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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Evolving Technology Closes in on a More Sustainably Farmed Salmon

Kimberly Irwin is an intern with SeaChoice and Kelly Roebuck is Living Oceans Society's Sustainable Seafood Campaign Manager.

Take a look back 20 years and it is amazing how far we have come in the way of technology – from brick sized analog cell phones to digital smart phones being just one example of many. Industries typically evolve to become more sustainable, relevant and efficient overtime. Aquaculture should be no exception. Yet the majority of salmon farming is still done the same way as it was 20 years ago, in open net-cages that are in direct contact with the marine environment and wild salmon. SeaChoice deems open net-cage farmed salmon to be an ‘Avoid’ due to this farming method's environmental impacts. But what if salmon farming technology evolved? Well savvy innovators are closing in!

Rural West Virginia may seem like an unlikely location for an internationally renowned research facility and salmon aquaculture, but there sits The Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute (TCFFI) nestled on 100 acres of farm land. The institute opened its doors in 1987 in the hopes of solving some of the most pressing issues related to the management and efficient use of freshwater resources.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Canadian ocean economies at risk from GHG emissions

The following piece was written by Rashid Sumaila, Director of the UBC Fisheries Centre & Fisheries Economics Research Unit, and originally appeared on the WWF Canada Blog here.

Canada is blessed with the longest coastline in the world and one of the largest ocean estates of any country. Ocean fish stocks are among the planet's most important renewable natural resources.

Beyond playing a crucial role in marine ecosystems, fish support human well-being through employment in fishing, processing, and retail services, as well as food security for many coastal regions. Gross revenues from ocean fisheries worldwide are estimated at about US$85 billion annually, generating economic and household income impacts throughout the world economy of about US$240 billion and US$63 billion annually. The equivalent numbers for Canada are US$2.8 billion, US$9.1 billion and US$2.9 billion. In addition to these commercial values, fish is a good source of protein, micro-nutrients, minerals and essential fatty acids, and globally provides 3 billion people up to 15 per cent of their dietary animal protein needs. In Canada, many coastal communities, especially First Nations groups, rely heavily on fish for food and employment, in addition to their cultural and ceremonial importance.

Ensuring that our oceans and fish stocks are healthy and sustainable long-term is important to the Canadian and global economy and identity. Achieving healthy oceans has always been difficult, as they are plagued by the historical problems of overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction and loss. Global warming, ocean acidification and deoxygenating are new threats. Combined with the longstanding threats, these new issues are creating formidable challenges to this important animal protein source, and the economics of the businesses and communities that depend on them. As amply demonstrated by the collapse of northern cod off Newfoundland, the depletion of fish stocks can have devastating effects on human well-being.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The best laid plans in the absence of planning

Update: after an overwhelming response from coastal residents and others and discussion with local marine conservation groups, the proponent of the tidal project has withdrawn their application. See this post from the Orca Lab blog for details.

I have always been a big fan of tidal power. The BC coast has great potential for all sorts of 'alternative' power with its high winds relentless waves, and all of those narrow passages that can provide over 12 knots of current twice daily (as was the case in Seymour Narrows the last couple of days). Even when the winds are calm and the waves low, the tidal exchange still reliably generates substantial quantities of energy with relatively little impact.

So if someone told me that there was going to be a tidal generator development in my neck of the woods, I'd be all over it right? Well as it turns out, there is a feasibility study for tidal energy being conducted right now, less than twenty miles from where I'm sitting. The only problem is that the location is in of the worst possible from a marine conservation standpoint.

Location of the proposed tidal power project site in Blackney Pass, B.C.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ghosts on the Coast

Will Soltau is Sustainable Fisheries and Salmon Farming Campaign Manager for Living Oceans Society.

It's the time of year when ghosts and goblins make their annual appearances around the neighborhood. On the ocean the Flying Dutchman - a ghost ship cursed to forever sail the seven seas and never reach safe haven - is one of the oldest spooky stories. But there are more ghosts on our coast.

Some are closer to port. Derelict vessels abandoned, sinking and threatening to pollute.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Defend our Coast rally in Sointula

Today communities across BC took part in the Defend Our Coast day of action to show growing opposition to tar sands, pipelines and tankers and the risks they pose to our coast, rivers and livelihoods. Rallies were held in 67 communities the province today with participants link arms to symbolize B.C.’s unbroken wall of opposition.

About 40-50 people joined together in Sointula (a town of only about 500 people) to show their solidarity with those in other communities around the province and those who rallied at the Provincial Legislature in Victoria on Monday. Below are a few pictures of the rally, and there are many more from around the province on the Defend Our Coast website.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Dogfish Days of Summer are Over... (picture heavy)

Yvonne Etzkorn is the Donor Relations Coordinator at Living Oceans and is enjoying every last bit of Sointula summer.

Fall.  It means crisp air and beautifully coloured leaves. It also means the end of summer. But it's not all bad. Fall makes us appreciate what we have.  For example, this last week has been stunning despite the constant, heavy blanket of fog that covers everything until afternoon.  But after the fog lifts, when the sun comes out it, the view is breathtaking.  It really makes you appreciate the sun and the summer.

