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Wild Animal Law of Canada


Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act (federal)('CNMCAA')

(current to 01 May 2016)

Note Re Application of the CNMCAA

The CNMCAA applies within marine conservation areas and marine conservation area reserves (see links below) declared under it.

This law bears on the wildlife issues of:
The full current text of this legislation (including regulations) may be viewed at the Canada statute website.


The federal Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act [CNMCAA] establishes a number of marine conservation areas and national marine conservation area reserves. Reserves are areas that are subject to aboriginal land claims and which may in future become full conservation areas.

Within these conservation areas animals are afforded some degree of protection insofar they comprise part of the so-managed "ecosystems". For these purposes an "'ecosystem' means a dynamic complex of animal, plant and microorganism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit" [CNMCAA s.2(1), Scheds 1,2].

Conservation areas "shall be managed and used in a sustainable manner that meets the needs of present and future generations without compromising the structure and function of the ecosystems, including the submerged lands and water column" [CNMCAA s.4(3)]. Within each of them specific zones are designated, including: "at least one zone that fosters and encourages ecologically sustainable use of marine resources and at least one zone that fully protects special features or sensitive elements of ecosystems, and may include other types of zones" [CNMCAA, s.4(4)].

For these purposes the Minister of Environment must establish "management plan(s) for the marine conservation area that includes a long-term ecological vision for the marine conservation area and provision for ecosystem protection, human use, zoning, public awareness and performance evaluation". "(T)he primary considerations in the development and modification of management plans and interim management plans shall be principles of ecosystem management and the precautionary principle" [CNMCAA, s.9(1,3)]. The 'precautionary principle' is a principle of international environmental law that has been accepted into Canadian law by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of 114957 Canada Ltée (Spraytech, Société d'arrosage) v. Hudson (Town) (SCC, 2001) [para]. It requires that, with respect to the environment (and public safety), governments act with an abundance of caution, not requiring conclusive evidence of risk or harm before they act to protect.

Specifically, the CNMCAA also creates a positive duty on all responsible parties, "(w)here a substance that is capable of degrading the environment or injuring any animal, fish or plant is discharged or deposited within a marine conservation area" to "take reasonable measures to prevent or mitigate such degradation or injury" [CNMCAA s.29(1)].

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