• Photo: Waqcku/Wikimedia Commons

Federal Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo says that the government is committed to using science to determine what areas of Canada’s oceans will be selected for protection.

Tootoo, who made the comments in an interview with CBC, also confirmed that the government is on target to set aside five per cent of Canada’s oceans as marine-protected areas by 2017, and 10 per cent by 2020. Canada agreed to those commitments in 2010, after being ranked 119th in marine protection by the United Nations, but has only protected 1.3 per cent of its waters so far.

Tootoo has been meeting with scientists and environmental groups across the country before deciding which areas should be protected. During the CBC interview, the Nunavut-born Tootoo drew attention to the Arctic.

“I want to remind Canadians that we have a third ocean,” he said. “I think it shows that he [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] sees the importance of the North, as part of our great country, and wants to bring a different perspective on how we look at things."

Tootoo also told the CBC that the government would explore other, less conventional, options in protecting Canadian waters. "We're going to have to look at how we've traditionally done this over the years, of just small little pockets of areas,” he said. “But we also have to look at some of things other countries have done, like identifying large areas to protect as well."