We've been very fortunate to have so many people not only appreciating summer but also appreciating the ocean and sharing that with us via our 3rd annual Ocean Exposures Photo Contest. The photos we have received are fantastic. (To see all of the photos we have received so far, check out our Living Oceans Friends Flickr page.)

From eagles:
Doug Emery - Gotcha

Monday, September 17, 2012

What do crickets and rain have to do with healthy oceans?

Karin Bodtker is Living Oceans' Marine Analyst.

There's a new phenomenon. Well, new to me. I'm not always the first to catch onto new things online. Millions and millions of people have downloaded videos from YouTube that bring the natural world into their home or workplace. I'm talking about sounds. Through a YouTube video, you can listen to the sounds of night crickets for 37 minutes straight (48,500 others have):

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Overlooked Species Theatre presents: Eelgrass

Carrie Robb is the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist at Living Oceans.

Eelgrass perhaps doesn’t really qualify as overlooked.  Its importance as a nursery for fish, a feeding ground for birds, a shoreline stabilizer and a water filtration system has been widely acknowledged by researchers and marine planning processes alike.  Here in British Columbia, the Marine Planning Partnership for the North Pacific Coast planning process includes eelgrass beds as an important ecological feature.

However, for the past few years eelgrass has been getting an increasing amount of attention for its role in the battle against climate change and ocean acidification.  Terrestrial forests have long been known as important carbon sinks but marine habitats, such as eelgrass beds and coastal wetlands, are now gaining in prominence.  Known as ‘blue carbon’, the importance of these habitats has been highlighted in the just released Ocean Health Index, as well as reports from a diverse array of organizations, including the Sierra Club of BC, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the World Bank, who suggests that blue carbon should be better incorporated into the international conversation on climate change, perhaps in a manner similar to the REDD program for forests.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wednesday videos: Why our coast is amazing!

It's Wednesday, so instead of putting up anything long and tedious for you to read (or more likely, not read), I figured some videos were in order.  And what awesome videos they are! In keeping with the photos from Caamano Sound I shared with you a couple of weeks ago, these two videos highlight just how amazing our coast and inland aquatic habitats really are.

The first is from northern Vancouver Island's own diver, whale researcher and naturalist extraordinaire - the Marine Detective. I love this video because it brilliantly illustrates the rich and diverse sea life that we are so very fortunate to have on this coast.

This video originally appeared on The Marine Detective blog, which you can see here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Refinery in Kitimat?

Karen Wristen is Living Oceans' Executive Director.

David Black's trial balloon took us a bit by surprise on Friday; there had been no previous indication that anyone seriously intended building a refinery in Kitimat. Once we heard from Mr. Black, it became clear that he's floating an idea with the greatest of good intent, but without a business case or a clear environmental rationale.

With all due respect to Mr. Black's business acumen, by his own admission he lacks experience in the oil patch. He also says he has had little to do with Enbridge and its financing arrangements. If he had investigated with them, he'd know that the refinery idea is a non-starter for the Chinese financiers.

Anacortes Refinery [photo: Walter Siegmund]

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Make us hungry - we want your pictures of tasty seafood!

Yvonne Etzkorn is the Donor Relations Coordinator at Living Oceans, who is very happy that it's sunny and that she won't have to hibernate through the summer this year.

I was having trouble starting this blog post so I thought I’d look back over last year’s posts for inspiration.  According to my 2011 posts, last year had a cold and miserable summer. After reading those posts I realized all the inspiration I needed was right outside my window.

The view from my office window. Are you jealous?

The sunshine, the sparkling blue ocean, mountains in the background, clouds in the sky; I realized this is what we’re trying to capture in our 3rd annual Ocean Exposures photo contest. Well…not this picture exactly (we’d really like more ocean and less houses and telephone wires), but rather that feeling, the sense of wonder and general delight that being near the ocean invokes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Last in a series of posts by Living Oceans Executive Director Karen Wristen, as she and her husband Jasper sail their 40' Newporter Viajador from Bowen Island to Sointula.

Day 5: Kelsey Bay to Sointula

With the weather forecast promising gale to storm-force winds for the balance of the week and the chart-plotter studiously refusing to work, we elected to cut short our plan to visit several of the smaller marinas in the Broughtons to make presentations on the Enbridge pipeline and tanker project. It seemed a better idea to get ourselves in to Sointula and out of the weather; we can always visit those marinas on short trips from our new home base as the weather permits.

Winds were variable, but the seas relatively calm as we motored our way up Johnstone Strait. All the wind directly on the nose, of course, so no chance of setting sail.

We saw porpoise a couple of times and I caught this fabulous shot on the fly:

No orcas; no seals. Lots of dark-coloured sea-birds on dark-coloured water; on the whole, the boats we saw made the best subjects for today's photos.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wildlife Back on the Job

Fourth in a series of blog posts by Executive Director Karen Wristen as she and her husband Jasper sail their 40' Newporter sailboat “Viajador” north to Sointula.

