The Honorable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, issued the following statement today:
“Canada’s Arctic makes up over 40% of our landmass and is home to more than 100,000 Canadians. It is an essential part of our national identity and an area of growing importance internationally. Canada has focused its efforts on understanding the impact of climate change in the region. Acidification, warming temperature, and increased industrial activity pose risks to a unique and globally valuable environment. Arctic communities have been at the forefront of efforts to protect and conserve our oceans.
This year’s World Oceans Day in the Arctic is being celebrated in Paulatuk, Northwest Territories, a community whose efforts were instrumental in designating Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam, Canada’s second Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Arctic. The Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam MPA is likewise culturally important to the Inuvialuit who continue to rely on the land and sea for their traditional harvests, travel, recreation and traditional practices. Designation of the MPA was the result of close collaboration with the Inuvialuit, as well as partners from industry, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders. It is the first time in Canada that a Marine Protected Area’s conservation objectives are based specifically on Indigenous traditional and local knowledge. Our government is committed to protecting 5% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2017 and 10% by 2020, and we are working hard to meet these targets.
Canada’s oceans will also benefit from the Oceans Protection Plan, a historic $1.5-billion investment focused on reducing the environmental impacts of marine shipping. The Oceans Protection Plan will enhance the Canadian Coast Guard’s capacity to protect marine environments. Arctic communities will also benefit from enhanced information technology, search and rescue capacity and environmental response capacity, including an expanded Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and funding for communities to purchase search and rescue capable community boats and equipment. The Coast Guard will also implement a seasonal in-shore rescue boat station in the Arctic, with trained local personnel, which will support near-shore search and rescue operations. Furthermore, the presence of Coast Guard icebreakers in the Arctic will be extended to support mariners earlier and later in the season and complement investments to make Arctic resupply operations faster, safer and more efficient for remote communities.
However, we must manage human activities in our oceans in ways that integrate conservation with economic benefits for the communities that depend on them. Fishing is a culturally significant activity for Indigenous Peoples. Our government has committed to strengthening and expanding fisheries programs for Indigenous communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast. We recently announced $26.9 million over five years for the new Northern Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (NICFI) to support fisheries-related activities in Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and through parts of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, enabling participating Indigenous communities to better plan and strengthen their fishing activities, as well as support the sustainability of aquatic resources and oceans habitat.
These measures will create more jobs, help grow the economy in coastal and remote regions, and provide more opportunities for Indigenous families to succeed, while supporting the sustainability of aquatic resources and ocean habitat.
Canada is proud to stand with other nations to meet the challenges facing oceans as well as our fisheries that contribute to the world’s food supply. We are continuing to take part in negotiations to try to reach an international agreement to prevent unregulated fishing in the high seas of the central Arctic Ocean in consultation with territorial governments, Inuit organizations, and key stakeholders including the fishing industry and environmental groups. Consultations, science, and Indigenous traditional and local knowledge will continue to play a key role in determining what kind of protection is needed in all of our oceans to ensure they are safe, healthy, prosperous and sustainable for current and future generations.”
The Honorable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard