What Are We Doing To Keep Our Oceans Healthy?

canadaEveryone knows the four essential needs of life, Air to breath, Water to drink, Food to nourish and Sleep to rejuvenate. Missing just one of these crucial needs, will result in your death. While we know the air we breath must be clean, are we doing enough to keep it that way?

The same applies to water, not only do we need clean, clear water to sustain us, but the crops we grow also rely on water. Water is everywhere – oceans, seas, rivers, lakes and streams. We use it to cook, bathe, drink and water our garden and maintain our crops. It is said about 71% of the earths surface is covered by water and the oceans hold about 96% percent of it all.

We are often told Canada has some 20% of the worlds freshwater resources. However only around 7% of the global supply is renewable. Healthy waters matter, and Canada is home to thousands of lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands.

These abundant bodies of water enable us to grow our food, power our homes, sustain our environment, as well as supplying us with the water we drink. Therefore it is essential we do our best to keep them clean.

Canada is also home to 3 oceans, the Atlantic ocean on the east, the Pacific ocean on the west and the Arctic ocean to the north. But what is Canada doing to ensure these large bodies of water are clean and healthy?

Well first lets start with the fact that Canada is home to the worlds longest coastline so it comes as no surprise that Canada supports some of the most abundant and diverse marine life on earth. Thousands of different species of fish and invertebrates and hundreds of marine birds and mammals live throughout Canada’s ocean environment.

But all is not well, the pressure on our ocean resources continues to grows with the demand for shipping, fishing and tourism. In the last century we have witnessed the loss of Atlantic cod on the east coast and the loss of basking sharks and many salmon on the Pacific coast, as well as many other species like rock fish and marine birds are at an historically low number.

Changes under the surface are also happening but while they are not easy to see are still taking place, and the quality of our coastal and marine environment is eroding.

So what is the liberal government doing to combat some of these changes? They have made a commitment to invest in the protection of our oceans, the health of which is critical. Their plan will help fish stocks recover, support Eco- tourism, protect our coastlines from erosion, ensure ecological integrity and protect the species at risk.

Their plan is to restore Canada’s reputation as a leader in ocean science, strengthen our laws and regulations, and give communities more of a say in the management of our oceans. By 2020 the liberal government hopes to meet this commitment and sustain clean and healthy oceans.

Healthy Ocean Policy In The USA

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While this site is primarily about Canada’s oceans and keeping them healthy, it is interesting to note that most developed countries have their own policies regarding the health of their coastal and interior bodies of water.

The USA has the Healthy Ocean Policy (HOP). It was signed by President Obama in 2009. This policy was enacted for many reasons. While there was always a policy in place, the US really needed a new one that provided a better means to approach the coastal and ocean management issues that we face now and in the future.

What most people don’t realize is how easily we can disrupt the natural ecosystems of our coasts. Keeping in mind how many people the world over rely on what the ocean provides, it is extremely important that we, as a global nation, control what happens to our waters.

Some problems we face are ocean acidification, climate change that disrupts the shellfish and fish populations, nutrient pollution from farm and street runoff (for example the salts that accumulate and end up in the Great Lakes) and a host of others.

The steps the US has taken can be boiled down to 3 events. The first was Coordination. What Obama did was establish a stewardship for the oceans and waters. Then created an Interagency Task Force to come up with recommendations to implement.

Second, they created the nine National Priority Objectives. They are best explained by a quote from their healthyoceanscoalition.org website. “These objectives are the substantive ways the federal government will implement the National Ocean Policy through actions they take in fulfilling existing responsibilities to protect and manage the oceans, our coasts and Great Lakes.”

Finally, the third step is simply planning. We can say “simply” but obviously it is anything but! Large marine ecosystem boundaries were defined on a map to help regions focus on specific issues directly related to their location and other unique events.

There is a global coalition of countries that form laws and policies in the hopes that we, as a planet, can stop some of the harm we do. That coalition is beyond the scope of this article, and will be introduced in a future article.

Canada’s Healthy Oceans Network

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The Healthy Ocean Network is a Canadian network formed to safeguard marine life in the country. Canada has a wide range of marine creatures that stand a risk of extinction with the rising industrialization and mining sectors in the country.

The network that chone.ca strives to be a part of is comprised of key policy makers in the sector with university researchers and government officials leading the way in efforts to conserve our oceans and the numerous living things on the ocean bed. This network brings together different marine capacities to address key issues concerning the use of biodiversity resources in our oceans without risking destruction of this important habitat.