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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.