Thursday, December 18, 2008


The recent winner of the J Paul Getty award for conservation is a champion of marine planning, and he comes from a small coastal community, just like my hometown, Port McNeill. This marine-conservation champion's name is Roger and fishing is one of the most important sources of income for those in his community. Local fishermen use nets, lines, and spear diving to catch fish. In an interview with the BBC, this prize-winner mentions that he has seen fish stocks rapidly decline over the years in his village, and he is worried about the local corals and sea grass that are being destroyed by bottom-dragging fishing techniques. In his small coastal town, he sees the impacts that unsustainable practices have on the livelihood of his villages, and has spent much of his time advocating for community-managed marine protected areas.

It is a hard job to get people to think about the sustainability of the oceans; and four hours away in the capital city, people seem too far removed to understand or to really think much about the future of the oceans.

All of Roger's concerns sound like concerns that we have have on the Pacific North Coast. Is he from Sointula, Sandspit, or perhaps Prince Rupert?

Actually, he's from Africa.

Samba Roger, living in Andavadoaka, a fishing community on the island of Madagascar, is just one example of the type of people who are taking action to preserve our ocean ecosystems worldwide.

To see a great photo presentation about Samba Roger, click here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How We Fish Matters: Addressing the Ecological Impacts of Canadian Fishing Gear

The Living Oceans Society, Ecology Action Centre, and Marine Conservation Biology Institute have released a study that ranks the impacts of 13 different gear types used for fishing in Canada. This study was completed in three stages: first, there was a
Skates - Photo courtesy of John Driscoll
literature review of existing scientific studies on the impacts of fishing gear; next, a rating of the impacts of fishing gear by fishermen, scientists, and conservation professionals; and finally a survey of 97 professionals from different sectors working with fisheries where respondents ranked the ecological impacts of 13 different gear types.

This study found that bottom trawl, bottom gillnet, dredge, and bottom longline are the gears that cause the greatest impact on habitat and discarded bycatch. Harpoon, dive, and hook and line are the fishing methods that result in the least impacts on habitat and discarded bycatch.

The main recommendations (taken directly from the study) are as follows:

1. Fisheries managers should immediately implement ecologically risk averse strategies to minimize the impacts of fishing gear on habitat and bycatch. These strategies include habitat protection, and access to fishing grounds and quota allocations based on gear substitution.

2. Adequate monitoring, research and data collection on fishing gear impacts to habitat and non-target species must be undertaken, and made publicly available, to support ecosystem and spatial management practices.

3. Implement, inform and develop policies and management practices that prioritize the minimization of habitat destruction and incidental catch and discarding of target and non-target species.

You can access the LOS press release, and the full report on the LOS website.

You can also read the media coverage of this report in:
Globe and Mail
Vancouver Sun
National Post
The Canadian Press
Times Colonist

Saving Luna

Luna, the orca that was separated from its pod and became unusually friendly with humans in 2001, captured hearts and headlines in the Nootka Sound area and around the world. Seen as a blessing to some and a curse to others, much debate surrounded the treatment of this whale until he was run over by a tugboat and killed in 2006.

Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm have received high acclaim for their documentary about this lovable orca, called "Saving Luna". Saving Luna premiered in Vancouver on December 5th at Ridge Theatre.

Click here to read a review of this film in the Epoch Times.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oily Lesson

I think we can be learning lessons from California. On one of their offshore oil rigs last week, over 27 barrels of oil spilled from a finger sized hole in a pump. The result was a slick a mile and a half long by 200 feet wide. They say no birds were caught in the oil but also that often, “Oiled birds are not spotted until they wash ashore, dead or dying because the oil has ruined their ability to keep warm.”

Since 1972, there are two moratoriums have protected British Columbia's coastline from the threat of oil spills.

However there are several proposals for pipeline projects to deliver oil from Alberta's tar sands to the North Coast. These proposals call for oil tanker traffic loaded with crude from the pipelines to travel through B.C.'s coastal waters. But our federal government is already ignoring the moratorium on tanker traffic. Since early 2006, tankers carrying condensate have traveled through the Inside Passage to Kitimat.

