There are a number of threats to the health of the Georgia Strait that a local advocacy group wants to highlight for World Oceans Day Saturday (June 8).
Shipping, increased oil tanker traffic, decreased federal funding for research and the weakening of laws to protect Canada’s oceans are some threats on the horizon to the well-being of the waters local residents know and love, said Christianne Wilhelmson, executive director of the Georgia Strait Alliance.
One of the big concerns for the alliance is the decrease in federally funded scientific research – one example is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ decision to close down the marine pollution unit at the Institute of Ocean Science in Sidney, she said.
Wilhelmson said if no one is there to study long-term impacts of marine pollution, people won’t know the harm being done to the marine environment until it is too late.
Laws that protect Canada’s oceans have been gutted, she added.
Pollution from ships, including oil tankers, is another big picture threat the alliance is tackling.
Wilhelmson said staff will be out in communities this summer talking about the dangers of increased oil tanker traffic to the environment and why it is too high a risk to take.
The alliance also continues to oppose open net cage salmon farming, putting pressure on industry and government to move to closed containment systems, and raising public awareness about the issue.
A new initiative is creating a vision for waterfronts in the region, with the goal of keeping beaches healthy and accessible while supporting the economic activities happening on the waterfront.
“Right now everything’s kind of piecemeal,” said Wilhelmson, adding the initiative launched in Vancouver, but the organization plans to bring it to Nanaimo in the near future.
She said positive stories include more dolphin sightings in the strait, reports of more marine mammals in certain areas and herring returning.
A community group in Squamish helped revive a herring run by wrapping wood pilings treated with creosote with materials that protected the eggs from the toxins, said Wilhelmson.
“It’s really great that you’re seeing these kinds of positive stories,” she said, adding that the down side is this kind of work is being done by volunteers, not corporations or government.
The Canadian government proposed the concept of World Ocean Day in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and as of 2009, June 8 was officially declared World Oceans Day by the United Nations.
World Oceans Day Canada urges all Canadians to make one change in our habits to help make a difference.
Event highlights oceans day
While World Oceans Day is Saturday (June 8), the public is invited to celebrate it Sunday (June 9) at Descanso Bay Regional Park on Gabriola Island.
The event runs from noon to 4 p.m. and Nanaimo residents can catch the noon ferry to access a free shuttle bus ride to the park.
Divers will be on hand to explain what they do and how their equipment operates, then local marine biologists will share information about live ocean critters that the divers bring up from the bottom of the bay.
Interactive displays by various community groups provide information about various marine animals and plants and issues, and there will also be kids games and crafts, face painting and storytelling and snacks and beverages.