Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sightings of Killer Whales in British Waters Rising

Has anyone seen J-Pod lately?

This article was published in Britain’s Telegraph.

Killer whales, which are normally associated with the colder seas around the poles, are being found increasingly in UK waters. Scientists believe the creatures are being attracted by Britain's recovering fish stocks. Groups of up to 100 have been recorded off the coast by researchers.

Already this year, the creatures, also known as orcas, have been recorded as far south as the Isles of Scilly, and in the English Channel, off Folkestone. Other sightings this year have been in the North Sea, off Hartlepool, and in the Irish Sea, off the Welsh coast.

As well as eating fish, killer whales regularly hunt seals. Although attacks on humans are rare, experts warn against getting too close. Researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the Sea Mammals Research Unit, at St Andrews, are currently monitoring the population off Scotland, to test theories that the increase in sightings is down to a growth in numbers, and not simply better recording.

Andy Foote, from the University of Aberdeen, has, this summer, been studying numbers found off the Shetland Islands, where the pods of up to 100 have been seen.

"That sort of sighting does seem to be on the increase," he said. "The killer whales shift their migration and distribution quite drastically. Fish like herring and mackerel seem to be doing pretty well at the moment, and it makes sense for the killer whales to follow them.

"So in areas where you haven't seen killer whales before, all of a sudden, you are starting to see them. You see more up north, but you do get them turning up further south."

Since the 1950s and 1960s, when Britain's fish stocks began to collapse, few killer whales have been seen in UK waters. No records exist for earlier years, but scientists say there is a possibility the creatures were once more abundant. By comparing sightings from this year with photographs taken of killer whales over the past decade, the researchers have established, by using identifying marks on their fins, that the same ones are being seen repeatedly in UK waters.

Mr Foote added: "Until now, very little has been known about them in British waters. They have been considered as being transient and occasional animals that just move through the area. People thought they were very infrequent visitors. The fact that we are seeing the same ones year after year after year shows that that is wrong.

"Already we have highlighted that we have populations which are resident here for long periods of time, coming back to the same place, year after year after year, while some seem to remain all year around. "Having seen them going after seals here, I certainly wouldn't recommend going too close."

Paul Harvey, from the Shetland Biological Records Centre, which is home to Britain's biggest population, said: "We are definitely seeing more. We know we've got the same animals returning and we have some occurring here throughout the winter. It is a relatively recent phenomenon. If you talk to fishermen, they just didn't used to see them. Now, they see them every time they haul their nets.

"Something has gone on, since about the 1990s, when we first started to see more. We don't know how many pods we are dealing with. That is the value of the new research."

Killer whales – actually the largest species of dolphin – are known to occur in all the world's oceans. Those near the Shetland come close to shore to feast on seals.

"They are more exciting to see than other species," Mr Harvey added. "You see more of them out of the water and they are often doing something, like hunting seals. They are really spectacular."

Rob Lott, from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: "The north of the country has become a stronghold but they do turn up all around the UK. They are opportunistic and their distribution is driven by the prey available to them."

As well as fish and seals, killer whales will also feed on sharks, including great whites, and even other species of whale, including the blue whale – the world's largest animal. They can swim at speeds of up to 30mph and hunt in packs. They grow up to 30ft long and live up to 35 years. Adults eat around four per cent of their body weight each day, while young whales eat up to ten per cent.

By the way I prefer to call them Orcas. V.S.

Check Out Oceana TV


Finally a new internet channel we can go to which is devoted to Ocean Conservation and Marine Research. Considering the fact that the majority of our planet is covered in water there should be no shortage of subject material for this channel!

Oceana TV will begin its broadcast with sections in English and Spanish with the latest news on bluefin tuna and the need to protect vulnerable habitats. Statements by celebrities are also included

The organisation has an archive of more than 50,000 photographs and hundreds of hours of footage that include unpublished images of the oceans around the world

Oceana, the international organisation dedicated to conserving the world's oceans, launches Oceana TV, an Internet television channel in Spanish and English that can be accessed through their web page ( With this new platform, Oceana inaugurates a unique and new communication medium to inform the public about its activities and campaigns using a high-quality audiovisual format.

