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IMPAC5: Spotlight on Conservation and Marine Protected Areas

8 minute read

Canada is hosting the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5). Here’s why this event is important.

What is IMPAC5?

IMPAC5 is a global forum that brings together ocean conservation professionals, government officials, ocean economy representatives, youth, and Indigenous leaders from around the world to inform, inspire, and act on creating and managing marine protected areas – a designated part of the ocean that is legally protected and managed to achieve the long-term conservation of nature. The conference is normally held every four years and brings like-minded people together to take a stand to protect the ocean. The first event, IMPAC1, was held in Geelong, Australia and the previous, IMPAC4, was held in La Serena-Coquimbo, Chile in 2017. Now it is Canada’s turn to host this prestigious global event February 3-9, 2023, after a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s taking place alongside Burrard Inlet in Vancouver, British Columbia, and will gather an estimated 3,000 people in person, with another 1,000 joining virtually.

What does IMPAC5 aim to achieve?

At the United Nations Ocean Conference held June 2022, in Lisbon, Portugal, the intergovernmental organization, the High Ambition Coalition For People and Nature, announced that 100 countries committed to what is called the 30X30 mission designed to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. Many other nations agreed to this target at the COP15 meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Organizers of the IMPAC5 conference hope that attendees will work to develop strategies to help reach this goal by providing a space to follow up on this and other commitments made at previous conservation and climate change forums.

The conference revolves around the five major themes:

  • Building a global marine protected area network
  • Advancing conservation in the blue economy
  • Actively managing marine protected areas and human activity
  • Conserving biodiversity and addressing the climate crisis
  • Connecting ocean, culture and human well-being

IMPAC5 provides a space for participants and leaders to contribute to decision-making, share ideas, make recommendations, and discuss innovative strategies, all to help address the critical need to protect ocean ecosystems and biodiversity.

IMPAC5 and marine shipping: what’s the connection?

Shipping traffic and activities at ports are a major stressor to the environment and are a threat to healthy ecosystems and the biodiversity they support. As Canada and the international community works to achieve the 2030 target, the growing number of marine protected areas will increasingly overlap with shipping lanes and areas of ship activity. Therefore, achieving conservation goals will require understanding ship activity and how it relates to natural processes as well as managing shipping in the context of other ocean uses. Through measures like restricting waste discharges and preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species, conservation efforts already regulate ship activity to help reduce its impacts. Effective management of ocean use will require a deep understanding of marine shipping to achieve the dual objectives of a thriving blue economy and healthy ocean ecosystems. As we embark on marine spatial planning efforts, new conservation actions, and other policies, shipping data must be included.

Clear Seas to participate in IMPAC5 and share its latest research

Marine shipping carries most of the world’s trade, providing substantial economic benefits. However, it has impacts on the environment and coastal communities. Clear Seas will be sharing some of its research and programs focused on shipping, conservation, spatial planning, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples to help map solutions and provide insights.

Times and Locations

You can hear our speakers as part of a session discussing Multiple Perspectives on Marine Spatial Planning in Canada, February 4th at 11:30 am in room 223-224 and a symposium with multiple speakers from Clear Seas, February 7th at 11:30 am in room 301-305 located at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. The abstracts for Clear Seas’ IMPAC5 sessions can be read below.

Innovative approach to spatial planning and commercial marine shipping risk in Canada’s Pacific Region

The marine environment provides habitats and homes, resources and livelihoods, recreation and sustenance, and transportation corridors. These various and often competing uses of the ocean require careful and collaborative spatial planning for successful coexistence. This presentation will bring data, models, analyses, and a multi-perspective approach to understanding the risks presented by marine shipping traffic and demonstrate its application in Canada’s Pacific region.

Clear Seas has leveraged global information systems (GIS) to map several layers of data and generate models of physical, biological, and socio-economic attributes to understand the status of shipping and its associated risk. The combination of this geospatial information will enable new ways of identifying and mitigating area-based shipping risk. The data layers and models can support spatial planning by clearly delineating overlapping and potentially competing uses of the marine environment, providing better information to support decision-making.

This presentation will share the results of Clear Seas’ innovative coastal mapping exercise that supports spatial planning and commercial shipping risk mitigation. The Marine Transportation Corridors initiative and Mapping Marine Traffic work take a multi-perspective approach to assessing commercial shipping activity in Canada’s Pacific Region. The foundation of the study is a vessel traffic analysis using three years of automatic identification system (AIS) data to categorize the types and volumes of vessel traffic transiting through the waters of Canada’s Pacific Ocean exclusive economic zone, and the amount of persistent oil carried as cargo and fuel by vessels. On this foundation of vessel traffic patterns, Clear Seas layered additional data to create a view of marine shipping risk at both local and regional scales.