Day four: Campbell River to Kelsey Bay 

Hah! That worked. Anyone who headed to Kelsey Bay today would have enjoyed watching transient Orcas pass by. They failed to escape my notice at the north end of Discovery Passage, although they were traveling so fast that they did escape my camera! In the lead were 5 adults, rising and blowing with a precision that would have put the synchronized swim team to shame. They were followed by two adults and a calf, with the calf nestled right against the side of one of the adults.

We also saw porpoise, briefly surfacing twice in Johnstone Strait; on both occasions, their dives were followed immediately by leaping sockeye, looking for all the world as if they were trying to swim through the air.

Our day got off to an interesting start when the chart plotter decided to pack it in at the dock at Campbell River. The same chart plotter that just came back from being tested at Siemens, because it's done this to us before, and was pronounced healthy. It's not as if you really need the device to get from Campbell River to Sointula — there's just not much chance of getting lost—but it is a comfort to have the depth soundings if you're going to explore any of the smaller channels, or if the weather comes up and you need to tuck in somewhere where you don't know what the bottom is like.

And the weather did 'come up' some, during this leg of the journey!

Chatham Point Light Station
It wasn't so bad rounding the corner at Chatham Point; it just got really cold quite suddenly, sending me scurrying for the winter sweater and windbreaker. The wind was maybe 15 knots and the sea unremarkable. It was only a little later, as our heading became more westerly, that the going got seriously rough—the wind rose to 20-25, making the rigging sing with that "you're really at sea now!" sound, while the waves rose to a meter and a half at times. Strangely (and happily) at the same time, the temperature rose dramatically.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blame the Orcas

Third in a series of blog posts by Executive Director Karen Wristen as she and her husband Jasper sail their 40’ Newporter sailboat “Viajador” north to Sointula.

Day three: Lund to Campbell River

So, the word on the dock in Lund is that the orcas were through yesterday, which accounts for the scarcity of marine life on view:  everyone's hiding.

This business about the orcas coming through the day before I get to a place has come up often enough now that, in the interests of whale watchers everywhere, I have decided to announce my travel plans in advance.  Anyone out there looking for orcas should head to Kelsey Bay on Saturday.

Our crossing from Lund to Campbell River started with promise:  there was a strong wind warning in effect, meaning enough wind to really get some speed out of Viajador.  It was blowing northwest again, so of course we had to motor out of Lund and past the islands before taking a more westerly heading that would enable us to set sail.  Then, of course, the wind died altogether.  We motored to Campbell River.

En route, we checked out Mitelnatch Island, a nesting area for Pelgic cormorants, Seagulls and Guillemot.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Wind on the Beak

Second in a series of blog posts by Executive Director Karen Wristen as she and her husband Jasper sail their 40’ Newporter sailboat “Viajador” north to Sointula.

Day two:  Pender Harbour to Lund

Thursday was a very fine day for anyone sailing south or east or even southwest.  We are of course going northwest, precisely the direction from which a brisk, warm wind blew all day.  This is why we chose a motor sailor for our travels through the Inside Passage and today, Viajador was a motor boat all day.  The sun was back with us as we motored along the length of Texada Island through Malaspina Strait.

At least the seas were a good deal calmer than yesterday, so the stowed goods stayed that way and I was able to fire up the computer and get some work done.  Marine life was still slacking, however; we saw the odd seal and possibly a sea lion hitchhiking on a distant log boom.   Even the gulls were inclined to ride rather than fly.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Day our Flashlight Learned to Fly

First in a series of blog posts by Living Oceans Executive Director Karen Wristen, as she and her husband Jasper sail their 40’ Newporter sailboat “Viajador” north to Sointula.

Day one:  Bowen to Pender Harbour, “The Day our Flashlight Learned to Fly”

Some old salts may tell you that leaving port in a southeast wind is courting trouble.  But if you’re headed northwest and your boat weighs a lot, like our old wooden beauty, a southeast wind means you can hope to make some way under sail.  The weather forecasters were promising 10-15 knots rising to 20-25 as we left Snug Cove on Bowen Island this morning.

Like so many predictions, this one amounted to hot air.

We had the seas that go with winds that strong, all right; easily a metre, breaking waves on our hind end all day long, cockpit awash and spray coming over everything.  But the wind got up to no more than 10 knots at any point, leaving us wallowing madly under sail. 

It’s a bit disconcerting, when you’ve come to appreciate the basically inert qualities of your boat’s kit, to find them airbourne.  I found it challenging, trying to refine a fundraising proposal with Stephanie by phone, when a 2-lb flashlight that has lived comfortably on a shelf for six years suddenly decided to learn to fly.  At some point during the day, every locker on the boat opened itself and spewed some contents.

When I wasn’t picking up behind liberated lockers, I was scanning for great pictures of the voyage to share with you.  Evidently, marine birds and mammals had the day off.  Maybe they were just smarter than we mariners and stayed in port.

Grey skies opened for a moment to bathe the Merry Island Light Station in cheerful colour

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Unprotected salmon farming - Blame it on the wild salmon

Will Soltau is Sustainable Fisheries and Salmon Farming Campaign Manager for Living Oceans Society.