Oceana has an archive of 500 hours of footage and over 50,000 high-quality spectacular photographs, many of which are unpublished. This graphic collection will be complemented by the participation of marine biologists and those in charge of specific campaigns who will contribute their first-hand knowledge about current issues.

Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana, explains: "Our objective is to make the public aware of the work Oceana carries out in defence of the oceans and seas, and to show the critical situation of many species due to overfishing, the use of destructive fishing gear or contamination. Oceana TV combines scientific rigour with a language that is attractive for all publics. In other words, viewers can simply enjoy the amazing images of the ocean depths, or they can also use the platform to access reports that delve deeper into the information to then make an informed opinion and react on behalf of marine conservation issues."

The channel premiere will consist of three sections:

Ø Oceana TV Special, in which Oceana presents its objectives and some of its most important achievements. The section will include statements by Miguel Bosé and images of celebrities that support Oceana, such as Ted Danson, Hillary Clinton, Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan and Antonio Banderas.
Ø Oceana in Action, the first programme will deal with the critical conservation state of bluefin tuna due to overfishing.
Ø Oceana Documentary, the first edition includes images of ecologically valuable marine habitats and the work carried out by the organisation's research vessels.

The Oceana TV programme schedule will be updated on a monthly basis, so the schedule will always include one or two new sections. Previous sections can still be accessed.

Currently, Oceana has various channels to disseminate information, including a monthly newsletter, an emailed photograph of the month, press releases, as well as many scientific and economic reports and publications that can be accessed through the web page. Most of the material is available in English and Spanish, and in some cases, in other languages such as French, Italian and German.

Access OCEANA TV at

We are sorry to communicate that Oceana TV cannot be accessed through Firefox, but we are trying to solve this inconvenience. You can access it through Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Google Chrome, and Netscape.

If you have any difficulty in accessing Oceana TV or have any comments, please contact us at

Plaza España-Leganitos 47. 28013 Madrid, Spain
Tel.: + 34 911 440 880 Fax: + 34 911 440 890 E-mail: Web:

Oceana is an international organization that works to protect and recover the oceans in the world. Our crew of marine scientists, economists, lawyers, and other contributors are achieving specific and concrete changes in the legislation to reduce the contamination and to prevent the irreversible collapse of fish stocks, to protect the marine mammals and other forms of marine life. With offices in Europe – Madrid (Spain) and Brussels (Belgium), in North America – Washington (DC), Juneau (Alaska), Los Angeles (CA), and in South America – Santiago (Chile). More than 300,000 collaborators and e-activists in 150 countries have already joined Oceana. For more information, visit

Posted by Vern Sampson

Coastal Voices E-Newsletter

Hot off the presses! Check out our Winter 2009 edition of the Coastal Voices E-Newsletter!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Marine Protected Areas

Last month, we asked our readers: "What percentage of the British Columbia coastal waters should be Marine Protected Areas (MPA), in which industrial activities are prohibited and commercial harvests are regulated?"

The votes are in!
26% of you would like to see 1% - 20% of the BC coast reserved for MPAs
21% of you would like to see 21% - 40%
30% of you would like to see 41% - 60%
13% of you would like to see 61% - 80%
8% of you would like to see 81% - 100% of the BC coast reserved for MPAs

A recent telephone poll of 801 British Columbians, conducted by McAllister Opinion Research in September found that 90% of the respondents support the establishment of more MPAs off the BC Coast, with the average respondent interested in seeing 50% of coastal waters protected.

Currently, less than 0.5% of Canada's oceans are protected in federally designated MPAs.

