It's World Oceans Day today, but how much can Canadians celebrate? The short answer: not much.
We're one a few countries that can boast three great oceans, but we're not doing a great job of taking care of our natural heritage.
And now Canada is weakening what little protection it has. The current federal omnibus bill c-38 is weakening the fisheries act, marine communications and traffic service centres are being shut down, the Ocean Pollution Monitoring program is being closed and marine protection programs are having budgets slashed.
The federal government is cutting programs and legislation that keep our oceans healthy — clearly this is a step backwards when Canada already lags behind other developed nations, such as the U.S., Norway and Australia. Our current open-ended policies are no longer acceptable. It's time to develop targets and timelines for actually protecting our oceans with real protected areas that match our international commitments. That will require careful planning on an ecosystem wide level.
It should be easy to get the ball rolling. 99 per cent of our oceans lack any protected status, despite repeated international commitments to create marine protected areas. The federal government needs to recommit to agreements to work cooperatively with the Province of B.C. and First Nations to more effectively manage our ocean activities.
It's not about saving money. These cuts are happening at the same time as the federal government is increasing spending by tens of billions of dollars on new navy vessels and military aircraft. Investing less than one per cent of these costs for marine protected areas could make Canada a world leader in ocean conservation.
World Oceans Day does offer an opportunity to show your appreciation for our incredible oceans. We've made it easy for you to send a letter now to the prime minister and the ministers of fisheries and oceans urging them to engage in a progressive vision for our oceans.
Then go outside!