Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty
Two types of projects are currently being conducted in order to add enough marine areas in the estuary and gulf of St. Lawrence to reach a rate of protection of around 9.5%.
In the Face of major delays in the area of protection of the marine environment of Quebec, the government Legault is in the process of advancing, in collaboration with the federal government, projects that will help meet the commitments taken on the international stage. If they materialize at the end of the consultations as early as this fall, these projects multiplieraient by five protected area of the St. Lawrence.
Arrested Monday in the wake of media coverage of environmental groups and scientists calling for a increase of marine protected areas, the office of the minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, has affirmed his willingness to abide by the commitment made by Quebec to protect 10 % of its portion of the St. Lawrence by the end of 2020. This rate is currently limited to 1.9 %.
“Our government is re-double our efforts to achieve our objectives of protected areas, in spite of the delay accumulated by the previous governments,” stressed the cabinet of Mr. Charette, in a written response to the Duty. The compliance of this objective is all the more important for the government that he had been taken to the scale of the united Nations, in the framework of the Convention on biological diversity, in 2010.
“Like the protected areas in the marine environment require the cooperation of the federal government, we are to jointly assess the relevance of the identified projects in the area of biodiversity in order to prioritize their protection status “, a-t-it added, without giving more details on the projects in question.
According to information obtained by Le Devoir, two types of projects are currently being conducted in order to add enough marine areas in the estuary and gulf of St. Lawrence to reach a rate of protection of around 9.5 %. This would equate to the addition of 12 000 km2 of protected areas to 2950 km2 (1,9 %) already included in the marine park of Saguenay–Saint-Laurent and the Bench-of the-Americans, an area located off the gaspé peninsula.
Shelters ” subsidized “
The government, Legault would have agreed to recognize the “shelters” sailors established by the Trudeau government in the quebec portion of the gulf of St. Lawrence, in the framework of a project of ” network gulf “. These shelters, which come in different areas of a few hundreds of square kilometres each, are located around the island of Anticosti. Their total area reached approximately 7000 km2.
Québec would like to, however, enhance the protection rules put in place by Ottawa, which can be summarized with fisheries management measures intended to protect sea sponges and corals. The government, Legault would like to actually use the provisions enshrined in the bill 46 to create a new status of protection designed to be permanent, the ” marine reserve “. It provides for various prohibitions, including the exploitation and transportation of hydrocarbons, but also the exploitation and transport of mineral substances.
The two orders of governments, which have agreed three years ago to work in the area of preservation of marine environments, have also defined the boundaries of zones of protection that would add 5000 km2 of protected areas in the estuary of the St. Lawrence river. In this case, the project already well advanced, has been developed mainly for the purpose of preserving a portion significantly more of the habitat of the beluga of the St. Lawrence river.
It must be said that the federal government has defined and recognized the critical habitat of this endangered species, which requires it to ensure its protection. The project of the estuary would, however, beyond this habitat, since it would include a portion of the St. Lawrence river from the eastern tip of île d’orléans up to Chute-aux-Outardes, in Côte-Nord, and until downstream of Trois-Pistoles, on the south shore.
Target of 30 %
As for the network of shelters sailors in the gulf for the enhancement of the protection of the estuary, which is expected since the late 1990s, the government consultations could be launched this fall. The crisis of the COVID-19 could, however, come to change the game plan, in development for several months already.
Regardless of the timeline the end, the director-general of the Society for nature and parks, Québec, Alain Branchaud, estimated that the projects currently on the table could very well become a reality. “Quebec is positioned favorably to arrive at the gates of the interim target of 10 % by the end of the year 2020 “, he argued Monday.
According to him, this first objective, however, should lead Quebec to a target even more ambitious for the next decade. “The science is clear : it is important to quickly achieve 30 % protection of marine environments to sustain the ecosystems and the species they support. Québec must therefore engage quickly to reach this target, and to provide the means to get there. “
In the framework of the initiative ” The call of the gulf “, launched on Monday, the David Suzuki Foundation, the research Station of the Mingan archipelago and the body ÉcoMaris have also argued in favour of a target of 30 % of protected areas in the Saint Lawrence river by 2030. This target is also enshrined in the united nations negotiations on the protection of the high seas.
Mr. Branchaud is estimated that beyond the protection of marine species, a better preservation of the marine environment would be ” to sustainably manage the pantry that can represent the St Lawrence.