Now, the federal government is considering lifting its offshore oil and gas moratorium on the North Coast, and the B.C. government wants the entire moratorium lifted to allow offshore oil and gas development in the Strait of Georgia and off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Yikes!
The risk is high for very little gain. Even the top end estimates predict that B.C.’s offshore reserves would produce only enough oil and gas to satisfy U.S. consumption for six months. Surely the risks are not worth it!

I find our oil spill model to be a good graphic reminder about what could potentially happen on our coast from an oil spill. Check it out:

Here's an article about the California spill from the LA Times:,0,3221617.story

A Step in the Right Direction

Finally! Some progress towards integrated marine planning in the Large Ocean Management Area (LOMA) of PNCIMA (Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area). Late last week, coastal First Nations and DFO signed an Memorandum of Understanding regarding the PNCIMA planning process. In a press release published late Friday, DFO states :

"The MOU outlines a "PNCIMA Model", including a proposed method of governing and support for PNCIMA initiatives within the area. It also calls for the establishment of a steering committee and secretariat to guide and support future planning efforts and the involvement of all those with a vested interest in PNCIMA. In addition, the MOU sets out the expectation that DFO and the First Nations of the Pacific North Coast (Coastal First Nations (CFN)), and the North Coast Skeena First Nations' Stewardship Society (NCSFNSS), will work together on integrated ocean planning in the area."

Hopefully, this MOU will act as the impetus for concrete action towards conservation and planning on the Pacific North Coast. Stay tuned!

Read the Environmental NGO Caucus' reaction to the MOU signing here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

For the Love of Fish

I have always been a baker. Since the day that I was able to hold a spoon (well, almost) I have been whipping up batches of chewy chocolate chip cookies, mom’s Chinese dainties, and many other delicious and cavity-inducing indulgences. Driven by a desire to bring sugary happiness into other peoples’ lives (and to keep my waistline at an acceptable level), I often share the majority of what I bake with friends, colleagues, neighbors, homeless people, and random bar-goers (yes, really). There is nothing better than witnessing the delight of someone who has just been presented with an unsolicited baked good.

Or so I thought…

Lately, I have discovered the joy of cooking. The type of cooking that creates an intake of breath when presented to dinner guests: dishes that you want to take a picture of; food that is just too pretty to eat (but you still eat it anyway!). Enter this year’s “For the Love of Fish” winning recipe from C Restaurant as my ticket to the world beyond confectioner’s sugar and molasses:

Oyama Prosciutto wrapped Sablefish with Dungeness Crab and Gala Apple Vinegarette

  • 500g Sablefish, skin off fillet
  • 100g Oyama Prosciutto thinly sliced

Directions: Lay Prosciutto (width of the sablefish) onto your counter. Wrap Prosciutto around the sablefish and wrap cling wrap around the fish. Let sit for 24 hours. Using a non-stick pan and a small amount of vegetable oil, caramelize the Prosciutto roll on all sides. Let rest in pan for 15 minutes and then slice and serve.

  • 250g Dungeness Crab
  • 6pc Gala Apples, diced finely
  • 6pc shallot, finely julienne
  • 100ml Apple cider vinegar
  • 50g chives, finely minced
  • 2pc lemon, juiced and zest
  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 ml honey
  • 5g espelette chills

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl together and let stand 1 hour prior to serving. Place on top of the sablefish and serve with rosemary potatoes.

This recipe uses sustainable seafood, it looks beautiful, and it is so easy to make that even a baker-turned-cook can throw it together and woo the masses. So, for this year’s holiday potluck, sign up to bring the main course instead of the dessert. Then, the night of the party, sit back, relax, and wait for the compliments to come rushing in. Perhaps even better than witnessing the delight of someone just presented with an unsolicited baked good is accepting the compliments of people who think you are a much better cook than you really are.

Do you have any good sustainable seafood recipes? Share them with us all in the comments section below!

I have a story to tell you...

At the Living Oceans Society's 10th Anniversary Masquerade Ball, LOS rolled out its "I have a story to tell you..." photo album. Here, I get a little more information about this album from our Local Knowledge Project Coordinator, Vern Sampson.

