The Great Lakes have long been a stronghold for Canada’s diversity of life, supporting millions of people across Canada and the U.S. and hundreds of rare plants and animals, and species at risk. Despite the progress made to recover the Great Lakes, there are still many threats to these freshwater ecosystems. Lake Ontario is one of the least protected of the Great Lakes and the impacts of land development, invasive species, and climate change mean that this freshwater gem and all the wildlife that depend on it face an uncertain future without formal protection.
That’s why we highlighted the importance of safeguarding this region in our exciting new report, Protecting the Lake of Shining Waters: The need to establish a National Marine Conservation Area in Lake Ontario. Click the link to learn more about what makes this region unique and worth protecting long-term, and send a letter to support the protection of Lake Ontario.
The Eastern basin of Lake Ontario is particularly rich in wildlife and rare species, supporting more than 50 at-risk birds, reptiles, plants, and fish like the Blanding’s Turtle, Piping Plover, and Deepwater Sculpin. Many species rely on the shoreline and waters for their unique habitats, including migratory birds that use the region’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs) for wintering and stopovers – making this site a hotspot for biodiversity that needs to be protected.
A number of surrounding First Nation communities have deep ties to these lands and waters which have supported them since time immemorial. Indigenous Peoples continue their cultural practices and stewardship of Eastern Lake Ontario and the surrounding territory, and their leadership and guidance will continue playing a key role in safeguarding this important ecosystem
Parks Canada has created a system of protected areas known as National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCA) which serve as useful conservation tools. An NMCA in these waters would help connect and enhance aquatic and terrestrial habitats for the fish and wildlife that rely on them.
With species in free fall across Canada and the planet, this is a critical time to act for the protection of nature. Actions taken over the next few years will shape the future of biodiversity in Canada and better protecting the Great Lakes is a necessary step, starting in Lake Ontario.
The federal government has recently committed to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030, and expand the footprint of protected areas by conserving 25% of land and freshwater by 2025, and 30% by 2030. A National Marine Conservation Area in Lake Ontario could protect up to 5,000 square kilometres of freshwater and shoreline habitat – that has the potential to contribute up to 0.05% toward the national conservation targets.
To make this goal a reality, Parks Canada needs to launch a feasibility assessment in collaboration with the Ontario Government and close consultation with First Nations by the Fall of 2022 to effectively contribute toward targets by 2025. Safeguarding the cultural and natural heritage of Lake Ontario is key to the long-term stewardship of the Great Lakes for present and future generations.
You can take action by sending a letter to show your support for protecting nature in Canada through the establishment of a National Marine Conservation Area in Lake Ontario.
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