Thank you to everyone for participating in this survey. Check out our new question and make sure to register your vote by February 28!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fish in Japan

The Japan Times Online recently published an interesting article about the future of fish as an integral part of Japan's daily diet. In Japan, people eat more fish than in any other country (nearly 70 KG per capita per year) and Japan's need for seafood has led the people to over fish their own waters and look more and more towards their North American trade partners to provide this culturally important diet staple. A lot of the seafood that we eat in Canada and the United States also has a strong Japanese influence: it seems as though a new sushi restaurant pops up every day in Vancouver. Some of the most coveted types of fish used in sushi are also the species that are most at risk for extinction, such as the bluefin tuna.

Stumbling across the thought-provoking article about the future of seafood in the Japan Times and watching this Washington Post video about bluefin tuna made me curious to learn more about the issue. Are there lessons that we can learn from the Japanese experience? How does the state of Japan's oceans affect the state of our oceans here in Canada?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oceans to Fuel Auto Addiction

I’m not sure what to think of this. It seems like another excuse to mine the sea. In the frenzy to develop alternative fuels, a group in Korea have learned how to turn algae and seaweed into bio-ethanol.

The pluses: This innovation shifts the bio-fuel pressure from agricultural land to the sea, leaving food production areas to feed a hungry world. They also say that the sea based bio-fuel plants grow 6 times as fast as land based biomass. As well, algae and seaweed do not contain lignin and require no pre-treatment before they can get processed into fuel. They also say sea plants absorb 7 times as much carbon dioxide as wood. (The logic in this statement is perplexing. They are proposing to mine the plants that help mitigate the effects of increasing carbon emissions.)

Detractions: The group – the Korean Institute of Technology suggests treating all sizes of algae, from the large kelp forests to single celled spirulina, using an enzyme to break them into simple sugars which get fermented into ethanol. In other words, every green thing that lives in the sea and provides habitat for creatures becomes a potential fuel to maintain our addiction to cars.

What do you think?

Wanted: Big, Old, Fat, Fecund Females

Alas, my title speaks to big, old, fat, fecund female FISH - humans need not apply. For years, fisheries management techniques have guided fishermen to select the large individuals of targeted stocks, either by using size-selective gear or by releasing the smaller fish back into the ocean. This type of conservation technique was put in place with the understanding that we will sustain the stock by allowing younger, smaller individuals to grow to the reproductive age. So, for years, fishermen have caught the bigger, older, fish.
However, recent research on species evolution has thrown these practices into question: now, it seems, we need those big, old, fat fish to sustain our seas. Research indicates that removing larger, older individuals of a population, especially reproducing females, may actually undermine stock replenishment. Larger, older females often produce significantly more and stronger offspring than the smaller ones. "The larvae of these older females may also be larger, with greater fat reserves that can aid growth and survival [...] Older females can also have earlier and/or longer spawning seasons than younger, smaller females, and the fact of their longer lives may allow them to outlive periods of low larval recruitment." [1] This idea has come to be known as the BOFFFF (Big Old Fat Fecund Female Fish) hypothesis, developed by Steven Berkeley at the University of California at Santa Cruz with his study of Pacific rockfish.

There are now studies that show how removing BOFFFFs and other large adults from our oceans can result in evolutionary changes over time. A recent New York Times article discusses how human acts of selection run counter to the acts of selection found in nature:

Predators typically take “the newly born or the nearly dead,” Dr. Darimont said. For predators, targeting healthy adults can be dangerous, and some predator fish cannot even open their mouths wide enough to eat adult prey. Animals raised as livestock are typically slaughtered relatively young, he said, and farmers and breeders retain the most robust and fertile adults to grow their herds or flocks.

But commercial fishing nets and other gear that comply with conservation regulations typically trap large fish while letting smaller ones escape. Trophy hunters typically seek out the largest animals. And for some fish in some areas, as much as 50, 60 or even 80 percent of the stock may be caught every year.

“Targeting large, reproducing adults and taking so many of them in a population in a given year — that creates this ideal recipe for rapid trait change,” Dr. Darimont said.

