Photo: Royal Society calls mayday for Canada's oceans

Send your letter now (Credit: Sookie via Wikimedia Commons).

By Bill Wareham, Senior Conservation Specialist

On February 2nd, ten prominent marine research scientists affiliated with the Royal Society of Canada released a comprehensive report about the state of our oceans.

They don't like what they see, and spoke out with bold recommendations for Canada to up our game to protect our ocean environments. Dr. Jeff Hutchings from Dalhousie University chaired the panel of scientists who investigated trends in ocean conditions and assessed three major stressors in our oceans including fisheries, climate change and aquaculture. They also looked at how well Canada is living up to its international commitments compared to other countries. We're not a star performer.

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It's not all bad news; some species including seals, bowhead whales and sea otters are on the increase. But the downside is that over 100 species assessed by COSEWIC (the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) are listed as threatened or endangered, killer whale, right whale, northern bottlenose whale, Cassin's Auklet, Marbled Murrelet to name a few.

There's a lot to be worried about. Changes in salinity and temperature are leading to increased stratification of the oceans and a resulting decline in nutrient cycling, particularly in coastal areas. Ocean temperature in many areas has increased by 2 degrees, with 2010 setting a record for the lowest sea ice on record in the Arctic and eastern Canada. There has been a 37% increase in acidity of the ocean in the St. Lawrence region. Atlantic cod have yet to recover even though the fishery has been closed for twenty years.

Clearly, it's not that we don't know enough. The panel confirms that we're swimming in good information and scientific knowledge. Canada even has some excellent policies, like the Wild Salmon Policy, the National Oceans Strategy, and the National Marine Protected Areas Policy. What's lacking is action by government, adequate funding, and the application of best practices in management of human activities.

The frustrating thing here is that this bell has been rung many times in the past. So what can be done? Who is going to drive the change so that Canada actually becomes a star performer when it comes to stewardship and conservation of our oceans?

That's where you come in. Send a letter to the Prime Minister today and let him know that you want our Federal Budget in 2012 to properly support existing policies and meet our commitments to manage our oceans. The salmon, killer whales, cod, and many other species need our support. Send your letter today.

February 7, 2012

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