“Virus detected at fish farm.” It seems like that headline is popping up in the news more often these days. Is it because of heightened awareness of salmon pathogens in the media or is it because of something different happening in the ocean?

One example is the infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus - IHNv for short. It has been in the headlines a lot recently. The science says it's an endemic pathogen native to Pacific salmon - so common it is also known as sockeye disease. Atlantic salmon on the other hand, are very susceptible to IHNv. They have no natural immunity and past outbreaks in British Columbia farmed salmon have resulted in disastrous losses. Salmon farmers say they have learned lessons and now practice better husbandry at their operations.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Photos from the coast: the good, the bad and the hopeful

Unless you've been hiding out under a rock in a cave on the dark side of the moon, humming to yourself really loudly with your fingers in you ears, you've probably picked up on a bit of the recent media frenzy over the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline and associated tanker route through some of B.C.'s most treacherous waters.

Wow, that was a long sentence. But that doesn't make it any less true.

The controversy over the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines Project, which could see as many as 320 supertankers visit the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest every year, has surfaced in the media to varying degrees over the past couple of years. But coverage of this proposed development really kicked into high gear last week when B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced that she was taking a long-awaited stand on the project by laying out a list of five requirements the project would need to meet in order for the B.C. government to support it. Well... sort of.

In fact, the first four requirements laid out by the premier are measures that are either already required or will do nothing to safeguard the B.C. coast. The only relevant demand that Premier Clark outlined was the requirement for B.C. to receive it's "fair share" of the profits from this project. Putting aside the legal and constitutional can of worms that this opens, the Premier is saying basically this: If the price is right, we are willing to accept the admittedly grave risk that the Northern Gateway Pipelines Project presents to the B.C. coast.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Depredation - hot topic, cool videos

Depredation, or the removal of fish from fishing gear by various marine creatures, is a growing problem in a world where there are ever-fewer fish. Whales and other large marine animals often have to expend a fair bit of energy to find food, so being the clever beings they are, they often learn to look for it in places where it is most concentrated and easy to find: in fishing gear. Of course, while this can benefit the whale in the short run, it can also lead to injury and entanglement.

Anyway, now that you've heard the spiel, here are some videos that various people have taken of the phenomenon. The first video was taken by Conservation International near Papau, and features a whale shark taking batfish from a net with the aid of the same filter feeding technique it would normally use to catch fish

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Entangled humpback finds its final resting place, with a little help

You may recall hearing about a young Humpback that washed ashore near White Rock, BC, on June 12th. This unfortunate whale was entangled in some sort of fishing line (though not of a type immediately recognizable to any experts) which resulted in starvation and eventually death. The whale attracted a good deal of media attention at the time, as well as a great deal of interest from people in the area. If you have not already read the excellent piece by the Marine Detective on the whale's sad yet beautiful story, I highly recommend it.

However, the whale's story didn't end there. It was loaded onto a barge and towed up through Georgia and Johnstone Straits to Bauza Cove, just around the corner from Beaver Cove on northern Vancouver Island. The reason for this location is the Whale Interpretive Centre in nearby Telegraph Cove where the whale's skeleton will eventually be put on display and used for public education.

Before that could happen though, several thousand pounds of flesh and entrails had to be removed.

Last week I had the opportunity, along with many others, to take part in the first step of this process which involved "flensing" or removing the outer layer of blubber from the whale. As you can see from the pictures below, this was no mean feat since the entire exterior of the thirty-foot long whale was covered in a three-inch layer of the stuff.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It's the economy, stupid

Today's blog post comes from Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society.

The demands of this job keep me too much in Vancouver...but today, I will celebrate Oceans Day with the community of Sointula (“Harmony”) on Malcolm Island.  Maybe today, the orcas will finally let me see them again.

This is the picture I wish I'd taken...
After over eighteen years on BC's coast, much of it spent in boats and float planes visiting places where whales are usually to be found, I have logged but a single orca sighting.  That one, though, was spectacular:  you can only imagine how wide my eyes were when I saw the first fin rising directly behind our sailboat, off Robson Bight in Johnstone Strait. And my delight when, seconds later, I discovered we were in the midst of a passing pod and the air was filled with the sound of them blowing. The single, wobbly fin photo I managed to snap is a poor tribute to the moment but it doesn't matter:  I'm sure I'll never forget it.

I've been trying for over an hour now to write something full of the kind of hope and joy and wonder that an encounter with an orca can engender.  Something really positive about the future of the oceans (herring return to Squamish!), the critical role oceans play in maintaining the health of the planet ('every second breath you take', etc.) or maybe about the mystery of the depths and the wonders yet to be discovered.  But something keeps stalling me mid-paragraph: a voice in the back of my head, saying, "It's the economy, stupid."

Friday, June 8, 2012

Aye, Matey - Are your favourite childhood fish sticks sustainable?

Kelly Roebuck is the Sustainable Seafood Campaign Manager at Living Oceans Society.

As a kid there are a few things we believe to be true that later along the line some way or another we find out just weren't real. Santa Clause. The tooth fairy. And for me, Captain Birds Eye.

