Integrated Ocean Management

Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas

Canada’s Oceans Act (1997) authorizes DFO to provide enhanced protection to areas of the oceans and coasts that are ecologically or biologically significant. The identification of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) is not a general strategy for protecting all habitats and marine communities that have ecological significance. Rather, it is a tool for calling attention to areas that have particularly high ecological or biological significance, to facilitate provision of a greater-than-usual degree of risk aversion in the management of activities in such areas. Concluding that an area is ecologically or biologically significant does not give it any special legal status. Such identification provides guidance on the standard of management that is considered to be appropriate at any given time (Cobb and al., 2008).

EBASs are identified by science and northern experts as areas that are particularly important to the structure and function of the marine environment or a particular ecosystem and important for research and monitoring. They are not based on regulation, and are not managed in the way Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are managed. Rather, their identification is intended to raise awareness and draw attention to activities that may threaten an area. Scientists and community members developed a list of 21 EBSAs in the Large Ocean Management Area (LOMA) for the Beaufort Sea (Cobb and al., 1998).

The identification of EBSAs within the Beaufort Sea LOMA presented a number of significant challenges, including: (1) the need to incorporate traditional and local knowledge; (2) a significant lack of scientific data; (3) significant seasonal and geographic bias in existing data; and (4) a bias towards knowledge of species that are important to communities for subsistence fishing and hunting. Each candidate area was evaluated using the National Evaluation Framework developed by DFO, which provided the necessary criteria. Each area was ranked based on its uniqueness, aggregation, fitness consequences, resilience and naturalness (Cobb and al., 1998). Concluding that an area is not an EBSA does not mean the area is not important – all areas have some ecological function and are therefore important.

For more information regarding EBSAs please visit the following links: