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Monday, October 21, 2013

747 Blues - Idealist to Realist in 30 Seconds

By Kim Wright

Soaring above the clouds in a 747 may sound glamorous, but airline seating offers a full spectrum of suitability and so the most amazing sounding flight could amount to a less than perfect situation. So it is with Marine Protected Areas.
Marseilles at dawn from the conference centre lawn,
le Jardin du Pharo 

My childhood association with 747s include an image of James Bond with a martini on the staircase to the upper lounge. Boarding a 747 en route to Marseille, I felt a jolt of excitement. The idealist in me imagined a grand voyage. I walked past the staircase, first and business classes, and then continued all the way to the last row of economy class to my seat in row 53, next to the bank of lavatories at the tail of the plane. Settling in, I tried to find the silver lining and perhaps the message that the universe was sending to me.

I am flying to Marseille to attend the International Marine Protected Area Congress where I will do a presentation about the governance and state of protection of Canada's MPAs. The Canadian Government is proud of the suite of MPAs that only cover one percent of our ocean waters. It portrays them as the first class, 747-like ideal of protection. The reality is much more akin to my seat in the 53rd row.

Commercial fisheries are allowed in all but one of Canada’s 197 Pacific coast MPAs. In the Arctic we are cursed with an MPA that has a zone that allows oil and gas exploration within it; oil tanker routes cross our protected areas; open net-pen salmon farms and untreated sewage outfalls contaminate other protected waters.

What, you may wonder, is the protection offered by Canada's MPAs? I wonder the same thing from row 53, as I prepare to share our findings with the world in Marseilles where I hope to learn from other nations about how to beef up our standards. In the meantime, I will follow the lead of our government for a few hours at least, and pull the blanket over my head to block out the reality of my position and dream of first class.

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