Captain Birds Eye was an enchanting older fellow who seemed trustworthy and likable. He brought his catch of fish sticks oddly enough by sailboat (but to a 6-year old – a boat is a boat), while kids screamed with joy to be able to munch on yummy battered cod or something else that fooled children to think they weren't really eating a fish of any resemblance. The 'starry-eyed' image (or illusion) of fishing had started early.

But of course now, just like the tooth fairy, I know that Captain Birds Eye and his sailboat (ahem fishing boat) just are not real. Nor is the seemingly endless supply of fish sticks.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lessons Learned from Pitching Ocean Conservation Solutions

Will Soltau is Sustainable Fisheries and Salmon Farming Campaign Manager for Living Oceans Society.

'Healthy Oceans, Healthy Communities'. That’s our tag line. Living Oceans Society uses it in our logo and in all our correspondence. Our vision has been that Canada's oceans are sustainably managed and thriving with abundance that supports coastal communities. Some of our work focuses on policy change. Other work we do is with those who are actually out on the ocean. We are not afraid to engage with government and industry to pitch solutions we think are based on sound science and we continuously evaluate the results of our engagement with an eye towards being more effective in the future.

Photo: Google Images

Two efforts that we have been involved in recently had very different outcomes. The first resulted in a precedent setting measures, developed between conservation groups and the B.C. groundfish trawl industry and aimed at protecting deep sea coral and sponge habitat while improving the fishery. The details are in the link above but I will say here that it took three years of collaboration to achieve those shared objectives.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Oil, Acid and Tankers: Why the campaign against Enbridge Northern Gateway is more than a pipeline – it’s a path to our future.

Sheila Muxlow is the Energy Campaign Manager at Living Oceans Society.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m going to rant about the evils of fossil fuels and the horrors of climate change and the devastation we are going to leave for future generations if we continue on with the status quo. And your right. Kind of. Because I’m going to write about another sinister related issue; something that is terrorizing the oceans right now, eroding coral reefs and disintegrating seashells. It’s real and it’s horrifying.

It’s ocean acidification.

How, you might ask, does ocean acidification connect to the fight to stop tankers from degrading the natural environment of the BC coast with noise pollution and the constant threat of an oil spill? Good question! Thanks for asking!

You see, the proposals to cover the Pacific coast with hundreds of super tankers are directly linked to the tar sands: the largest industrial project in the world. The tar sands are a relatively recent form of fossil fuel extraction that has become financially viable due to the decreasing availability of conventional oil resources. Tar sands mining rips up thousands of square kilometers of Boreal Forest every year, displacing both Indigenous and settler communities while creating tailing lakes of toxic waste. The extraction process pumps thousands of tonnes of carcinogenic chemicals into the air, not the least of which is carbon — the tar sands process is three times more carbon intensive than conventional oil extraction.

Carbon, as you might have guessed, is the major cause of ocean acidification. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the ocean has been absorbing 25% of the carbon that we pump into the atmosphere, resulting in more than 500 billion tonnes of CO2. When it’s absorbed into the ocean the carbon changes the pH levels of the water by increasing the carbonic acid. The colder waters of the polar regions allow CO2 to be absorbed more quickly, making the oceans more acidic, faster. Today the ocean is 40% more acidic than it was in pre-industrial times. Researchers have concluded that oceans haven't seen a rapid change like this in 60 million years.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mapping in hopes of a healthy ocean

Today's post comes from guest blogger, Karin Bodtker, Living Ocean's Marine Analyst.

Tuesday – We call it “Take Action Tuesday” around here and there's no shortage of issues to speak out about these days as the federal government pushes its agenda to dismantle environmental laws and streamline major project reviews at the expense of the environment and our health. You can take action right now - send a message from our website or call your MP and let her know that you do not support the budget implementation bill, Bill C-38. There's too much at stake. Read all the reasons here.

What's really bugging me, worse than that proverbial mosquito that keeps buzzing at my ear but somehow remains out of reach, are the cuts to environmental science programs. Today, apparently, our Conservative 'leaders' don't even have it straight when it comes to what these scientists really do and what services they are actually chopping. Is this the Canada we want? One that depends upon the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to monitor industrial emissions? Really?

I was dumbfounded when we got word in May that all the environmental monitoring scientists were cut in our national parks and that staff and scientists at Parks Canada in the Pacific Region working on marine issues, including potential new protected areas, had been 'surplussed'. Now that's a creative euphemism. I'm a scientist; I have friends and colleagues who are now 'surplus' in the government's eyes.

There is a fine line between hope and despair. Most days I squeak in on the side of hope; I use the positive energy of the people around me to keep me on the right side of that line. Sometimes I fake it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Natural heritage: You're richer than you think!

Today, numerous environmental groups across the country, including Living Oceans Society, are blacking out their websites to draw attention to the latest threat posed to environmental protection in Canada. Visit BlackOutSpeakOut to learn more and find out what you can do.

