Moving Targets: Marine Protected Areas and Migratory Species in a Changing Ocean

Lay Summary 

The marine environment holds significant economical, ecological, and cultural importance for coastal regions like Newfoundland. To protect and ensure sustainable use of the ocean, managers and industry around the world are shifting their focus from single species management towards ecosystem-based approaches. This includes the creation of marine protected area (MPA) networks for conservation and fisheries sustainability.

Canada is a signatory to the Conservation of Biological Diversity, an international agreement which requires Canada to expand its MPAs from 1% to 10% of its territorial waters by 2020. One of the challenges facing the Canadian and provincial governments is to create MPA networks that, by being greater than the sum of its parts, ensures species are adequately protected.

Rather than treat a population as a single isolated unit, an ecosystem-based approach takes into account interactions between species and the environment that influence the movement, distribution, and abundance of species. Although separated over sometimes large distances, many marine populations are interconnected through movement of adults, juveniles, and larvae. Furthermore, many species are highly mobile throughout their lives, and may undergo migrations between key habitats. For these species, population persistence relies on the availability of a range of suitable habitats. Movement patterns and distribution are expected to be fundamentally altered by climate change and fishery pressure.

Focusing on Atlantic Canada, I will explore MPA network design for migratory species through the lens of three key species; Capelin, recognised nationally and internationally as a keystone forage fish species in the region, and has recently become the focus of calls for improved management; Cod - a keystone predator and commercially important species which relies heavily on capelin, and has failed to recover from overfishing despite a moratorium being introduced in the early 1990s; and seabird species such as common murres and puffins which support their chicks with capelin foraged during the breeding season.

Newfoundland and Labrador
Marine Protected Areas
Atlantic cod
Industry Sectors 
Fishing, Hunting and Trapping
Start date 
1 Jan 2018
End date 
30 Sep 2020