There still needs to be much more research done on the topic of fisheries-induced evolution, but as the initial studies show, big adult individuals might be a lot more important to our healthy oceans than we realize.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mass Migration of Stingrays

All I can say is this is an amazing sight to behold.

Looking like giant leaves floating in the sea, thousands of Golden Rays are seen here gathering off the coast of Mexico. The spectacular scene was captured as the magnificent creatures made one of their biannual mass migrations to more agreeable waters.

Gliding silently beneath the waves, they turned vast areas of blue water to gold off the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. Sandra Critelli, an amateur photographer, stumbled across the phenomenon while looking for whale sharks.

She said: 'It was an unreal image, very difficult to describe. The surface of the water was covered by warm and different shades of gold and looked like a bed of autumn leaves gently moved by the wind. It's hard to say exactly how many there were, but in the range of a few thousand'

'We were surrounded by them without seeing the edge of the school and we could see many under the water surface too. I feel very fortunate I was there in the right place at the right time to experience nature at its best'

Measuring up to 7ft (2.1 meters) from wing-tip to wing-tip, Golden rays are also more prosaically known as cow nose rays.

They have long, pointed pectoral fins that separate into two lobes in front of their high-domed heads and give them a cow-like appearance. Despite having poisonous stingers, they are known to be shy and non-threatening when in large schools.

The population in the Gulf of Mexico migrates, in schools of as many as 10,000, clockwise from western Florida to the Yucatan.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Study on Ocean Acid Levels

Previously I have posted about the acidification of our oceans, so I thought I would share a new study, published in the academic journal Science and financed by the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, The Royal Society, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, United Nations Environmental Program, the Pew Charitable Trust and the U.K. Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

This study finds that calcium carbonate crystals, produced by bony fish to dispose of the excess calcium ingested through seawater, contribute to maintaining ocean alkalinity when these crystals are excreted and dissolved in the ocean.

This study gives us just one more reason to try to keep our oceans full of healthy fish!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ocean - An Illustrated Atlas

The New York Times recently published an article about Sylvia A Earle, the co-author of National Geographic's "Ocean: An Illustrated Atlas". After reading this article about Earle, I was very intrigued by her book. As an ardent book lover, I always have space on my shelf for more books, and now I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this one. Amazon promises me "key concepts, points of interest, and little known facts [...] [a]stonishing full-color photographs and diagrams [that] reveal the beauty and complexity of ocean life. Unprecedented new full spread maps of the ocean floor—hand-drawn by expert cartographers—reveal the five major oceans in astonishing details." It sounds like this atlas will serve as a great resource to help me better understand the oceans that I am working to preserve.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blue is the New Green - Family Film Nights on Haida Gwaii

BBC's Deep Blue Trailer

This weekend, Haida Fisheries and the Haida Oceans Technical Team offered a Family Film Night in Masset on Friday and in Skidegate on Saturday. Living Oceans Society helped to sponsor this event, so I was able to go up to Haida Gwaii to talk about Living Oceans and to watch the videos in both communities.

The first movie shown was "Once Upon a Tide" - a fantastic 10-minute animated film created by the Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. This film tells the story of a young girl's first trip to see the ocean. To watch this video you can visit the Once Upon a Tide website.

The second film that was shown was the BBC's Deep Blue (see above for the video trailer), a 90 minute film comprising of amazing footage of the incredible life found in our oceans around the world.

After watching these two films, it is hard to remain indifferent about our oceans. I hope that the community members who took part in the film night will also plan to attend Gaaysiigang - An Ocean Forum for Haida Gwaii on January 22-24.

On a personal note: I found my weekend up in Haida Gwaii quite valuable as well. Seeing a new place on the PNCIMA coast and being able to talk to the intelligent, invested, and gracious people who live there helped me to (once again) see the value in integrated marine planning. As the movie demonstrated, we all rely on the ocean to provide us with many different vital services. Planning for our oceans needs to incorporate the interests of everyone (and everything) that shares our coast. And what a beautiful coast it is!

