Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas
Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) are areas within Canada's oceans that have been identified through formal scientific assessments as having special biological or ecological significance when compared with the surrounding marine ecosystem.
Failure to define an area as an EBSA does not mean that it is unimportant ecologically. All areas serve ecological functions to some extent and require sustainable management. Rather, areas identified as EBSAs should be viewed as the most important areas where, with existing knowledge, regulators and marine users should be particularly risk averse to ensure ecosystems remain healthy and productive.
Why are EBSAs identified?
EBSA information is used to inform marine planning, including environmental assessment and the siting of marine-based activities, by:
Informing and guiding project-specific or regional environmental assessments;
Informing and guiding industries and regulators in their planning and operations, for example: EBSAs have been acknowledged and referred to (often as "Special Areas" or "Potentially Sensitive Areas") in oil and gas related assessments;
EBSA information has been provided to proponents of submarine cable projects to be used for route planning purposes;
Informing and guiding Integrated Oceans Management (IOM) process within five Large Ocean Management Areas (LOMAs) and twelve marine bioregions;
Serving as a basis for the identification of Areas of Interest (AOIs) and of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) (individually and in the context of planning bioregional networks of MPAs).
How are EBSAs identified?
The process used to identify EBSAs is generally comprised of two phases. The first phase involves compiling scientific data and knowledge of a marine area's ecosystems - notably fish species, marine mammals, sea birds, marine flora, marine productivity, physical and chemical conditions and geology. "Knowledge" includes experiential knowledge of long-time uses of the areas. In some cases (e.g., in the Arctic), substantial efforts are taken to collect traditional knowledge on ecosystems and environmental conditions from community members, fish harvests, hunters and individuals whose knowledge of the study area complement often helps fill scientific data gaps.
In the second phase, the available information for a marine area (e.g. a bioregion) is assessed against five nationally-established science-based criteria including:
Uniqueness: How distinct is the ecosystem of an area compared to surrounding ones?
Aggregation: Whether or not species populate or convene to the study area?
Fitness consequence: How critical the area is to the life history of the species that use it (e.g. is it a spawning or feeding ground)?
Naturalness: How pristine or disturbed by human activities is the study area?
Resilience: What is the ability of the ecosystem to bounce back if it is disturbed?
Progress to date and next steps
EBSAs have been identified for large portions of Canada's Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as most of the Arctic oceans. EBSAs will continue to be identified in priority areas as resources become available to carry out the process. The boundaries or locations of existing EBSAs may be modified to reflect both new knowledge and changing environmental conditions.
- Publisher - Current Organization Name: Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Licence: Open Government Licence - Canada
Data and Resources
Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (.SHP)ZIPEnglish French dataset ZIP
Ecologically and Biologically Significant AreasESRI RESTEnglish web_service ESRI REST
Ecologically and Biologically Significant AreasESRI RESTFrench web_service ESRI REST
|Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas|
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Administrative Area: Ontario
Postal Code: K1A 0E6
Electronic Mail Address: Catherine.Ste-Marie@dfo-mpo.gc.ca