Bare toes squish the wet sand. The swish, swoosh, swish, of the waves keeping time like a heartbeat, like the Earth breathing in and out. As far as you can gaze, the sea stretches into blueness, and falls away over the curve of the horizon.

The Ocean. It holds so much power, which sometimes bursts forth in ways that remind us how much respect it deserves. It talks to the moon, locked in a never ending push and pull that gives us tides. Is there anything on Earth so mysterious? The sheer size of it alone begs so many questions, hides so many secrets. We will never unlock all it has to offer.  

The ocean is what makes our planet different from every other one in our solar system. That is pretty special. For 4 billion years, it has been shaping our planet. Without it, we wouldn't have the lush greenery of the land we call home. Something worth saving, we imagine everyone would have to agree?

Last year, we at SALT really solidified our commitment to the deep blue sea. As we look across the horizon of a new year, we know that the clock is ticking on the health and survival of our oceans. Humans are simply too hard on the planet. Whether it's an argument of our lifestyles, our lack of regulations, or any number of the other factors that could be argued are the worst contributors to the devastation of our seas, there is much to be done to keep our oceans safe.

As Canadians (and humans), what we are most concerned with when it comes to our oceans and what we want to see done about it is going to vary from person to person, taking into account our individual opinions and education on such matters. The Canadian Federal Government's Department of Fisheries and Oceans looks at marine conservation and regulation from many angles, which we could discuss and debate at length (To learn about all the work they do, visit their website and explore what initiatives they are taking on). One item that caught our eye was the discussion around Marine Protected Areas (MPA). An MPA is "A clearly defined geographical space recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values." (MPA Network). At this time, they are working to protect more of the ocean around our country under this definition and the regulations that go along with it.

The pursuit of this strategy is supported by WWF-Canada, as well as other conservation organizations, lobbyists, and additional stakeholders including the Province of British Columbia and several First Nations. Recently, WWF-Canada urged the Federal Government to move quickly with their plans for MPAs, based on the recommendations laid out in the National Advisory Panel on Marine Protected Area Standards. These recommendations come from a report that this body produced after being established in the Spring of 2018. The below quote indicates what is contained in the report.

"The Panel makes 13 recommendations to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.  Recommendations focus on minimum protection standards in federal marine protected areas, including Oceans Act Marine Protected Areas and marine refuges established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, National Marine Conservation Areas established by Parks Canada, and National Wildlife Areas established by Environment and Climate Change Canada.  It also makes recommendations on better engagement, stronger governance, and robust MPA planning, on the emerging concept of Indigenous Protected Areas, and on marine spatial planning." (www.newswire.ca)

It takes some time to implement these strategies, so in the interim, the first step the government has proposed is their ‘Freeze the Footprint’ idea. Via a Ministerial order, this essentially means no increase in human activities other than ongoing activities in a certain area so that no further damage is done, while “…further science, consultations, risk assessments, and socio-economic and ecological overviews…” are conducted with the intention of having a resolution within 5 years. 

That is all well and good, but we must agree with the plea from WWF-Canada to expedite this process as quickly as possible. There is just too much damage done every day.  

Why are we talking about what our government is doing? We can all agree that with great leadership can come great change. What the government is doing matters. It matters whether they are doing a good job, or have room for improvement, and it matters that we are aware of what they are prioritizing. The more initiative we see taken by our elected leaders, the more we can hope that lasting regulatory change will happen, if we, as stakeholders, use our voices to support their best initiatives. 

So what about us? Aside from continuing on our pursuit of a lifestyle that encourages mindful, sustainable living, we don't yet know what initiatives we will pursue this year for marine conservation, but we know we want to get as many people involved as possible. Perhaps a series of beach clean ups, or the sponsorship of a Seabin. We definitely will be making use of our new space in Victoria to have events that bring awareness to issues challenging our oceans and funds to the marine conservation organizations that we believe in, especially ones that all operating close to home. We are excited to dive into planning and we will keep you updated!

The conversation of what is to be done is one we have mused over before. In the past year, we have focused more on what you can do as an individual to help protect and conserve our oceans. This year, we want the breadth of those efforts to multiply. As much as we believe that our individual every day choices make a collective positive impact, garnering the interest of our peers to join us would make a bigger, better impact. Leading by example is a great place to start, and beyond that, the tides of change only grow stronger.

Everyone has a cause that is dear to their heart. Ours happens to be the salty waters of the ocean. Asking for support from friends, family, and beyond is not an unreasonable request. They have the choice to say no. However, if we all lend a hand even just now and then to the cause's that we care for, the load will get lighter with every hand lifted.

January 04, 2019 by Emily Williams

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