I've been working alongside other Canadians for over a decade trying to get Canada to protect its oceans. Sometimes it seems like we're hitting our heads against a brick wall: we're bloody, tired and sore, and the mortar shows no signs of cracking.
I almost forgot that it's even possible for governments to make bold moves to protect nature. That all changed yesterday, when Australia announced a comprehensive network of marine protected areas that covers 40 per cent of their oceans. send a letter now
Thank you Australia for reminding me that progress is possible!
We need to pass on this reminder to our Canadian government, who has made many international commitments to establishing marine protected areas, but has done little to actually meet them.
Canada still has less than 1 per cent of its ocean area protected and continues to underfund and under-deliver on the establishment of marine protected areas and other marine protection measures.
Australia is more similar to Canada than any other country in the world — they are a democratic, Commonwealth country with large ocean areas and ocean economies that depend on healthy productive oceans to support recreation, tourism and seafood industries. They also have offshore oil and gas and transportation industries.
So, as we fail to meet our national and international agreements, what can we learn from Australia's move to protect 40 per cent of their ocean area?
Instead of working to establish one marine protected area at a time, they are establishing a comprehensive network all at once. This is more effective and efficient, allowing them to meet their goal in one coordinated, comprehensive program.
Industry groups have expressed their preference to this approach. They are willing to exchange restricted access in some areas for long-term security to resource use in others. Simply put, it's better for business to know exactly what you have to work with in the long-term.
Australia has shown us that progress doesn't have to be slow and incremental.
Sign up for our newsletter
With looming threats and global economic uncertainty, securing the health of our oceans is paramount. As Canada and Australia both prepare to attend Rio +20 (the 20 year follow-up to the first United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development), this is an opportunity to look at where our countries stand on meeting our international commitments.
On marine protection, Canada continues to get a failing grade.
But, as we continue to bang our heads against this brick wall, it's reassuring to know that Down Under, they finally cracked the wall open...and the world will be celebrating at Rio.
For more information about the Australian marine reserve network, visit:
Announcement of Final Commonwealth marine reserves network