June 8 is World Oceans Day. In Canada, it's a time to celebrate the rich marine life in three great oceans off the longest coastline of any nation -- trillions of plankton, billions of fish, millions of seabirds, thousands of whales and myriad other creatures great and small. Yet, we have little to celebrate when it comes to looking after this natural legacy
When carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted into the atmosphere it doesn't just stay there -- about 25 per cent of emissions are absorbed into the ocean, increasing the acidity of the ocean. An ocean increasing in acidity is not a very friendly place for its creatures, many of which play critical roles in marine food webs and are vital sources of human food. I recently travelled to Italy and across North America investigating how ocean acidification could impact marine life. While I like to remain hopeful in most things, what I learned has made me very worried about the future of the ocean.
I used to eat a lot of shrimp, but based on my travels examining foreign shrimp farms and various unsustainable and sustainable fishing practices, now I am much more selective. Supporting more sustainable options is a good start but with the vast majority of the global shrimp industry based on destructive harvesting methods, widespread change will take a long time.
Almost everyone who has seen the gruesome videos of sharks having their fins cut off and their mutilated bodies dumped back into the ocean, barely alive but doomed to drown, is outraged by this barbaric practice. Even more so upon learning that there is no nutritional value in shark fin soup or any shark fin products.
Don't cue the theme from Jaws for 20-year-old Madison Stewart, A.K.A. the "Shark Girl." Madison has been diving with the sharks since the age of 12 in the Great Barrier Reef and she loathes the hype propagated in movies from Jaws to Sharknado that these mysterious beasts are "mindless blood thirsty killers."
Although the conservation challenge is daunting, nurturing functioning ecosystems offers hope. Healthy oceans ensure we can continue to enjoy seafood -- and they're more resilient to increasing human impacts. If the global fishing industry wants to ensure its survival, it should advocate for marine ecosystem conservation.
In Canada, we have every reason to take an international leadership position on this issue. There are deep cultural connections between whales and our coastal communities -- and economic ones too. Whale watching has grown exponentially in recent decades, part of a global $2.1 billion (U.S.) industry.
Improving the way we fish and grow seafood is critical to the survival of some of our planet's most threatened marine and freshwater species and environments. But a national sustainable seafood day is also a critical reminder that even through our everyday choices in what food we buy, we can have a profound impact on the future of life on our planet. And nowhere is that more true than at our fish counters.
Many of us cannot wait for Mother Nature and journey to one of a plethora of pleasant places famous for their warmth. Amongst the most popular destinations, including Florida, California and the Caribbean, exist some of the most desirable beaches where millions congregate to take in the joys of sun, sea, sand, and unfortunately germs.
The record decline in sockeye returning to the Fraser River in 2009 provided the initial push for a federal judicial inquiry. Now, four years later, the offspring of those salmon are returning to spawning grounds in dismally low numbers -- so low that sockeye salmon fishery closures are widespread. What happened to Justice Bruce Cohen's 75 carefully crafted recommendations to rebuild Pacific salmon?
Across the world, vast areas of oceans and lakes are running out of oxygen, making it nearly impossible for marine life to survive. In the 1960s, there were 49 dead zones throughout the ocean; today there are more than 400 and the number is still growing. When water becomes too low in oxygen, or "hypoxic," marine life flees and everything that is too slow or cannot move will die, creating a dead zone. This will not go away on its own.
The press release had a pretty stark headline: "Haida Announce Termination of Russ George." George was the guy who persuaded the small impoverished indigenous community of Old Massett on Haida Gwaii to part with over $2.5-million. He did so under the pretense that dumping iron in the ocean to stimulate a plankton bloom would net lucrative profits in the carbon credit market. Losing the rogue geoengineer may be good for optics, but it is a meaningless step unless the Haida also jettison his junk visions to manipulate the oceans and climate.
Human-caused noise pollution harms whales, leading to death, stranding, temporary and permanent hearing loss and hemorrhaging around the brain, ears and other tissues. Sonar used in naval training is a major cause of these debilitating and often deadly injuries to whales and other aquatic animals. With their sensitive hearing, marine mammals are particularly vulnerable.
Why spring and autumn are slowly disappearing from our yearly calendar has nothing to do with global warming, and everything to do with the role of water. Sandy's impact upon Manhattan and beyond reveal that a more in depth understanding on the relationship between water and its functions on earth is called for.
The failure of world leaders to act on the critical issue of global warming is often blamed on economic considerations. But let's take a look at the economic reality. A new scientific report concludes that climate change is already costing the world $1.2 trillion a year. It's also killing at least 400,000 people every year.
Half the world's oxygen is produced in the oceans yet 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. Why? Because it might restrict oil tanker traffic.