Canada has one of the largest exclusive economic zones is the world covering almost 6,000,000 km2, about half of which lies in the Arctic. However, it does not have a national marine spatial plan, but marine planning has been initiated at the regional level.

In 1997, Canada became the first country in the world to adopt comprehensive legislation for integrated ocean management. By passing its Oceans Act, Canada made a commitment to conserve, protect and develop the oceans in a sustainable manner. The Oceans Act calls for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to “…lead and facilitate the development and implementation of plans for the integrated management of all activities or measures in or affecting estuaries, coastal waters and marine waters….”

Through the implementation of an integrated management approach, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was given the responsibility to:

  • Maintain the health of the marine ecosystems of Canada;
  • Address user conflicts;
  • Limit the cumulative effects of human activities within a defined ocean space; and
  • Maximise and diversify sustainable use of Canada’s oceans.

A Canadian Ocean Action Plan (2005-2007) incorporated four pillars: (1) international leadership, sovereignty and security; (2) integrated ocean management for sustainable development; (3) health of the oceans; and (4) ocean science and technology (Ricketts & Hildebrand, 2011). The creation and development of five Large Ocean Management Areas (LOMAs) was seen as a central strategy in the implementation of the integrated ocean management responsibilities under the Oceans Act. The five LOMAs were: (1) the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management Area (ESSIM); (2) Placentia Bay and Grand Banks; (3) Gulf of St. Lawrence; (4) the Beaufort Sea; and (5) the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA). Progress on developing and implementing integrated management plans for these five areas has been slow, but steady. While strategic, “high-level” plans have been completed for all five LOMAs, only two (the Beaufort Sea in 2010 and PNCIMA in 2017) have been approved by the national government (Department of Fisheries and Oceans), and none have been funded for implementation. Neither of the two approved plans is a marine spatial plan, although MSP is recommended as a future management action in all of the LOMA plans.

In 2014, the Maritimes Region of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans published a Regional Oceans Plan for the Scotian Shelf, Atlantic Coast and the Bay of Fundy that set out implementation priorities for 2014-2017. The approach of the regional plan moves beyond the Large Ocean Management Area (LOMA) concept applied in the earlier phases of DFO’s Integrated Oceans Management Program to one that is based on nationally defined marine bioregions. Thee Scotian Shelf-Bay of Fundy bioregion corresponds to DFO’s Maritimes Region and provides the geographic basis for the Plan. While one of the goals of the plan is “spatial planning and management”, none of the “implementation priorities” or “implementation actions” mentions MSP—marine protected areas and development of spill response plans are identified as priorities.

A separate MSP process has moved forward successfully—the Marine Plan Partnership for the Canadian Pacific North Coast (MaPP). From 2011-2016 MaPP has developed and approved four sub-regional MSP plans, an overall framework plan, and an implementation strategy. The partnership was among 17 First Nations and the Province of British Columbia.

A Land Use Plan for Nunavut—the newest, largest, and northernmost territory of Canada—has been drafted in 2016. Nunavut comprises a major portion of Northern Canada, and most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The Nunavut Planning Commission has jurisdiction over more than 3 million km2 of land, water, and marine areas. The marine areas that would be covered by the plan cover over 1 million km2. There are limitations to the activities would be regulated in the marine areas (e.g., fishing would not be subject to the plan), but many activities would be (e.g., oil & gas exploration and development and cruise ships).

More information on all of these marine planning initiatives is discussed in the following pages.



Use this map to explore locations that are using Marine Spatial Planning or choose from the menu below.
*To be added in 2017