Something’s fishy about the oceans (By A. Koundourakis)

At the World Wildlife Fund Annual Oceans Summit, the Federal government released that they are investing $197.1 million over five years to increase ocean and freshwater scientific research and monitoring. The Minister of Fisheries, The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, announced the Liberal government’s marine conservation targets of protecting 5 percent of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2017 and 10 percent by 2020. In the 2016 Budget, there was an $81.3 million investment over five years to be allocated to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada to support marine conservation activities. Also, there will be a $42.4 million investment over five years to continue work on developing new National Parks and National Marine Conservation Areas.

Dominic LeBlanc, Catherine McKenna and Carolyn Bennett at the WWF Annual Oceans Summit (

Whether this target is considered ambitious or not, this investment in the longest coastline in the world is extremely important because we depend on our oceans for a healthy environment and economy. Canada has unrivalled ocean and freshwater resources, and we need to protect and expand our marine regions in order to reach our conservation targets. Furthermore, by protecting the coastline, we are helping to protect our oceans, which provide half of our oxygen production and regulates Earth’s temperature. Not to mention the economic significance it carries through the fishing and tourism industries. Needless to say, every Canadian will be impacted by this investment in marine protection as it is extremely vital to maintain and improve our quality of life.

The Federal government has a five point plan to achieve their conservation targets. These include:

  • Advance the work already underway in areas progressing towards establishment including the proposed Lancaster Sound NMCA and five proposed Oceans Act MPAs: Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reeds, Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam, Laurentian Channel, Anns Bank and Banc des Americains.
  • Establish new, large Oceans Act MPAs in pristine offshore areas.
  • Establish additional Oceans Act MPAs in areas under pressure from human activities.
  • Identify existing and establish new other effective area-based conservation measures, particularly to protect sensitive sponge and coral concentrations.
  • Examine how the Oceans Act can be updated to facilitate the designation process for MPAs, without sacrificing science, or the public opportunity to provide input.

The Liberal government’s approach to meeting their targets would be guided by three principals: science-based decision making; transparency and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous groups.

The understanding and protection of marine ecosystems relies on our ability to bring complex and diverse sources of information that are based on the scientific method. These are then dependant on further peer review. Furthermore, other sources of information can be sourced from traditional aboriginal knowledge and by industry and local knowledge.

In order to meet our conservation targets, Canada will require full cooperation of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous peoples, industries, academics and environmental NGOs. The collaboration of actors and stakeholders will provide opportunities for Canada to reach its conservation targets.

Traditional aboriginal knowledge will be used to highlight the importance of an area and its resources to the traditions and economies of local communities. The Liberal government has announced that it will respect treaties in existence and support the advancements of modern treaties that are under review.

According to the National Post, during the event Shell Canada President, Michael Crothers, also made an announcement that corporations will be working in cooperation with the government to meet the targets. For example, Shell is voluntarily contributing their Lancaster Sound permits for marine conservation in the arctic. These permits cover 8,600 square kilometres north of Baffin Island. This announcement is particularly noteworthy, because protecting Canada’s Northern waters would ensure that dozens of Arctic species would have year round safety for the very foreseeable future. This is a considerable win for the future of the ecosystem. David Miller and Devon Page, the CEO of WWF and executive director of Ecojustice, respectively, remarked that this is a massive win for their organizations, both of whom were fighting for preservation of the region. This cooperation between industry and government highlights the importance of the mutual understanding that marine ecosystems must be protected. Hopefully, it’s an indication of more cooperation between industries and governments to come.

So, here’s my two cents. For anyone that read my blurb about myself, I’m all for anything related to protecting anything water. I drink it, I swim in it, and I depend on it every day of my life. The Earth depends on it; oceans regulate global temperatures and provide ecosystems for organisms that produce oxygen for us to breath. Life as we know it was created in the ocean. It is our responsibility to protect it.

I’ve been a huge fan of the Cousteau family and their contribution to protecting the ocean. Also, for anyone interested, this kid named Boyan Slat started a massive venture to clean plastic out of the ocean. He designed nets that sit on the ocean’s surface and they passively scoop up plastic. The benefits from his company have the same benefits as Canada’s coastal investment. For example, reaching the conservation targets will save hundreds of thousands of aquatic species that call the coastline their home; the cost of pollution and damages will be reduced due to the protection policies; and finally, human health will be improved due to the reduction of bioaccumulation from the chemicals that are killing ecosystems.

Perhaps the Liberal government could follow Slat’s example and look towards a global collaboration of governments and corporations to improve the marine environment. I have no doubt that international water treaty is a tricky legal subject, however, the Federal government could lead the world by looking beyond our own borders and into much more polluted parts of the world.



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