National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCA) are established and managed by Parks Canada Agency under the National Marine Conservation Areas Act.
National Marine Conservation areas, which represent 29 distinct ocean and freshwater regions of Canada, include the seabed, the water above it, and any species that occur there. Their boundaries may also include wetlands, estuaries, islands, and other coastal lands.
National marine conservation areas have a wide mandate that includes conservation, sustainable use, and public education and enjoyment. Although NMCA's contain small zones of high-protection for sensitive habitats and species, they also focus on ecologically sustainable use: harmonizing conservation practices with human activities.
In the co-operatively managed multiple-use sections of each NMCA, human activities such as fishing and shipping may continue. These same activities are curtailed or prohibited in the protected sensitive zones (nesting areas, spawning beds, whale calving areas, cultural sites). Dumping, mining, oil and gas exploration and extraction are prohibited throughout National Marine Conservation Areas.
There are currently 3 National Marine Conservation Areas in Canada - Fathom Five National Marine Park, Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, and the Saguenay-St. Lawrence National Marine Park - and several others in various stages of proposal and discussion.