Have you ever had a rough patch in your life when things just seemed to be looking down. Maybe you were broke, couch surfing because you couldn't afford rent and scraping together meals from food that you would normally throw out without a second glance.

If you are fortunate enough to have made it through those times, you might also have the occasion to look back on your past decisions in light of what you now know. If you had just been able to live off of Kraft Dinner and Spam for a few more days, perhaps you wouldn't have had to cash in that GIC. If only you hadn't pawned that autographed copy of Michael Jackson's Thriller you kept in mint condition all those years just to pay that lousy Hydro bill...

Of course, those times might also have allowed you to reflect on the things that are truly important in your life: your health, of course, and your relationship with your family, friends, and the world around you. With the 'Global Recession' and much of the western world sorting through their collective pockets for loose change (Germany has more than a few less fortunate sleeping on its couch right now), perhaps it's more important to take stock of what we've got going for us rather than what we lack.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Canada's mass firing of ocean scientists brings 'silent summer'

The following is a reposting of Opinion: Canada's mass firing of ocean scientists brings 'silent summer,' (Environmental Health News) / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Editor’s Note: Canada is dismantling the nation's entire ocean contaminants program as part of massive layoffs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Among the scientists terminated are ones who have conducted landmark research about global pollutants for decades: Peter Ross, who is among the world’s leading experts on marine mammals and contaminants, Gary Stern, a mercury expert whose work focuses on the Arctic, Michel Lebeuf, who studies the highly contaminated St. Lawrence belugas and Michael Ikonomou, who researches flame retardants and other endocrine-disrupting contaminants in salmon and other ocean life. Ross told EHN that his main concern is the "wholesale axing of pollution research" that will leave Canada, and much of the world, without the scientific knowledge to protect whales, seals, fish and other marine life -- as well as the indigenous peoples who rely on them for their traditional foods. Many scientists say the purpose of the move by the Canadian government is not just cost-cutting but to eliminate environmental rules and protect the oil and gas industry. The following is an essay that Ross wrote Thursday for EHN. -- Marla Cone, Editor in Chief [EHN]

Silent Summer

By Peter Ross

Since being hired 13 years ago as a Research Scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), I have been fortunate to conduct research on such magnificent creatures as killer whales, beluga whales, harbour seals and sea otters. I have visited some of the wildest parts of coastal British Columbia, Arctic Canada and further afield. I have been humbled by the power of Mother Nature as we deployed teams to explore and better understand the lives of creatures beneath the surface of the ocean. I have marveled at the evolutionary adaptations of marine mammals to an existence at the interface of land, sea and atmosphere. And as a scientist, I have come to learn that I possess but rudimentary powers of observation when it comes to the mystery and beauty of a vast ocean. For all of this, I remain eternally grateful.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

So what's the deal with biodiversity, anyway?

Do you know what day it is? Neither do I. But I do know that yesterday was World Turtle Day and Tuesday was the International Day for Biological Diversity, specifically Marine Biodiversity.

That raises the question, what do we mean when we talk about 'biodiversity'? We throw the term around an awful lot here, both in terms of protecting it and using it as the measure of the health of an ecosystem. But what does biodiversity look like? Will it strengthen my stock portfolio? And what happens if it disappears?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Demystifying “organic” farmed salmon: Is there such a thing?

Kelly Roebuck is the Sustainable Seafood Campaign Manager at Living Oceans Society.

(Graphic Credit: This Magazine)

What comes to mind when you think about organic certified food?

Perhaps you think of food that is better for us and the planet. Food that avoids synthetic pesticides. Livestock that are fed a 100% certified organic diet.

It seems intuitive that the same organic principles that exist for land-grown organic produce, livestock and dairy should also apply to farmed fish.

This is apparently not going to be the case.

Canadian ‘organic’ farmed salmon will soon be appearing on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus, due to the Canadian General Standards Board’s (CGSB) recent release of the Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standard, sponsored by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

Friday, May 4, 2012

Grenville Channel oil spill highlights need to keep North Coast Tanker-Free

Sheila Muxlow is the new Energy Campaign Manager at Living Oceans Society.

I knew when I took on my job with Living Oceans Society that I would be expected to hit the ground running and within less than two weeks my assumptions have proven true. It is becoming clear that I am joining in on a long time legacy of research and advocacy to protect the Pacific coast at a time when the threats to marine ecosystems and communities are on the rise. During my first week, the Harper government gutted the environmental laws and services that protect our air, water and fisheries, and now this week there is an oil spill in the Grenville Channel from a decaying shipwreck.

Testament to their role as stewards of the coast, it was the Gitga'at Nation of Hartley Bay who raised the alarm regarding an oil spill of between two and five miles long and 200 feet wide inside the Grenville Channel. The source of the spill is thought to be the carcass of the USAT Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski U.S. Army Transport ship which sank in 1946. In 2006 the federal government promised to clean up the wreck and remove the bunker fuel, but failed to follow through on their commitments.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

According to Coral: changes to Canada's Fisheries Act

Coral Coldwater here, coming to you from the bottom of Hecate Strait. It's been a few years since my brush with fame, after the Finding Coral Expedition, but I’m still here (well, most of me is anyway).

