Canada's international and national commitments to sustain marine biodiversity

David L. Vanderzwaag, Jeffrey A. Hutchings, S. Jennings, Randall M. Peterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Canada has made numerous international and national commitments to sustain marine biodiversity. International commitments include the implementation of ecosystem-based management, the establishment a network of marine protected areas, and the restoration of commercially exploited fish stocks. However, the international commitments tend to be quite general in nature with the precise governance implications of key principles, such as precaution and the ecosystem approach, being open to interpretation, thus leaving considerable room for discretion in implementation. Consequently, a plethora of soft law documents has emerged to provide more specific guidance to decision-makers and progressively develop international law and policy. Nationally, Canada has embraced a long list of commitments that are supportive of sustaining marine biodiversity through legislation and numerous policy-related documents. Nonetheless, Canada has left many of these commitments unfulfilled or inadequately fulfilled, such as (i) the development of integrated management plans for coastal and marine waters, (ii) the implementation of the precautionary approach for Canada's fisheries, and (iii) the establishment of recovery strategies and identification of critical habitat for species at risk. Although the goal of effective protection of marine biodiversity in Canada appears to be guided by international and national commitments, there remains a clear need to fully implement, operationalize, and strengthen these commitments as articulated in the Oceans Act, fisheries management-related policies, the Species at Risk Act, and others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-352
Number of pages41
JournalEnvironmental Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012


  • policy
  • marine protected areas
  • precautionary approach
  • fisheries
  • oceans

Cite this