St. Anns Bank MPA


The St. Anns Bank Marine Protected Area designation under the Oceans Act was announced on June 8, 2017. It is located east of Cape Breton, and includes most of St. Anns Bank, Scatarie Bank, and a portion of the Laurentian Slope and Channel. The area is 4,364 km2.


St. Anns Bank is an exceptional habitat on the inner Scotian Shelf. It has the highest annual sea surface temperature range on the Scotian Shelf, and distinctive sea floor features within the site (Big Shoal, Scatarie Bank, and areas of high relief).

The St. Anns Bank area is high in biodiversity with scientific surveys recording over 100 species in this area. The wide variety of habitat types, from the shallows of St. Anns Bank to the depths of the Laurentian Channel, supports this diversity.

St. Anns Bank is part of a migration corridor for fish and marine mammals moving in and out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and St. Lawrence Estuary, ranging from small forage fish like herring and mackerel, to the immense blue whale. It is an overwintering area for the Sydney Bight and southern Gulf of St. Lawrence populations of Atlantic cod.

The area is an important habitat for several commercial species (e.g. redfish and halibut) and non-commercial species (e.g. sponges and sea pens). It is also important for threatened, endangered and depleted species, such as Atlantic wolffish (Special Concern, Species at Risk Act), Atlantic cod, redfish, white hake and American plaice. St. Anns Bank is also part of an important summer feeding area for the Leatherback Turtle, listed as endangered under the SARA.

 Ecological Overview of St. Anns Bank (2013)

Management and Conservation

The St. Anns Bank MPA has primary conservation objectives in three areas: habitat, biodiversity and biological productivity.

1. Habitat

Conserve and protect

  • All major benthic, demersal (i.e. close to the sea floor) and pelagic (i.e. in the water column) habitats within the St. Anns Bank MPA, along with their associated physical, chemical, geological and biological properties and processes;
  • Distinctive physical features and their associated ecological characteristics; and
  • The structural habitat provided by sea pen and sponge concentrations.
2. Biodiversity

Conserve and protect marine areas of high biodiversity at the community, species, population and genetic levels within the St. Anns Bank MPA, including:

  • Priority species and their habitats (including leatherback turtle, Atlantic wolffish, Atlantic cod, and American plaice); and
  • The area of high fish diversity within the site.
3. Biological Productivity

Conserve and protect biological productivity across all trophic levels so that they are able to fulfill their ecological role in the ecosystems of the St. Anns Bank MPA.

The secondary goals of the MPA are to:

  • Conserve and ensure the ecologically sustainable use of living marine resources in the MPA; and
  • Help maintain ecosystem health and resilience and support the ecologically sustainable use of living marine resources beyond the boundaries of the St. Anns Bank MPA.

A management plan for the St. Anns Bank MPA is under development. The management plan will outline DFO’s approach to managing activities in the MPA. The plan will explain key requirements of the St. Anns Bank MPA Regulations for marine users and identify allowed activities and management priorities.

As the lead federal authority for the MPA, DFO will have overall responsibility for ensuring compliance with, and enforcement of, the Regulations. This will be undertaken through the Department’s legislated mandate and responsibilities under the Oceans Act, the Fisheries Act and the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, as well as other departmental legislation regarding fisheries conservation, environmental protection, habitat protection and marine safety. Enforcement officers designated by the Minister under section 39 of the Oceans Act will enforce the Regulations for these areas. Enforcement of the Regulations and offences will be dealt with under section 37 of the Oceans Act.

 Conservation Priorities, Objectives, And Ecosystem Assessment Approach For The St. Anns Bank Area Of Interest (AOI) (2012)


Established under the Oceans Act, the St. Anns Bank Marine Protected Area Regulations establish the boundaries, management zones and management measures for the MPA.

Activity Applications

In Marine Protected Areas established under the Oceans Act, it is generally prohibited to carry out any activity that disturbs, damages, destroys or removes any living marine organism or any part of its habitat or is likely to do so. Despite this, there are exceptions to the prohibitions. Activities that may be allowed to occur in the Marine Protected Area are listed under the ‘exception’ section of the Marine Protected Area regulations.

In addition, for most Marine Protected Areas, certain types of activities (e.g., scientific research and monitoring, habitat restoration, commercial marine tourism, and educational activities) may be allowed to occur within the MPA if a proponent submits an activity plan to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The conditions for approval are outlined in the MPA regulations.

For more information on the activity plan process, please contact:

Oceans and Coastal Management Division
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Maritimes Region)
Bedford Institute of Oceanography
PO Box 1006
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
B2Y 4A2
 Phone: (902) 426-9919
 Fax: (902) 426-2331
Research Publications
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