Word from the surface is that the Fisheries Act - one of Canada’s oldest pieces of legislation and one that offers some of the strongest protection for aquatic critters like me - is up for some changes. The ducks are already quacking. They seem as happy as clams at high tide but I'm not sure if they know why.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

Every once and a while, something truly amazing happens that shakes your perception of reality to the core. No, I'm not talking about the Minister of Fisheries making plans to gut one of the strongest pieces of legislation we have for protecting marine habitat and biodiversity, although it would appear that something like that is still in the works.

Instead, I'm talking about something that changes your perception in a positive way. Something that says people (other than my sister, of course) actually read what we stay up to all hours of the evening to produce. Of course, I had my suspicions: Google statistics, links from other sites, nasty comments (and good ones too, of course). But definitive proof arrived this past weekend, when a colleague of ours honoured us with a Liebster Blog Award.

Before I go any further, I should point out that this is not an award that is not given out by a prestigious committee from a foreign country who judge the merits of every online journal in the blogosphere. Instead, it is awarded to a limited number of blogs by, well... other bloggers, to encourage them in the what they write.

Anyway, it was quite touching to receive this award, particularly considering who it came from. If you haven't yet read The Marine Detective's blog, I highly recommend you do. If you have even a passing interest in the sea and all the amazing things which live there, you will soon be hooked for life.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A confusing week of community hearings

After attending the first community hearing for Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway project last Saturday in Comox, I am inspired and optimistic. Local after local stood up to speak out for our coast, giving incredibly compelling, well researched and at times heartfelt presentations to the review panel. The panel seemed genuinely interested and receptive, and I thought to myself: how could they not turn this project down when it is so clearly not in the best interest of British Columbians?

2,200 protesters met the review panel in Comox, B.C. on March 31.

Then, the very next day, the panel canceled the first day and a half of hearings in Bella Bella after they were greeted at the airport by peaceful Heiltsuk First Nation protesters. Apparently the panelists feared for their safety in one of the most hospitable, accommodating communities on B.C.’s coast. Go figure. On the tail of the Heiltsuk hearing cancellations, the Nuxalk, another Central Coast First Nation, withdrew from the process citing the federal government’s failure to honourably consult – a valid concern considering the feds were recently warned about their “unreasonable” consultations with First Nations.

It will be interesting to see how the next few rounds of community hearings unfold. Thousands of Canadians – First Nations and non – have registered to voice their concerns about Northern Gateway to the panel. If their presentations are anything like those given in Comox, the panel will have a difficult time justifying the approval of this mega-project. Then again, they may not be the type of people who like to sleep at night.

One thing is for sure, and you can bet the panel will hear it over and over again: British Columbians will not be silent on this issue. It is our coast and our decision. Whether it’s through more peaceful protests, the community hearings or full-on First Nations court challenges, we will stop Northern Gateway and its tankers from plying our waters. It is, after all, in the best interest of Canada.

Katie Terhune is the Energy Campaign Manager for Living Oceans Society.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Desperate measures, desperate times?

Hijack seems a popular word lately getting thrown around in all sorts of contexts and conversations. Conservation groups were recently accused of hijacking the environmental review process by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. Oliver used the metaphor on the day before the Joint Review Panel was to begin hearings on the Northern Gateway Pipeline project because over four thousand people signed up to make oral statements.

When I hear the word hijack I think of armed and masked people storming an airplane and holding the crew and passengers hostage in a desperate attempt to get whatever it is they are after. Alerting people about a public process examining the environmental impacts of a major project with the potential for devastating effects on their waters, lands, lives and livelihoods and helping them sign up to exercise their legitimate democratic right and civil obligation to participate doesn't jump to mind for me.

Hijack means:

"to steal (cargo) from a truck or other vehicle after forcing it to stop."

"to rob a vehicle after forcing it to stop."

"to seize a vehicle by force or threat of force."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Overlooked Species Theatre presents: Pacific Sleeper Shark

One of the great benefits of living so near the ocean is that every once in a while, something really cool washes ashore. Such was the case last week when a resident of Malcolm island found a dead Pacific sleeper shark on her doorstep.

Well, by the time she found it, it actually looked a bit more like this:

(I must warn you that that the pictures don't get any less graphic from here on in)

I had the opportunity to take some measurements and samples for a fisheries scientist who studies sharks. Having never dissected a shark, I soon found it was unlike anything I had ever seen up close before.

It was about nine feet long, though I later found that sleepers can grow to over 14 feet. It also had incredibly thick muscles along the spine for propelling the shark forward with powerful strokes of its tail.

Unlike most groups of fish, sharks have no swim bladders and must swim continuously to keep from sinking. Their skeleton is made entirely of cartilage, which is much lighter than bone. But this is not the only advantage the shark possesses for staying afloat.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Setting the record straight on what we do around salmon farming

Opposition to net-cage salmon aquaculture in BC continues to escalate, particularly with new revelations of more positive findings for ISAv (Infectious Salmon Anemia virus). Lately, however, we've been alerted to some misunderstandings that are circulating with regard to our work to eradicate net-cages on the BC Coast. For the record, here are the facts.