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Why Storms are Good News for Fishermen"

I always knew that weather played a role in how many fish I caught on a given day. I'm a fair weather fisher, so if the weather is bad, I stay at home! But, for those more dedicated fishermen and fisherwomen (sidenote: are women fisherMEN as well?) and for those who fish for a living, it turns out that the weather plays a pretty important role in a given fishing harvest.

According to an article in the New Scientist, individual storms or particularly cold winters can lead to bumper fish harvests years later:

In many cases [...] it comes down to the survival of the young. "It's all about making it through that first summer," says Nicholas Bond of the University of Washington in Seattle

Take the walleye pollock in the Bering Sea off Alaska, the basis of the largest single fishery in the world. [...] When Bond looked at the years in which high numbers of young pollocks survived, he found they were characterised by summer storms.

Storms matter because they bring up deep water rich in the nutrients essential for the growth of phytoplankton. "These events essentially fertilise the oceans," says Bond. During calm summers, phytoplankton growth slows early as the nutrients brought up by winter storms are used up. Summer storms refresh the surface waters, allowing phytoplankton to continue thriving - and young pollock to grow fat.

While predicting individual storms is not possible, says Bond, predicting their effects is. Three years after a stormy summer, when pollock that hatched in the good year become large enough to be caught, catches will rise. Recent falls in pollock numbers could be partly due to a series of calm, warm summers, he says, although 2006 was a good year for young pollock."

The case of the pollock mentioned above is just one example of harvest variability that is shown with changing weather conditions. Also mentioned in this article are salmon, crab, cod, tuna, and anchovies. Having climatic insight into a given fishing season's potential yield, 3 years in advance, could help to reverse the effects of the mismanagement of our fisheries here on the Pacific North Coast.

With many other fisheries teetering on the brink, these new insights could prove vital. If we can predict how fish numbers will vary naturally months or even years in advance, managers can reduce quotas before stocks are decimated, or increase them when conditions are favourable.

To read more about how different marine species are impacted by a change in climate, visit the full article in issue 2689 of the New Scientist.

Ocean Health Data - Just a click Away

Check this out! An interactive mapping website has just been launched showing the cumulative impact of human activities on marine ecosystems around the world.

The tool allows you to view maps of cumulative human impacts on oceans anywhere in the world. You can also produce a summary report that includes explanations for the impact scores. Just zoom in on an area of ocean you are curious about and then with a quick left-click a detailed data summary popup will appear.

For example, when I zoom in and click on the area around the Vancouver harbour the pop up says the ocean based pollution index is .490 (the maximum is 1.00). Clicking on the area between the north island and the Queen Charlottes, the pollution index is .197.

Other indicators include: Organic pollution, Sea temperature increase, Demersal (the area just off the ocean bed) destructive fishing, UV radiation Nutrient runoff, Pelagic (any water in the ocean that is not near the bottom) high-bycatch fishing, Demersal non-destructive high-bycatch fishing, Ocean acidification, Pelagic low-bycatch fishing, Direct human impact (population pressure), Oil rigs.

You also get a summary of human activities. For the Vancouver harbor area:
· High levels of human activity related to Ocean acidification and UV radiation.
· Moderate levels of human activity related to Ocean-based pollution and Sea temperature increase.
· Low levels of human activity related to Demersal non-destructive low-bycatch fishing, Demersal non-destructive high-bycatch fishing, Artisanal fishing, Organic pollution, Inorganic pollution, Pelagic low-bycatch fishing, Demersal destructive fishing, Commercial shipping and Nutrient runoff.
· No human activity related to Oil rigs, Direct human impact (population pressure), Pelagic high-bycatch fishing and Invasive species.

