000 square km area off the Eastern Shore as a new “Area of Interest” (AOI) under the provisions of the Oceans Act Marine Protected Area (MPA) program. The proposal encompasses the waters around the 30km of islands between Clam Harbour and Mushaboom.
The Nova Scotia Nature Trust, in partnership with the province, has already protected almost 85% of the land area of these islands. By providing protection to the surrounding waters, the MPA could provide a major boost to the province’s promotion of tourism for the “100 Wild Islands.”
According to the DFO website, “The Eastern Shore Islands AOI includes the near shore waters surrounding the dense archipelago on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. The site stretches from Clam Bay near Jeddore Harbour to Barren Island near Liscomb Point and extends approximately 25 km from mainland in the Scotian Shelf bioregion.”
The purpose of designating an area of the ocean as an MPA is to provide additional legal protection and management for the long-term conservation of nature. Some current or future fishing and other activities may still take place, depending on their impact on the ecological features that particular MPA is designed to protect.
Nova Scotia is already home to several MPAs, and the fishing industry argues that the province is bearing more than its share of meeting the 2020 national goal for protecting 10 percent of Canada’s oceans, up from about 1 percent now. About 2.5 percent of Nova Scotia’s waters are protected. In April, 2017, the provincial government formally asked the federal government to hold off on establishing more MPAs in Nova Scotia waters until other provinces were asked to bear similar burdens.
According to its website, the DFO chose this area because:
“There are rich beds of eelgrass, kelp, and salt marsh that provide important habitat for many marine species, including commercial species that use these habitats as juveniles.
“Estuaries associated with several rivers that drain into this site are considered important habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon.
“The dense archipelago of hundreds of islands has been identified as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area (EBSA) that provides important nesting and foraging ground for many colonial seabirds and shorebirds.”
Having selected these Eastern Shore waters as an AOI, the DFO will be launching an elaborate process of consultation with First Nations and Indigenous groups, other government departments, industry, and the local community. There is also a lengthy phrase of gathering ecological and socio-economic data, all of which inform the creation of regulations that will govern what activities are permitted in this MFA. The Cooperator will cover the unfolding of this process and highlight all opportunities for outside input.