What is the background of this photo album?
"As part of our 10th anniversary celebrations, Jennifer Lash [the Executive Director of Living Oceans Society] wanted to celebrate the fishing heritage of Sointula. A number of ideas were brainstormed around the office and we finally decided on a photo album focused on showing the development of the local fishing culture over time. We wanted the help of the local community , so I went out on Malcolm Island to ask folks for interesting photographs of their fishing heritage. The response was excellent and in very short order, [some other staff members and I] were tasked with having to choose just a modest selection from the hundreds of photos we had received. "

I have noticed that this photo album is not in the traditional format, can you tell me a little more about this?
"When we were scanning and compiling the photos, we realized that many of the images and the memories and stories attached to them represent a unique history of the area. In order to capture this history, Jennifer came up with the idea of an interactive photo album.

Each image in the album has empty lines upon which the album owner can write in names, dates, and most importantly, the stories that each photograph evokes for him or her. These would be the stories told around the galley table or on the dock; of memorable fishing trips and 'the good old days'. Living Oceans hopes that these stories will be written down and if people choose to lend their albums to us we will record these stories and ensure they have a place in the Sointula Archives. "

What has been the response of the community to these albums?
"We showed the new albums off at our 10th anniversary masquerade ball here in Sointula on December 5th. They were a great hit! Complimentary copies were given to each of the image donors, the Sointula Museum and the Sointula Resource Centre"

Thanks, Vern! Any last words about the album?
"This project would not have been possible without the generous support of many community members who lent us their photos. Thank you. We wish we could have printed more images, for this is just a small part of the vibrant past that has helped shape the Sointula of today."

These commemorative albums can be purchased and are available at the LOS office and the Sointula Resource Centre for $25.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marine Protected Areas - Yes We Can!

I ran across an article that gave me hope. The article talks about how California is protecting it’s coast. However, this didn’t happen over night. In fact the message is that it takes years for a comprehensive Marine Protected Areas strategy to develop and be implemented. California’s Central Coast is an example of how national legislation bears fruit, and can provide clarity on the meaning and establishment of Marine Protected Areas.

It was 2001 when President Clinton legislated the creation of the National Marine Protected Areas Center. Basically, this legislation allowed for the development of a common set of standards that define what a Marine Protected Area is. Like Canada, the US had a myriad of local, state, and tribal laws all affecting the ocean and fresh water. The complexity resulted in a lack of accountability.

The situation facing the Americans in 2001 is no different than what we have in Canada where for example there are currently 11 types of MPAs in BC managed by federal, provincial and municipal agencies. These include designations such as Provincial Parks, Ecological Reserves, Migratory Bird Reserves, Marine Parks, Wildlife Management Areas … all with varying levels of protection monitored by different agencies.

“At the center of the US national MPA plan is a list of goals and conservation objectives that will be applied to every body of water that is in line to become an MPA. That plan sets near-term goals, as well as mid- and long-term goals concerning natural, cultural and sustainable resources. It also sets specific standards for drawing physical boundaries, determining uses and defining types of protection.”

Of course everybody isn’t happy, but now it’s clear who to voice complaints to and how things get resolved. We can do the same here in Canada and in BC this means proceeding with PNCIMA.

See the article:

Sustainable Seafood 101

I'll admit it: I'm no seafood expert. Up until a few years ago, if seafood was offered in a restaurant (or brought to my house by a kind neighbour), I ate it. No questions asked. Now I know better. I know that by making conscious choices about what type of seafood I eat, I am ensuring that I can enjoy the fruits of the ocean for years to come.

I want to make ethical and sustainable choices when eating seafood and I understand the environmental and market implications if others recognize the importance of eating sustainably as well.

Lately, I find that my eyes glaze over and my conscience becomes overwhelmed by guilt when I am presented a menu: the ocean, in all its magnificence, offers so many options for dinner. How can I even begin to understand what to avoid religiously, what to eat now-and-again, and what to enjoy on a regular basis? On top of this, the categories of what is sustainable or not can vary again from season to season. Such a daunting and confusing task of figuring out my dinner's larger implications on the future of the oceans makes me reconsider even eating seafood in the first place.

