SUZUKI: Report shows Canada must do more for its oceans

A report from Royal Society of Canada marine scientists notes Canada has failed to protect marine biodiversity.

It’s been 20 years since Canada’s East Coast cod fishery collapsed, and we still have no recovery target or timeline for rebuilding populations. That’s just one finding in a damning report from a panel of eminent Royal Society of Canada marine scientists.

Sustaining Canada’s Marine Biodiversity notes that Canada has “failed to meet most of our national and international commitments to protect marine biodiversity” and “lags behind other modernized nations in almost every aspect of fisheries management.”

For a country surrounded on three sides by oceans, with the longest coastline in the world, that’s shameful. Beyond the jobs, recreational opportunities, food, medicines, and habitat that our oceans provide, they also give us life. Half the world’s oxygen is produced in the oceans by phytoplankton, which are threatened by rising ocean temperatures and acidification because of global warming.

Successive federal governments have failed to recognize our oceans as much more than reservoirs of resources to exploit for short-term gain. You’d think the decline of the Northern cod fishery, largely caused by mismanagement, would have taught us something. Now, with some West Coast salmon fisheries on the verge of collapse, and little real effort to protect our oceans, it appears we can expect more of the same – unless we start demanding more from our government.

The Royal Society panel focused on climate change, fisheries, and aquaculture, “because of their potential for impact on Canada’s marine biodiversity.” The problem, it found, was not an absence of knowledge, science, or policy, but rather “a consistent, disheartening lack of action on well-established knowledge and best-practice and policies, some of which have been around for years.”

Canada’s Fisheries Act, which dates back to 1868, doesn’t mention conservation. Our 1997 Oceans Act has yet to be effectively implemented. And the Species at Risk Act has been largely inadequate. Although Canada has made an international commitment to establish a protected network covering 10 per cent of our ocean territory, it has protected less than one per cent.

In fact, the federal government recently rejected millions of dollars in funding for a collaborative effort to establish a marine spatial plan and network of protected areas in Canada’s Pacific North Coast waters. First Nations, industry, the provincial and federal governments, and environmental organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, had been making progress on the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) for years, but the federal government stymied the process by failing to invest adequate funding and by rejecting support from a philanthropic organization.

It’s reason? The government was worried that marine protected areas and marine use plans based on ecosystem science might restrict oil tanker traffic. The loss of more than $8 million dollars from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation was a blow to the process, and the government has not stepped in to make up for the shortfall.

Rather than protect the Pacific’s valuable resources, opportunities, and habitat on which 40 per cent of the world’s marine mammal species and countless other plants and animals depend, it appears the government would rather risk it all by pushing the Northern Gateway pipeline project to ship crude bitumen from the tar sands through precarious Pacific Coast waterways to China and California.

The report also notes that climate change could drive some salmon species to extinction, that increasing acid levels could harm “everything from corals to mussels to lobsters”, and that fish farming can harm wild stocks through spread of parasites and diseases and interbreeding.

Besides an apparent lack of interest on the part of government regarding the health of Canada’s oceans, the report identifies a major problem that puts us behind most developed nations: a “major conflict of interest at Fisheries and Oceans Canada between its mandate to promote industrial and economic activity and its responsibility for conserving marine life and ocean health.”

The panel offered a number of sensible recommendations, which include addressing the conflict of interest and living up to our national and international commitments to marine biodiversity.

Our government is gaining a reputation for ignoring or discounting the advice of scientists. Let’s tell our leaders that our future depends on the future of the oceans and that this advice must be heeded. The science is clear: it’s time to do more.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Editorial and Communications Specialist Ian Hanington.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Just Posted

City of Port Alberni cancels tourist train operations for 2019

Steam train to McLean Mill is out of commission for repairs; city wants to re-examine rail costs

BUSINESS BEAT: New board room at Steampunk Café has nautical flair

Teresa Bird writes about business happenings once a month in the Alberni Valley News

ARTS AROUND: Artists invited to exhibit work at Port Alberni gallery

The Rollin Art Centre is now accepting applications for the 2020 calendar year

Port Alberni millwright brings Beatles’ iconic yellow submarine to life for ice show

Beatlemania is set to take the ice on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Alberni Valley Multiplex

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

No cases here yet, but Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could save the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Missing Surrey snowshoer caught in avalanche found dead on Vancouver mountain

North Shore Rescue resumed its search today after efforts were temporarily halted Tuesday due to snowstorm

Most Read