Did you know?
Surrounded by three oceans and a sea of arctic ice, Canada is home to the world’s longest coastline.

Photo: Keeping Canada's oceans healthy

Despite their natural magnificence, oceans offer more than just a pretty view. (Credit: Jeffery Young)

If you are one of the seven million Canadians who live along Canada's coastline you already know the majesty of our great oceans. Or if you are from another part of Canada you may have visited the coast and experienced the wonder of Canada's spectacular marine life first-hand.

And spectacular it is!

Canada is home to the world's longest coastline: three oceans and a sea of arctic ice. Forty per cent of Canada's jurisdictional area is ocean. In combination, the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Ocean environments within Canada's exclusive economic zone support some of the most abundant and diverse webs of marine life on earth. Thousands of species of fish and invertebrates and hundreds of marine birds and mammals live throughout Canada's ocean environments.

For decades Canada's oceans have provided resources that form the base of cultural, economic and recreational opportunities for many Canadians. Ocean-related activity accounts for more than $23 billion annually in the Canadian economy.

But all is not well in Canada's oceans. The pressure on our ocean resources continues to grow as the demand for shipping, fishing and tourism activities continues to grow. From sea to sea to sea, the effects of industrial fishing, pollution, and climate change combine to pose a constantly increasing threat to coastal and marine environments and wildlife.

In the last century we have seen the demise Atlantic Cod on the east coast and the loss of basking sharks and many salmon stocks on the Pacific Coast. Many species, like pacific rockfish and many marine bird populations are at low abundance levels compared to historic numbers.

Changes in the environment under the surface of the sea are not easy to see, but they are taking place, and the quality of our coastal and marine environments is eroding. The effect of global warming and carbon loading in our oceans is resulting in acidification of many ocean environments and the development of anoxic dead zones. And as the Canadian population and economy grows there are increasing concentrations of toxic pollution showing up in our marine environments.

Maintaining our ocean heritage in a healthy form requires a precautionary and strategic conservation planning approach. Read more about Canada's marine heritage.