Conservation combats climate change and biodiversity loss, benefits local communities
11 April 2022, ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland and Labrador – The Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-NL) welcomes the agreement between Canada and the province to accelerate the creation of new protected areas and decrease biodiversity loss. This recent commitment provides the opportunity to address some of our longstanding Protected Areas proposals aimed at reaching Canada’s targets to protect 30% of land and ocean by 2030, with a milestone goal of 25% by 2025.
CPAWS-NL has been actively working on both marine and terrestrial protected areas within Newfoundland and Labrador since 2003. Over that time, progress on protecting natural areas has been slow. Currently, only 6.9% of Newfoundland and Labrador’s terrestrial area is formally protected, which is well below the national average of 13.5%. Approximately, 11.3% of the province’s coastal and offshore area is protected under various provincial and federal designations, contributing 2.1% of Canada’s ocean estate.
Specifically, CPAWS NL is very happy to see the agreement include a memorandum of understanding to assess the feasibility of a South Coast Fjords national marine conservation area (NMCA) by the end of 2022 and consider an adjacent national park in the Burgeo region. CPAWS-NL has been working with communities and governments to support the establishment of an NMCA for the South Coast Fjords since our chapter’s inception. A South Coast Fjords NMCA and potential adjacent national park will create many ecological, economic, and cultural benefits for coastal communities.
Newfoundland and Labrador is known for its exquisite natural beauty and productive coastal waters, and the South Coast Fjords are exemplary of the province’s coast. As the area is haven for species like blue, humpback, fin and killer whales in the winter and leatherback sea turtles in the summer, the establishment of the South Coast Fjords NMCA will preserve endangered species and ecosystems – both of which are important criteria for Canada’s network of marine protected areas.
We are encouraged that the federal and provincial governments also recognize the opportunities to partner with Indigenous communities to advance conservation along the Labrador coastline, as well as committing to establish the long-promised Eagle River Watershed protected area, working with Indigenous communities, by 2025.
We also welcome the commitment the two governments have made to consider additional NMCAs, national wildlife areas, national parks and marine protected areas in the province.
We are excited to see both governments’ commitment to conserving and restoring nature to help combat climate change and protect biodiversity. However, we must also acknowledge that this announcement was followed by the approval of the Bay du Nord offshore oil and gas development project. The project is located in an ecologically sensitive and biologically significant area and the approval comes at a time when the world needs to move away from fossil fuels and harmful industrial activities which cause the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
We hope that this new momentum from both the federal and provincial governments will highlight the importance of Protected Areas and advance protected area planning and establishment throughout the entire province. The implementation of the Protected Areas Plan for the Island of Newfoundland is long overdue, as is the MPA Network in the Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves. We look forward to working collaboratively with all levels of government to protect Newfoundland and Labrador’s iconic and important land and seascapes.