Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

IUCN Categories for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Using the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines, MPA managers assign an IUCN category to each site based on the management intent and objectives for that site. IUCN categories Ia, Ib, II, and III are the most strict and prohibit resource extraction, with the possible exception of traditional harvesting by First Nations.

IUCN Categories:

  • Ia – Strict Nature Reserve – no resource extraction
    Strictly protected areas set aside to protect biodiversity and also possibly geological/geomorphological features, where human visitation, use and impacts are strictly controlled and limited to ensure protection of the conservation values. Such protected areas can serve as indispensable reference areas for scientific research and monitoring.

  • Ib – Wilderness Area –First Nations traditional harvesting and collection for scientific research allowed
    Usually large unmodified or slightly modified areas, retaining their natural character and influence, without permanent or significant human habitation, which are protected and managed so as to preserve their natural condition.

  • II – National Park – First Nations traditional harvesting and collection for scientific research allowed
    Large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.

  • III – Natural Monument or Feature – First Nations traditional harvesting and collection for scientific research allowed
    Set aside to protect a specific natural monument, which can be a landform, sea mount, submarine caverns, geological feature such as a caves or even a living feature such as an ancient grove. They are generally quite small protected areas and often have high visitor value.

  • IV – Habitat/Species Management Area – sustainable resource extraction allowed
    Aim to protect particular species or habitats and management reflects this priority. Many category IV protected areas will need regular, active interventions to address the requirements of particular species or to maintain habitats, but this is not a requirement of the category.

  • V – Protected Landscape or Seascape – sustainable resource extraction allowed
    Where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values.

  • VI – Protected Areas with Sustainable Use of Natural Resources – sustainable resource extraction allowed
    Conserve ecosystems and habitats together with associated cultural values and traditional natural resource management systems. They are generally large, with most of the area in natural condition, where a proportion is under sustainable natural resource management and where low-level non industrial use of natural resources compatible with nature conservation is seen as one of the main aims of the area.

  • Y – Notes that the site has been assigned an IUCN classification but further information has not been provided. This value is found for sites designated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).