Photo: © Paul Heasman - Fotolia.com
Canada boasts an impressive maritime heritage. With the world’s longest coastline bordering on three oceans, it’s easy to see how important the marine environment is to our way of life. Nearly a third of all Canadians live within reach of the coast. Oceans contribute to our economy, our recreation and our identity. Oceans are important sources of food and cultural experiences and they provide an array of goods and services that we benefit from everyday, regardless of where we live.
Increasingly, Canada's and the world’s ocean environments are under threat from human activities that occur on land. Approximately 80 per cent of marine pollution comes from land-based sources. Believe it or not, in some parts of Canada, oceans are still regarded as dumping grounds for untreated or insufficiently treated raw sewage; municipal, industrial and agricultural wastes make their way to our oceans, and coastal areas are chipped away at by development including road construction, intense recreation, urban expansion and industrial projects. Additional developments are looming – such as offshore wind, oil and gas exploration, and increased opportunities for transportation in the Arctic – which could further stress the oceans’ environments.
Climate change will affect oceans, too. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the marine ecosystem will be heavily impacted by a changing climate. Oceans absorb carbon dioxide and, as a result, are becoming more acidic, which can have fundamental implications for oceanic life. Terms like “coral bleaching” and “dead zones” are becoming more mainstream and are a good indicator that our oceans are in trouble. Add to this concerns related to invasive species, overfishing, bycatch and heavy metal contamination, and you’ve got a precarious situation indeed.
CWF has long been concerned with the state of Canada’s coastal and marine environments. For many years, we have advocated for the sustainable development of Canada’s aquatic environments, being the voice for wildlife in the pursuit of economic activities that are truly sustainable. We have a long history in addressing the environmental impacts of salmon aquaculture on Canada’s east and west coasts. We have made presentations to Senate committees on the impacts of illegal oil dumping from ships on seabirds. We have contributed to federal policies on Pacific salmon and commented on numerous pieces of legislation that affect oceanic and coastal areas. We advocate regularly for the legal protection of oceanic species at risk. We have funded research, commented on fishing gear, such as bottom trawls, that leave a path of destruction in their wake. We have been vigilant in ensuring that legislation, such as the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act, is strong and that commercial interests do not supersede the needs of wildlife. We actively participate in Rivers to Oceans Week, recognize schools that are doing their part for Canada's oceans, and do our part to educate people on how everyday actions can make a difference to our oceans.
CWF is taking marine conservation to new heights. Alarmed by the increasing stressors at play affecting our oceans, we will be directing increased funds and efforts towards improving the situation. Meanwhile, if you want to help oceans, you can start by doing the following:
- Reduce the amount of plastic you use, including bags, which can be mistaken for food by species such as the endangered leatherback seaturtle.
- Know where you seafood comes from. For example, wild salmon from Alaska is preferable to farmed Atlantic salmon, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. Enjoy wild-caught spot prawns from B.C., but avoid imported Black Tiger shrimp.
- Never put unused medication, paints or other chemicals down the drain.
- When you’re on vacation, chose souvenirs wisely. Avoid coral and jewellery derived from wildlife.
- Do everything you can to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions – buy local food, change your light bulbs, reduce frivolous consumption, and drive less.