But do not despair, fellow seafood lovers! There are others who have gone before us in the labyrinth of "Sustainability 101" and have prepared easy and innovative solutions to untangling the web of sustainable seafood. Our good friends at SeaChoice have developed "Canada's Seafood Guide", a handy, downloadable, and easy to use guide to eating sustainably. I downloaded it, slipped it into my wallet, and now have a handy reference for making my dinner choices. It is so easy to use: even if you are nearly blinded by a desire for a delicious dungeness crab, SeaChoice has color-coded the Alertcard in handy green, yellow, and red columns - making any seafood decision, no matter the circumstances, a piece of cake.

The SeaChoice website also has more season-specific information, as well as information about how to get businesses involved in ensuring the sustainability of our oceans. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California also has a similar Seafood Watch program to help consumers make sustainable choices.

Learning how to eat seafood while conserving our oceans has never been so easy. Never again will I be intimidated into choosing salad over seafood: waiter, bring on the BC Sablefish!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pictures from the 10th Anniversary Masquerade Ball in Sointula

This year Living Oceans Society celebrated 10 years of marine conservation advocacy in BC. On December 5, 2008, we held an Under the Sea Masquerade Ball on Malcolm Island to celebrate LOS' birthday and its Sointula roots. At the event there was a live bluegrass band, door prizes, a live auction, a costume contest, and lots and lots of dancing! The event had an impressive turnout and raised money for a great cause. Check out some of the innovative costumes in the pictures below:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Surprising Levels of Acid in our Oceans

A new study by scientists at the University of Chicago has found that rising ocean acid levels in the Pacific Ocean are making it more difficult for coral polyps to create reefs and are impeding the ability of marine organisms such as mussels, clams, and oysters to produce the calcium needed to generate their shells. Scientists have shown that acidity levels in the ocean were ten times greater than previously thought.

This study and other recent research links increased atmospheric carbon dioxide to a decline in ocean alkalinity. Scientists believe that "atmospheric CO2 concentrations could exceed 500 ppm by the middle of this century, and 800 ppm near the end of the century. This increase would result in a decrease in surface-water pH of ~0.4 by the end of the century, and a corresponding 50% decrease in carbonate ion concentration (5, 9). Such rapid changes are likely to negatively affect marine ecosystems, seriously jeopardizing the multifaceted economies that currently depend on them." [1]

Rising levels of ocean acidity are a concrete (and scary) indicator of things to come in the age of global climate change. This recent research about ocean acidity shows that conditions severely detrimental to our marine ecosystems could develop "within decades, not centuries as suggested previously". [2]

For a recent article about the University of Chicago study, visit:

[1] Feely, Richard A.; Sabine, Christopher L.; Hernandez-Ayon, J. Martin; Lanson, Debbie; and Hayles, Burke, "Evidence for Uprising of Corrosive "Acidified" Water onto the Continental Shelf", Science 320, 1490 (2008)
[2] Orr
et al, "Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms", Nature 437 (2005)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Together on the Coast: North Coast Sustainable Community Development Forum

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to attend a conference held in Prince Rupert by the North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society.

The objectives of the meeting were to:

* Inform and enhance the engagement of North Coast communities in Marine Planning.
* Initiate dialogue among numerous levels of government and stakeholders in the North Coast on issues affecting marine ecosystems.
* Inform the public of the planning activities currently underway by First Nations.
* Provide case-studies of how community engagement can be an important and successful part of marine management decision-making.

The most interesting part of the meeting for me came at the very end when there was a discussion about the need for an ocean champion - someone who helps shepherd the changes around ocean management and conservation that need to happen through a marine planning process. As people spoke about their experiences, their passions, and their dedication to ensuring that the ocean continues to provide for their families and communities, it became very clear that we already have ocean champions. Everyone in that room was a champion. The trick now is harnessing that passion and energy to ensure that we get a marine planning process that will benefit our resources and our future.

