On December 9, 2022, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) published the Government of Canada’s 2022 Guidance for Recognizing Marine Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECM).
The 2022 Guidance will apply to existing and future federal marine OECMs, including marine refuges, which are key in helping the Government of Canada meet its marine conservation targets to protect 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030.
This update to 2016 DFO marine OECM guidance reflects two important OECM policy developments: the 2018 United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) voluntary guidance, and the 2019 Government of Canada marine OECM Protection Standard. Integrating international guidance and Canadian policy into one guidance document will streamline the Government’s approach to recognizing existing area-based measures as OECMs.
While this guidance replaces 2016 interim guidance, it:
- continues to follow 2016 science advice provided by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS),
- implements the Government’s 2019 marine OECM protection standard, and
- aligns with the 2018 voluntary OECM guidance developed under the UN CBD.
Under the 2022 Guidance, the purpose of an OECM is to contribute to the long-term conservation of biodiversity, regardless of the primary objective for which the area-based measure was initially established. The Guidance is made up of a three-layered framework, which outlines how the Government of Canada will:
- adhere to the CBD definition of an OECM, in a unique marine context,
- follow 10 guiding principles, and
- assess candidate area-based measures against five criteria and sub-criteria in order to be recognized as an OECM.
OECMs provide important nature-based solutions to support climate change adaptation and mitigation. They also provide refuge for species affected by climate change.
It is intended that OECMs support reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in a manner consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this way, OECMs may provide opportunities for meeting Indigenous objectives and aspirations, and respect areas that have spiritual, cultural, or historical importance.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and OECMs are similar in that they are both categories of area-based measures and both contribute to biodiversity conservation by prohibiting, or otherwise managing, human activities. Like MPAs, OECMs contribute to the conservation of species, habitats and ecosystems and contribute towards meeting Canada’s marine conservation targets.
Marine refuges, including the recently recognized Eastern Canyons Marine Refuge, currently contribute just over five per cent towards Canada’s 14.66 per cent marine and coastal protection. Work is underway to confirm Canada’s existing 59 marine refuges meet the new guidance.