A Watery Legacy
Lakes, rivers, and seas connect us not only with our source of life but also with our culture and history. Our aquatic heritage is a treasure too precious to waste. The following activities and projects will enable you to start taking decisive action, such as promoting the establishment of marine conservation areas.
Trace Your Aquatic Roots
The water that borders on, or runs through, your community is a vital link with the past and the future. You can gain insight into the heritage of a water body by exploring its history, while letting your imagination flow forward, envisioning a future in which people, wildlife, and aquatic ecosystems can exist in harmony.
- Divide your class into groups. Have each choose a topic relevant to a local aquatic environment: for example, geology, wildlife, transportation, pollution, natural disasters, fisheries, agriculture, Aboriginal peoples, colonization, or recent history.
- Brainstorm to identify information sources, including historical archives, old newspapers, historical societies, biologists, senior citizens, and teachers of history, science, and geography.
- Research your chosen topic, such as how a river or coastline has changed, what wildlife species have disappeared or been introduced, what explorers found when they first arrived, and how Aboriginal people have been affected by local events.
- Based on your information, create a class map of the water body. Each group should contribute additional artwork representative of its findings, posting drawings at pertinent sites on the map, while reporting on its topic in historical sequence from past to present.
- Follow up by conducting a class discussion about major historical changes to the aquatic environment. Create a time line depicting these important events.
- Work to form a positive image of the future of your water body. Envision the successful completion of habitat projects and solutions to environmental threats. Consider what human actions would be required to make it happen.
- Share your views on aquatic heritage with your school through a concert, play, or other media.
Promote Marine Protected Areas
Conserving aquatic environments rich in historical, cultural, commercial, and biological resources is a critical task for ail Canadians. For more than 100 years, Canada has set aside federal lands, including shorelines, to conserve wildlife. With the collapse of Atlantic groundfish stocks, the failure of millions of Pacific salmon to return to their spawning habitats, and the spread of contaminants throughout the Great Lakes and Arctic Ocean, we must continue to take action.
That’s why Canada has set aside important parts of the sea and given them national recognition as marine protected areas (MPAs). Three federal government departments — Canadian Heritage, Environment Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada — have responsibility for establishing MPAs. Coastal communities, fishers, Aboriginal groups, and everyone who has a stake in aquatic health can join or initiate efforts to create MPAs.
Such community-driven endeavours have resulted in Igalirtuuq National Wildlife Area in the Northwest Territories (a critical gathering spot for the endangered bowhead whale) and the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park in Quebec, which shelters the endangered St. Lawrence beluga.
Not only do MPAs safeguard species at risk, but they will also protect commercially valuable fisheries; key habitats, including spawning, breeding, and feeding grounds; biologically productive sites like coastal marshes and estuaries; our diverse marine environments; and places of historical and archaeological significance. Marine protected areas are an investment in our present — and our future.
If you know of an important or vulnerable spot in the Great Lakes or any of Canada’s three oceans, here’s how you can champion its protection:
- Learn more about MPAs.
- Find out if an MPA exists or has been proposed in your area. Volunteer to help a local Aboriginal group working to establish an MPA.
- Propose an MPA. Join forces with a group of concerned individuals.
- If an MPA already exists in your area, volunteer to assist in its management.
- Voice your support for MPAs at all levels of government.
Healthy Rivers, Healthy Seas
If a waterway runs through your community, it likely merges with a drainage basin that flows to the sea. A great way to protect its health — and that of the marine environment that receives its waters — is through the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS). The CHRS aims to conserve important waterways, giving them national recognition and promoting their stewardship.
Urge regional or federal parks agencies to nominate rivers by virtue of their natural, historical, or recreational value. Governments, private landowners, and First Nations collaborate to set up a management plan to protect a waterway selected by the CHRS.
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