These data layers were created through additional studies, including the drift rates of different vessel types under historical wind forces to determine how the location, availability, and suitability of emergency towing vessels might influence the potential for a disabled ship to be rescued. An analysis of all tugs operating in the Pacific region and their typical patterns of behaviour was completed to assess the availability of existing tugs to respond in an emergency. Vessels involved in incidents and accidents were mapped to show patterns and regions with higher numbers of incidents or accidents. To provide additional context to this work, vessels involved in incidents and accidents were compared to the nautical miles sailed in a given region, providing a rate by ship type and location. Another layer of analysis used open-source data to create a coastal sensitivities layer based on physical (shoreline and seafloor), biological, and socio-economic attributes that could be affected by a ship-source oil spill.

Combining these spatial layers with other data and models allows for a novel view to empower spatial planning that supports the inclusion of a range of perspectives and priorities. The results generated from these multi-stage analyses will enable industry experts and impacted communities to identify, understand, and advocate for policies to mitigate risks posed by commercial marine shipping activity and incorporate commercial shipping data into broader marine spatial planning initiatives.

Community responses to marine shipping impacts on Indigenous communities and ecosystems

Clear Seas is hosting a symposium to share the importance of and need for reconciliation in the marine shipping industry and demonstrate the research efforts and results of the Indigenous students participating in Clear Seas’ Indigenous Internship Program. The focus of the symposium is marine shipping impacts on Indigenous communities and coastal ecosystems. The presentations will address different aspects of marine shipping impacts in the ancestral lands and waters of two coastal First Nations in British Columbia: Tsleil-Waututh Nation and T’Sou-ke Nation.

The symposium will begin with an overview of progress made and areas of opportunity for reconciliation in the marine shipping industry in Canada. The Indigenous Internship participants will then share how they have applied Traditional Knowledge and Western science to identify the impacts of shipping from a community perspective and recognize potential mitigating strategies to protect culturally important and traditionally valuable resources and uses of the land and waters.

A Two-eyed seeing lens – the benefit of viewing issues using the combined benefits of Indigenous knowledge and Western-science – will be shared by using a medicine wheel framework focusing on a holistic view of the impacts from marine shipping on the Tsleil-Waututh people and their home waters of the Burrard Inlet. The health of the Tsleil-Waututh people is – and always has been – directly related to the health of the land and waters where they live. This includes ensuring that the Nation can continue to forage, hunt, fish, gather food, and travel their waters, breathe the air, and have access to space to gather for ceremonies and to build and strengthen relationships and community. So, ensuring that marine shipping in the Burrard Inlet is safe and sustainable is essential to the health and well-being of the Tsleil-Waututh people.

The research included in this symposium addresses the human and ecosystem health impacts resulting from shipping activity, with a specific focus on the effects caused by aquatic and terrestrial invasive species, which are often introduced by international shipping activity.

The themes addressed by this symposium include:

Managing marine protected areas and human activity

The research considers the type and range of impacts that commercial marine shipping activity can have on coastal ecosystems and how communities can respond to safeguard culturally important natural resources for future generations.

Advancing conservation in the blue economy

The global economy is built on the movement of goods around the world from where they are produced to where they are needed. Of all the ways to move goods in the global economy, commercial marine shipping has the lowest carbon footprint per tonne of cargo transported. However, marine shipping has undeniable impacts on coastal ecosystems and the communities that depend on these ecosystems for their livelihoods and cultural practices. The research is focused on addressing these impacts to find a more sustainable way forward to develop a blue economy that balances the demands of the economy and the needs of the environment for the well-being of communities.

Connecting ocean, culture, and human well-being

For coastal Indigenous communities, a healthy ocean is central to their culture, spiritual practices, health, and well-being. Commercial marine shipping activities are essential to bring needed goods to remote coastal communities, but can have a serious impact on those communities in the form of invasive aquatic species, ocean acidification, carbon dioxide emissions, air pollutants, and more. The research describes how Indigenous communities are working to respond to and mitigate the impacts of marine shipping on their local ecosystems.

In closing, the symposium will offer an opportunity for discussion and discovery about the pivotal role of reconciliation in supporting Indigenous-led research and conservation work in the ocean environment. Safeguarding coastal ecosystems for long-term community well-being is work Indigenous nations have undertaken for generations and the work to create and manage marine protected areas must build on this past and ongoing stewardship.