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Monday, March 25, 2013

Canada must do more to protect coastal waters from increasing industrialization

The following article appeared in the Vancouver Sun on Monday, March 25, 2013 and can be viewed in its original context here. Art Sterritt is executive director of Coastal First Nations; Michael Uehara is president and CEO of the King Pacific Lodge.

This is a story of failure, opportunity and the path to redemption in managing Canada's oceans.

The federal government has failed to honour commitments dating back to the 1997 Oceans Act to protect Canada's natural marine heritage. And this neglect is endangering not only our ocean ecosystems but also sustainable jobs and prosperity on all three coasts, now and for generations to come.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Giant squid - one big happy species!

It is not our custom on here on Water Blogged to feature widely popular marine species. Most of our previous posts about specific creatures have focused on the lesser-known/appreciated ocean-dwellers like hagfish, sculpins and sleeper sharks. My colleague, Carrie, once wrote an excellent piece on the truly under-appreciated eelgrass. However, today's news is so exciting that it warranted a post about a creature that has captured the imagination of humans around the world for centuries.

A recent genetic study of preserved specimens of giant squid from around the world suggests that these animals are not only a single species, but in fact a single global population!

The Kraken as Seen by the Eye of Imagination by Edward Etherington

Monday, March 18, 2013

Harper government’s muzzling of scientists a mark of shame for Canada

The following commentary appeared in the Toronto Star on Friday, February 15, 2013. It can be viewed in its original context here. Jeffrey Hutchings is Killam Professor in the Faculty of Science at Dalhousie University and the president of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution.

“In my view, scientists should stick to science.”

This was a Conservative MP's response to my testimony at a 2012 parliamentary committee after I'd chaired a Royal Society of Canada expert panel on how climate change, fisheries, and aquaculture affect Canadian ocean biodiversity. Among other things, our report concluded that constructive and respectful debate on salmon aquaculture is hindered by a lack of full disclosure of diseases on fish farms, a concern echoed by Justice Bruce Cohen in his October 2012 report on Fraser River sockeye salmon.

I was making the point that science plays a key role in informing, strengthening, and assessing the effectiveness of science-based management practices and government policy. Judging from his unsolicited advice that I should “stick to science,” Manitoba MP and committee member Robert Sopuck didn't see things this way.

Perhaps scientists should be seen, but not always heard. This would be consistent with a recent tightening of the near-Gordian communications knot that controls how federal scientists interact with society .

Monday, March 11, 2013

Douglas Adams: Sifting Through the Embers

Today is significant for at least a couple of reasons that I know of. Firstly it's the 2nd anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated coastal Japan and washed whole cities into the Pacific Ocean. This tragic milestone was marked by an episode on the Fifth Estate titled Second Wave, which is well worth watching.

The second reason that this date stands out in my mind is because it's the 61st birthday of the great science fiction writer Douglas Adams. Aside from being known for his humorous work, International Towel Day and the number 42, Adams was a passionate environmentalist which led him to do such things as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro dressed as a rhinoceros.

He also co-authored a book (and accompanying radio series) with zoologist Mark Carwardine titled Last Chance to See, in which he traveled around the world to catch a last glimpse of the last remaining members of a few prominent endangered species. The book included a heart-wrenching description of the authors' search for the last few baiji (Yangtze River dolphins) which are now one of the few marine mammals to become functionally extinct in modern times.

The book ends with the following passage, which is one of the best analogies for the global loss of biodiversity and the exponentially increasing cost of conservation that results from our idleness. These species and the conservation world as a whole lost a great champion with Adam's passing.