Environment

The National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada

Four conservation areas in Canada are exclusively dedicated to marine conservation.

Canada has three National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs) and one NMCA Reserve. The “NMCA” term is relatively now, and was first used in 2015 in the naming of Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area. The other two NMCAs, Fathom Five National Marine Park and Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, were established prior to the NMCA concept, and are now designated as NMCAs although their names remain unchanged. Gwaii Haanas is currently an NMCA reserve, although it may become an NMCA in the future.

4. Fathom Five National Marine Park

Fathom Five National Marine Conservation Area is located in Georgian Bay, which is a part of Lake Huron. Politically, the conservation area is located in the province of Ontario. The area protects freshwater ecosystems, shipwrecks, and lighthouses within its boundaries, and offers visitors activities such as scuba diving and observing shipwrecks on glass-bottomed boats. Many visitors who camp at the adjacent Bruce Peninsula National Park also visit Fathom Five on day trips to explore its wonders. Some famous islands in the Fathom Five, especially Flowerpot Island, attract tourists.

3. Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site

Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site is located off the coast of mainland British Colombia, near the shores of the southernmost island of the Haida Gwaii archipelago, and is also beside the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. The reserve covers an area of 3,400 square km and protects an important habitat of the humpback whale. The protected area was established in 2010.

2. Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area

Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area has an area of 10,000 square km and is the world’s largest freshwater marine conservation area. The protected status was established on September 1, 2015. The NMCA is located in Lake Superior in the province of Ontario, and stretches from Thunder Bay in the west to the Bottle Point in the east, and south to Isle Royale National Park. The vast area protects the nesting and breeding grounds of several species of sea and land birds and aquatic fauna. Caribou can be spotted foraging along the shores, and herons, bald eagles, whitefish, walleye, lake trout can also be found in the area. Although the area is protected against indiscriminate exploitation, some commercial activities like commercial fishing are permitted here. Several historic shipwrecks lie on the lakebed of the conservation area.

1. Saguenay-St. Lawrence

The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is a conservation area located in the Canadian province of Quebec, at the confluence of the Saguenay River and the Saint Lawrence River, which eventually drains into the Atlantic Ocean. The park was established in 1998 as the province’s first exclusive protected marine area. The mixing of the waters from the two rivers churns up nutrients, which attract marine fauna to the area in large numbers. Different species of whales, seals, and seabirds can be spotted in the park. Kayaking, boating, scuba diving, and whale watching are some of the activities enjoyed by park visitors.

The National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada

RankNameLocation (Province)AreaEstablished
1Fathom FiveOntario114 km21987
2Gwaii Haanas (Reserve)British Columbia1,500 km22010
3Lake SuperiorOntario10,880 km22007
4Saguenay-St. LawrenceQuebec1,245 km21998

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