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Marine Cadastre

Since its formation in 1985, the ACLS has been aware of growing concerns resulting from the lack of a comprehensive property rights system in offshore Canada Lands. If nothing is done, Canada will miss the full economic potential that the offshore area offers. The increasing human activities in the ocean space (protection areas, navigation, pipelines and cables, conservation areas, oil and gas, aquaculture, fishing, renewable energy projects, mining, etc) requires an integrated approach to balance competing demands. The common unifying element to these various management regimes is the geospatial component – key to a Marine Cadastre Considering the capital values of some projects being carried out or considered, and considering the increasing competition for ocean space, the potential for financial and environmental liability is huge.

  •  National and International communication companies, are permitted to deploy, or sometimes bury, expensive fibre optic cables across offshore Canada Lands without requiring a formal and integrated process to survey and record an interest to protect the companies rights
  • On land, the location of petroleum flow lines must be defined in accordance with the underlying property rights and survey system. No such requirement exists in the offshore.
  • The new proposal for the conversion of the oil and gas grid system has been accepted by CAPP, NEB, and administrative departments. There is little room for confusion as the old system is converted from NAD27 to NAD83. From a land surveying perspective, it will be more work for land surveyors because more calculations are required. However, every coordinate point will available via one official Web site.
  • Jurisdictional boundaries between the provinces and Offshore Canada Lands are not unambiguously defined. They are subject to legal and political conflicts and the circumstances of the day. As they define the jurisdictional boundaries between our members and provincial surveyors, they are of fundamental interest to the Association.
  • Jurisdictional boundaries between the provinces and offshore Canada Lands can be dependent on circumstances.
  • Interest is rapidly growing in the development of aquaculture leases in or near offshore Canada Lands. At present it appears that only one province that has established a formal process providing the parties involved with some degree of security of tenure in these leases.

According to Canada’s Ocean Action Plan, over the past decade and a half, we have seen a significant increase in economic activity in the offshore:

  • Commercial fishing industry continues to make an annual contribution to Canada’s oceans economy totalling $2 billion in harvest value and $4.4 billion in export value.
  • Employment in aquaculture has grown more than 460% and the value of fish farm production has increased by more than 500%.
  • Offshore oil and gas production has increased in annual investment value over the past decade from $250 million to $5 billion. Employment now represents 4.0% of the overall oceans industry compared to past levels of 0.3%.

Given the right management conditions, the oceans economy has the potential to grow enormously. There are, however, serious limiting factors identified by the Action Plan that handicap our oceans economy:

  • few venues presently exist for multi-sectoral interests to interact effectively with each other and to sort out conflicting use issues;
  • goals and objectives for decision-making are not clear nor integrated across sectors and they are not always grounded in sustainable practices, based on sound science that considers both current and cumulative impacts;
  • regulatory complexity and uncertainty as well as a continuing lack of awareness about economically based oceans activities frequently result in unreliable and hesitant investor confidence;
  • emerging industries seeking to find a niche such as offshore aquaculture, mineral and metal exploration and other non-traditional energy sources like wind and wave power generation are increasingly experiencing conflicts with other more traditional oceans uses over space and resource allocation; and,
  • “non-consumptive uses” of the oceans environment (cable-laying for telecommunications or electricity; oil or gas pipelines; etc.) often experience conflict due to lack of planning or concerns about lost access to ocean areas.

Solutions to these problems can be found in new management models founded on the three principles of Canada’s Oceans Act: sustainable development, the precautionary approach and integrated management. Countries around the globe that have pursued modern oceans management, including Canada, have recognized the value of integrated oceans management.

The principle of Integrated Management was first agreed to at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, which recognized the long term value of sustainable development. Canada, by signing the “Agenda 21” commitments, joined the global community in supporting action.

A Multi-purpose Marine Cadastre is a vital part of an effective and integrated oceans management strategy as it would provide the unifying element (geospatial relationship) between all competing uses. A Marine Cadastre could become a core element of an integrated management system by providing a common information base for legal boundaries, rights and restrictions. It will ultimately lead to more certainty for industry and faster environmental assessment. Developing a multi-purpose cadastral system as the foundation for effective integrated management of geospatially related information in the ocean space would enable integrated decision making. Such cadastral systems would provide a mechanism to integrate the rights, restrictions and responsibilities of all constituents with other environmental and economic data into a single system available for industries and governments.

A Marine Cadastre would provide a continuous, up-to-date inventory of all property rights on a common framework and a framework for recording all resource information.

A property rights system, of which a marine cadastre would be the component relating to the position and physical extent (boundaries) of the rights, on a common positional reference system, would have a major social and economic impact in the offshore by simplifying the administration, facilitating the execution of the rights (minimizing conflicts) and ensuring protection of property rights.

The establishment of our own Marine cadastre would also provide an opportunity for Canada to develop expertise in the establishment of marine cadastres and export it.

In March 2001, the ACLS organized a special one-day workshop in conjunction with the ACLS Annual General Meeting in Halifax. Nearly 60 invited guests from many fields recognized the importance of offshore interests and participated. Major participants were oil and gas development companies and provincial coastal land administration agencies. Click here for a copy of the workshop report.

The ACLS then organized a Second Offshore Issues Consultation Workshop that took place as part of the Canadian Institute of Geomatics (CIG) Geomatics 2003 conference held in Calgary between the 16th and 18th of October, 2003. This Workshop continued the policy discussions that began at the Halifax workshop. The various recommendations from the Halifax workshop were also examined and measured against the status quo in order to determine the progress made since the recommendations were made. Click here for a copy of the workshop report.