Protecting Marine Life

The importance and significance of cold water corals and other diverse deep sea ecosystems to restoring and maintaining Canada's oceans was not officially or internationally recognized  until the government of  Canada through then Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Hon. Loyola Hearn, signed the United Nations General Assembly sustainable fisheries resolution in November 2006.

In this resolution, the Government of Canada agreed to identify and protect cold water corals and Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs).  The UN declaration came as a result of several years of advocacy by various coalitions of environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) around the planet supported by over 1000 international ocean scientists. Further to this, Canada has signed other international agreements with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) to identify and protect these cold water corals and Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems.

In 2006 and 2007, the Atlantic Canada Chapter of the Sierra Club, working with its scientific advisors and their graduate students in St. John's, Newfoundland, has identified several large areas on the continental shelf and slope east of Labrador and Newfoundland containing cold water corals and having abundant diverse ecosystems. Data used to identify these areas includes information from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and  fisheries observers reports.

Please go here to see a map detailing the percentage of sets (All fisheries, All gear types) containing deep sea coral off southern Newfoundland (NAFO Area 3O protection zone) in 2004 and 2005.

These areas are identified on the Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem on the maps listed below. Ongoing research is being conducted to identify other vulnerable marine ecosystem sites either along the continental shelf and slope or in other areas of the Northwest Atlantic.

Efforts are underway to have these areas closed so the process of ocean and commercial fisheries recovery may begin.  If you wish to participate and support our initiatives we ask that you sign our petition and write your Member of  Parliament, the Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Prime Minister expressing you support for such closures.

Proposed closures to protect Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems:

1.Proposed closures to protect Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems: Deep-sea Corals in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region

2. Proposed closures to protect Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems: Deep-sea Corals in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region: North View

3. Percentage of sets containing coral - NAFO 3O protection zone

4. Gorgonian coral protection areas, SE Labrador, Funk Island Spur, and Tobin's Point.


Note: All of the photographs we taken in DesBarres Canyon on the South-west Slope of the Grand Bank in depths of approximately 300-400 metres. The broken Keratosis coral photograph  (below) is example of the aftermath of using bottom trawl fishing gear.


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