Protecting our oceans
The tides that churn through Haro Strait, the maritime boundary between Canada and the U.S. in British Columbia, dump oxygen and nutrients into the Strait of Georgia, nourishing the salmon, orcas and other marine life along Canada’s spectacular Pacific coast. For Pat Carney, who lives in Haro Strait on Saturna Island, balancing the development of offshore markets for our energy resources with the protection of our oceans is critical to Canada’s future and the viability of its coastal communities.
Ms. Carney would like to see the federal government pump $1-billion over the next 10 years into developing a three-ocean monitoring network to study and improve ocean health. “Canada is the global leader in ocean observatory technology,” she observes.
Ocean Networks Canada, a consortium of eight Canadian universities, already operates two of the world’s most advanced underwater ocean observatories, providing data on maritime environments from the salmon-rich Fraser River to the hot vents of the deep Pacific.
The observatories – essentially a series of giant underwater power bars, with sensors, cameras and Internet connections – provide data that can help predict marine hazards such as storm surges, underwater landslides, tsunamis and earthquakes, and monitor oil spills and changes in ocean chemistry that affect fish and marine life.
The additional $1-billion, says Ms. Carney, would make it possible to build and operate similar observatories in the Arctic, Baffin Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It would make it easier to assess sea conditions for vessels transiting the Northwest Passage, to monitor northern fish migration and to study erosion that affects Atlantic shorelines. How many people know that Prince Edward Island is shrinking?
“Life began deep in our oceans,” Ms. Carney reminds us. “Their health is crucial to our own survival.”
Former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and senator
from Five Leaders on What the Government’s Priorities Should Be
Ocean Networks Canada
Where we are now
Salmon have fundamentally shaped life on the coast. Salmon are a keystone species
The marine ecosystem off the coast of British Columbia is collapsing. Alexandra Morton, a whale biologist who lives in the Broughton Archepelago, began to document the decline of pink and chum salmon in the late 1990’s. Just prior to the decline of salmon populations there was a massive expansion of open net pen fish farming on the west coast of Canada. The Canadian Government seemed unconcerned and maintained that the two events are not linked. Global warming, poaching, pollution, and overfishing all took turns in the blame game. In the spring of 2010, director Scott Renyard began following the wild salmon story from Alexandra’s protest walk from her home on the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Provincial Capital, Victoria. Thousands of British Columbians joined her, all demanding answers.
Renyard wondered if there were answers, and began digging deeper. It wasn’t long before he realized the story was much bigger. It turns out that many, if not all, fin fish are susceptible to the diseases affecting salmon. Renyard makes the case that open net pen fish farms, mostly through their inability to control disease, has led to the collapse of many wild fish populations. This collapse has impaired the ability of the biological pumps in both the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans to fix carbon. And when life in the oceans can’t fix carbon, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. So, it turns out, that wild fish populations are critical in the fight to reduce greenhouses gases and stop global warming.