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Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Case of the Missing Marine Protection – Part 1: A Dark and Rainy Day

This is Part 1 of a three-part series. The Case of the Missing Marine Protection continues in Part 2 and Part 3.

The rain was pounding on the window hard enough to suggest that someone inside was late on paying their debt. But the only one in the office that cold, dark afternoon was me, Inspector C. Storm. That's the name on the door, anyway, but of course, it depends who's asking.

I turned up the scratchy radio to drown out the rain and turned my attention back to the contents of the thick brown envelope which a shadowy figure had stuffed through the slot in my door earlier that day. Inside were several maps, a salt-stained copy of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Commercial Fisheries Closures, and the following note:

Perhaps I should take you back to where this tangled net began, or at least where I fell into it. A few months back I took a new case from a dame at the Living Oceans Society. She was concerned about parts of the ocean called Marine Protected Areas (MPAs for short) that act sort of like marine parks that are supposed to protect important habitats for sea-life. That's all well and good, but from the way this dame was talking, some of these areas offer about as much protection as a paper raincoat in a gale.

Anyway, before I dove in any deeper, I had to get my head around all these terms. MPAs, mNWAs, NMCAs... my brain was aching like someone just worked it over with a textbook on marine conservation. What was the difference between all of these areas, what did they protect and who put them there in the first place?

After digging through some of the files the dame had left me, it was clear there were no fewer than 11 different kinds of protected areas on the coast. Some were set up by the feds, some by the province and one was even inked on the map by a city. Not all of them were set up for the same reason either.

One thing that kept coming to the surface, like a recently-deceased blue whale, was the idea that some of these areas were intended to be completely closed to fishing. You see, all the evidence from other parts of the world where these ‘no take’ areas were set up pointed to their success. They allowed some fish stocks to recover, and produced more and bigger fish which would swim out of the area into fishermen’s nets.

But was that the case here? I needed to find out what the word was on the sea floor, so I grabbed my dry-suit and went to pay a visit to Coral.

Inspector C. Storm is on special assignment for the Living Oceans Society. Tune in next time as Inspector Storm continues to investigate The Case of the Missing Marine Protection, or see the evidence for yourself (PDF file).

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