2.0 Management Planning

2.0 Management Planning

The goal of a national marine conservation area management plan is to provide for sustainable use of the area consistent with the need to maintain the structure and function of marine ecosystems. The plan provides guidance to marine conservation area managers and users about the day-to-day management and use of the area. It also outlines how the Minister responsible for Parks Canada proposes to conserve the area's resources in keeping with the provisions of the National Parks Act.

Management planning is an iterative process: plans must be prepared within five years of the area's proclamation and be reviewed and amended as necessary every five years thereafter. Since planning decisions are inevitably based on incomplete knowledge of the area's resources, plans will always lean to the side of caution when prescribing reasonable levels of use. However, through continuing cooperative and inter-disciplinary approach, information about the physical, biological and socio-economic characteristics of the area will be compiled and interpreted to avoid uncertainty in decision-making.

Zoning is an essential part of the national marine conservation area management plan. Its main purposes are to define and map the different levels of protection and use that will occur in the marine conservation area and to separate potentially conflicting human activities. Zoning must be comprehensive but also as simple as possible to ensure it can be readily understood by the public, and be translated into management actions and regulations that are easy to comply with and enforce. To avoid unnecessary regulation of human activities, each zone will have clear and justifiable objectives.

The three proposed marine conservation zones reflect a continuum of protection and use. Different levels of protection and use will be permitted in each zone, or at different times.

Temporal and vertical zoning may provide flexibility and objectivity in harmonizing use. For example, temporal zoning could prohibit visitor access to, or commercial fishing near, a particular fish spawning ground, sea bird colony or whale calving area during the reproductive season but allow it throughout other, less critical periods. Depending on the factors involved, the time span may be long term, seasonal, cyclical or even diurnal. Vertical zoning may also be appropriate in some situations where, for example, certain benthic species or habitats require absolute protection while fishing, transportation or recreational uses continue at or near the surface of the water column.

In some cases, environmentally or culturally sensitive sites may require special management but do not fit the zoning designations below. Management plans will include the guidelines necessary for the protection and use of such sites. In other cases, a marine conservation area may encompass an existing protected area where the degree of protection and use allowed does not correspond precisely to the national marine conservation area zoning definitions. In this situation, where the existing protected area contributes to the overall purpose and objectives of the conservation area, it may be designated as a special use zone to ensure its function and identity remain intact.

Parks Canada will adopt an inter-disciplinary approach to management planning to ensure a broader perception and understanding of issues, and the development of solutions to problems that are more comprehensive, far-reaching and durable.

Parks Canada will prepare management plans for the Minister's approval and tabling in Parliament within five years of an area's proclamation under the National Parks Act or other legislation. Management plans will be reviewed every five years thereafter.

Maintaining the structure and function of marine ecosystems will be a first priority when considering the zoning and management of visitor use and renewable resource harvesting activities.

Cultural resources will be managed in accordance with the Cultural Resource Management Policy.

Each management plan will contain a statement of the purpose and objectives of the marine conservation area in the national system and in the marine region in which it is located. As well, it will detail the specific protection and use objectives of each designated zone.

Parks Canada will inform and involve a broad spectrum of the Canadian public in the preparation, review and amendment of management plans.

A management advisory committee will be formed for each conservation area to ensure regular consultation and direct involvement of resource users and residents of the surrounding region in the preparation and implementation of the management plan.

Parks Canada will cooperate with other federal agencies and levels of government, private organizations and individuals involved in the planning and management of areas adjacent to marine conservation areas to ensure that research, management and regulatory programs, facilities and services are integrated in effective and economical ways.

Management plans for national marine conservation areas which have additional international and national designations such as World Heritage Site, Biosphere Reserve or National Historic Site, will include strategies for protection and promotion of the values that resulted in the additional designations.

The national marine conservation area zoning system will apply to all land and water areas of national marine conservation areas, and will state the specific protection and use objectives of each designated zone. Parks Canada will monitor the degree to which those objectives are being achieved and assess the validity of the designation during the review of the management plan.

The zoning provisions outlined below are intended to serve as a guide only. They may change as Parks Canada acquires planning and management experience in several marine conservation areas. Also, an alternative zoning system may be recommended for a national marine conservation area during the feasibility study

Zone I (Preservation) - Areas will be considered for Zone I designation when their management objectives involve protecting:

i) habitats deemed critical to the survival and maintenance of depleted, vulnerable, threatened or endangered species;

ii) habitats of more common species and communities that are particularly sensitive to human disturbances;

iii) unique or best examples of a natural feature;

iv) cultural resources of national historic significance or of historic significance; or,

v) areas considered important for long-term environmental monitoring or ecological research.

In Zone I areas, renewable resource harvesting will not be permitted. Visitor use will not normally be allowed but in certain cases, where the public education benefits are high, provisions may be made for limited and closely supervised visitor access. Permanent facilities will not be permitted, unless they are essential for public safety or the protection of natural features.

Zone II (Natural Environment) - Areas will be considered for Zone II designation when their management objectives involve:

i) creating a buffer zone around Zone I areas in order to enhance protection of its special habitats or features;

ii) protecting highly representative areas that provide opportunities for non-consumptive recreational use and public education in as natural a setting as possible; and

iii) conducting environmental monitoring and research projects in which public education is an integral part of the study program.

In Zone II areas, renewable resource harvesting activities including recreational hunting and fishing will be prohibited. Research, public education and low-intensity outdoor recreation will be permitted. Where practical and safe, the use of non-motorized transportation would be encouraged. Only minimal facility development would be allowed.

Zone III (Conservation) - Areas will be considered for Zone III designation when their management objectives involve:

i) renewable resource harvesting activities, aquaculture and marine transportation; or

ii) providing opportunities for a broad spectrum of outdoor recreation and public education activities.

In Zone III areas, provision will be made for reasonable use consistent with maintaining the structure and function of marine ecosystems. Hunting may be permitted in designated areas on a conservative basis, subject to ongoing population assessments and visitor safety concerns. Permanent facilities for conservation area administration, public education, visitor services and accommodation would be allowed.

Zones of a marine conservation area may be subject to temporary access or use restrictions when specific components or functions of a marine ecosystem require additional protection. These temporary zoning restrictions may be seasonal, cyclical, diurnal (on a daily or nightly basis), or combinations thereof, as warranted.

Vertical zoning may be used to provide more protection to natural or cultural resources at or near the sea floor while recreational, transportation or near-surface fishing activities continue above.

Changes to an area's zoning, including provisions for temporal and vertical zoning, will only be made following public notice and public participation in the decision.

Establishing and maintaining a core of Zone I and II areas will be an essential feature of all national marine conservation areas.

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