For more information on the conference go to:

Shining some light into the Black Box

The open ocean has long been a Black Box for predicting salmon survival. Conditions such as temperature variability and food availability are wild cards that have long confounded biologists and fisheries managers forecasting salmon returns. Now a new system of acoustic listening devices that picks up signals from transmitters implanted into the belly cavities of juvenile salmon and other fish is beginning to shed some light into the Black Box. The Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking network (POST for short) is a series of underwater receivers placed in lines at various locations around the eastern Pacific from San Fransisco to Southeast Alaska. Currently in Canada listening lines are located on both sides of Vancouver Island including Juan de Fuca Strait, Howe Sound, across northern Georgia Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait and off the northwest tip.

Interesting findings are challenging long held beliefs for scientists and environmentalists alike. Mortality in juvenile salmon was previously thought to be highest in freshwater but results from the POST network are showing up to 40% mortality during the smolts' first few weeks once they enter saltwater. Another controversial finding is that juvenile chinook salmon migrating down the highly dammed Columbia River survived their journey equally or better than young chinook migrating down the dam-free Fraser River. Young 10 centimetre long coho have been clocked at nearly 75 kilometres per day in the rivers and up to 40 kilometres per day in the ocean. That is the equivalent of 200,000 body lengths per day. I would have to swim 350 kilometres in the ocean in one day to match that!

Transmitters implanted in other fish like rockfish, sharks, squid, steelhead, sturgeon, and trout are also revealing some previously unknown information. It was known that sturgeon migrate in and out of saltwater but scientist thought they didn't go far. The POST listening array has tracked green strugeon from the Sacramento River in California congregating off the northern end of Vancouver Island.

One prediction that has already proved true is that this revolutionary real-time system of tracking marine animals will be a real breakthrough.

More about the system and how it works can be found at;

Monday, December 1, 2008


This past week, I attended the 4th ESSIM Forum Workshop in Halifax. The ESSIM (the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management) Initiative was the Canada's first integrated ocean management plan under the 1996 Canada's Oceans Act.

Since 1998, stakeholders in the Eastern Scotian Shelf area have been working towards the creation of a plan to "provide long-term direction and commitment for integrated, ecosystem-based and adaptive management of marine activities." (ESSIM Planning Office, 2007)

In previous years, the ESSIM Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) used the bi-annual Forum as a broad multi-stakeholder dialogue on integrated management and marine planning. Insight gained from ESSIM forums were then integrated into future SAC decisions about the ESSIM initiative. In 2007, the ESSIM SAC officially released its Integrated Ocean Management Plan - a reflection of almost 10 years of effort from committed stakeholders.

This year, the overall goal of the ESSIM forum was to focus upon making the shift from planning to implementation of the integrated management process. A focus session on Marine Spatial Planning, led by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Fanny Douvere and Charles Ehler reflected the SAC's identification of Marine Spatial Planning as a key component to the implementation of the ESSIM plan.

There was a strong representation from the West Coast at this forum, with representatives from the Living Oceans Society, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Pacific Region), and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society among others swelling the ranks of forum attendees. It is important for all those involved in the PNCIMA planning process to understand and learn from the ESSIM management process. Because PNCIMA is just in the preliminary stage, ESSIM is about 10 years ahead of us in the Large Ocean Management Area marine planning process.

Here is a snippet of the advice that the ESSIM participants provided for those involved in PNCIMA:
1. There must be confidence in the planning process amongst all of the various stakeholders. This is very important but also very time-consuming.
2. Because planning is time-consuming, expectations must be managed. Everything is not going to get done in a year or two, and all stakeholders must understand this.
3. It will be important to build a constituency in this initiative. Engage the local voting public: they will be able to keep the focus on planning activities over time.
4. PNCIMA must involve all aboriginal peoples in the region. There are a multitude of First Nations on the BC coast, many more than in the ESSIM constituency, and they should be strong stakeholders in the planning process.
5. At the beginning of the process, it will be important to look early on at the expected outcomes, and stick to this vision over time. Also, don't shy away from controversial issues at the beginning of the process - discuss them openly and honestly at the beginning of the process. If not, the controversial issues will slow the process later on, potentially halting the momentum gained over time.

For more information about ESSIM, visit