We’d like to first stress that since its inception over a decade ago, Living Oceans has been committed to the total removal of all net-cage salmon farms from our oceans and a transition of the industry to closed containment. That commitment is shared by our partner organizations in CAAR (Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform) and has never wavered.

Citizens groups, fishermen, communities, activists and numerous First Nations have been protesting the proliferation of farms on the BC coast for over twenty years. But successive governments, both Federal and Provincial, have been equally committed to maintaining salmon aquaculture. It's a tough and ongoing struggle and sadly no strategies, to date, have succeeded in ensuring the removal of these farms.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Scientist publishes study, media completely miss the point!

Many of you were likely surprised to see an article in the Globe and Mail this past Sunday that cited a recent study by world-renown climate scientist, Dr. Andrew Weaver, on the impact on global warming of the Alberta tar sands vs. the world's coal reserve. Surprised that is, because the article left the impression that Dr. Weaver's work gives carte blanches to unrestricted oil development in Canada.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. In Dr Weaver's own words:

It would be a huge mistake to interpret our results as some kind of a "get out of jail free" card for the tar sands. While coal is the greatest threat to the climate globally, the tar sands remain the largest source of greenhouse gas emission growth in Canada and are the single largest reason Canada is failing to meet its international climate commitments and failing to be a climate leader. The world needs to transition away from fossil fuels if it wants to avoid dangerous human interference with the climate system. That means coal, unconventional gas, and unconventional oil all need to be addressed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Compelling testimony at Prince Rupert Northern Gateway pipeline joint review panel

The following is the testimony of Lee Brian at the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel hearings in Prince Rupert on February 18, 2012.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak today.

Who am I? My name is Lee Brain, and, I am no one in particular.

I want to say that I'm not here today as a representative of any political party, business organization or special interest group. I have no agenda today but to simply offer my personal experience about how this project will impact me, and my community.

I am here today as sovereign, natural being of the planet who has been born into a certain time, and into an already established system of institutions.

As an independent observer of our collective reality, in coordination with 7 billion others, I am here regulated by my own internal self-governance process.

At the ripe age of just 26, I am old enough to have been humbled by the lessons of life, yet, not old enough to fully appreciate the whole journey it has to offer.

In Prince Rupert, I work as an After School Activities Coordinator, working with children in elementary schools. I also run a computer skills education company as a sole proprietor.

But I am truly here today representing a new generation of leaders that is emerging at this time, and speaking on behalf of a younger generation than myself that is still coming into awareness.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Canada failing its oceans, biodiversity panel finds

The following is a reposting of a CBC news article. The original article can be accessed here.

An expert panel investigating the state of Canadian marine biodiversity has accused the government of failing to protect the country's oceans, leaving marine life threatened and the nation's ocean species at risk.

An expert panel has accused Canada's government of failing to protect ocean biodiversity. (Associated Press)

The panel was commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada in 2009 to review the effects of climate change, fishing and aquaculture on the ability of Canada's oceans to sustain and restore marine populations.

Announcing the panel's findings in Vancouver on Thursday, Prof. Jeffrey Hutchings said the government had failed to meet national and international commitments to sustain marine biodiversity over many years.

"Twenty years after the collapse of the northern cod fishery, we don't have a target for a recovery. How is that possibly consistent with responsible management of our oceans?

"It doesn't stand up nationally, it doesn't stand up internationally — but that is where we are, 20 years later," he said.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

At a loss for words

Sometimes I read the news and I'm at a loss for words. I simply cannot believe things like this continue to happen and we're expected to believe Enbridge when they say we have no need to worry. Things like what, you're wondering.

The Yokohama, a Liberian flagged vessel, docked in Prince Rupert after encountering hurricane force winds off the North Coast of B.C.

Things like, “29 containers fall overboard en route to Prince Rupert,” the headline of an article that reported:

The container vessel known as the Cosco Yokohama encountered dangerous weather conditions in the Gulf of Alaska last weekend while traveling from Asia to Prince Rupert.

Next thing you know, 29 containers are lost at sea. Due to weather. In winter. Off the North Coast of British Columbia. Imagine that.

So, how can anyone think shipping tankers full of TAR SANDS CRUDE along this VERY SAME ROUTE can POSSIBLY be a GOOD IDEA???

It's flabbergasting.

P.S. My colleague John suggests yelling phrases that include all capital letters. I felt it was appropriate.

Katie Terhune is the Energy Campaign Manager for Living Oceans Society.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Northern Gateway and tanker risks

Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project is about more than just pipelines and tar sands. What sets this project apart from others, is oil tankers. Really big oil tankers.

Northern Gateway is really a tanker-pipeline megaproject. If approved, it will bring 225 crude oil tankers to Canada’s Pacific North Coast for the first time in order to ship the world’s dirtiest oil to markets in Asia. These tankers are the length of three and a half football fields and carry nearly eight times more oil than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez in Alaska. Introducing them to Canada’s Pacific North Coast is not a good idea. Why you ask? Here are a few reasons: