Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



oceans, Oceans Act, policy, Oceans Action Plan


Over the years, Canada, like most other coastal nations, has developed an intricate set of policies and regulatory instruments focused on the management of traditional sectoral uses of the oceans. A decade ago, the necessary steps were taken to modernise the way in which Canadian authorities manage ocean-based activities.

Canada did not set out to design “one” comprehensive, all inclusive oceans policy. The primary approach taken was to identify, through Canada’s Oceans Act, one federal lead authority responsible for the coordination and harmonisation of existing policy and statutory instruments and to formulate a national vision and guiding principles for oceans management within which existing and emerging policies and laws would be interpreted and implemented.

This chapter outlines Canada’s statutory and policy instruments and implementation approach to oceans management. The political and environmental context within which a new management approach was developed will be described as well as the processes which led to the development of the Oceans Act, its policy framework, Canada’s Oceans Strategy and finally, the Government of Canada’s blueprint for action, Canada’s Oceans Action Plan. The relationship between key ocean-related agreements and Canadian domestic law and practice is summarised. In closing, lessons learned during the past decade will be examined, as will the challenges which lie ahead.