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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.