This is one of those web sites you’ll want to play around with for a while and then bookmark for future reference.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ocean and Climate Advocate to head NOAA

There is another encouraging piece of news for the oceans from south of the border. President-elect Barack Obama has tapped Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, one of the US’s most prominent marine biologists, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This along with Tuesday’s announcement about the designation of 200,000 square miles of marine reserves in the South Pacific (see Bush’s Ocean Legacy below) bode well for oceans and climate.

Lubchenco, a conservationist who has devoted much of her career to encouraging scientists to become more engaged in public policy debates, is also a vocal proponent of curbing greenhouse gases linked to global warming. Apparently over the years, Lubchenco has also been critical of the agency for not doing enough to curb overfishing. This sounds hopeful; she is now in charge of the agency she was critical of.

Obama has selected a woman, the first to head the agency, and one who's both a respected researcher and been an active player in national policy discussions. Andrew Rosenberg, who served as deputy director of NOAA's Fisheries Service under Clinton, praised Lubchenco as an "absolutely world class scientist." He added, "It's saying that science agencies have a role in policy. They need to be tightly connected, and I believe they will be tightly connected under Jane."

Dr. Lubchenco said, "The dialogue is now shifting gears from climate science to climate action. There's still a lot we need to learn about the science, but the events of the past year have ended much of the lingering debate and controversy. The most important question now is what can individuals, communities, states and nations do to reduce and prepare for climate change."

Does that ever sound like a breath of fresh air after 8 years of denials about climate change from the Bush administration.


Last week while having coffee with a friend, I guiltily admitted that since returning to Canada a few months ago, I realize that I can easily go the whole day without ever 'really' being outside. I go from the house to the car to the ferry to the office back to the ferry to the car and back home again. With sidewalks slippery at this time of year, I've moved my outdoor runs into a basement gym, so even my exercise takes place indoors. My friend agreed that many people these days don't get outside as much as they should, and he mentioned Streamkeepers, an organization with which he volunteers in his spare time.

Streamkeepers are groups of volunteers who participate in trainings and workshops about working in and around fish habitat. A small example of the modules provided in Streamkeeper trainings are: streamside planting, streamside fencing, stream invertebrate survey, and salmonoid spawner survey. Streamkeeper volunteers go out to local creeks and streams, collect and report data, and maintain the stream and surrounding environment. They also do a lot of community outreach: have you ever walked by a roadside drain and seen a yellow fish painted beside it, reminding you that the water flowing into that storm drain flows directly into a nearby creek? That reminder comes courtesy of your local Streamkeeper group.

There are Streamkeepers groups throughout British Columbia; and I'm going to look into joining one locally. It's the perfect remedy for my recent indoors-dominated lifestyle.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bush's Ocean Legacy

Thank God for ego! Did I say that? If it weren’t for George Bush’s need to create a positive legacy for his presidency, nearly 200, 000 square miles of ocean would never be designated as conservation areas.

Tuesdays formal announcement about this conservation move inspired Diane Regas, manager of the ocean program at the Environmental Defense Fund to say, "The president has given the world a Texas-sized gift.”

The politics behind this move reflect a lot about the Bush White House. Apparently Vice President Dick Cheney tried to block the move but Laura Bush took a rare step and became quite engaged in policy making. She arranged briefings for White House staff and from scientists in support of the plan in order to silence the Cheney lobby.

The marine reserves are all in the South Pacific. The areas include the Mariana Islands in the western Pacific (which includes Guam where a major US-Japanese battle occurred in WWII), a chain of remote islands in the central Pacific, and the Rose Atoll off American Samoa.

The Marianas Marine National Monument will protect the Mariana Trench - deeper than Mount Everest is tall and five times the size of the Grand Canyon - and a string of 21 active volcanoes and thermal vents. Wow!

The area is home to 300 species of stony corals and some of the most diverse fish populations in the Mariana Islands. It also harbours the Micronesian megapode, a bird which uses the heat from the volcanic vents to incubate its eggs.

One wonders if Steven Harper is interested in his legacy. He could become the Conservation Prime Minster and follow through on commitments to marine protected areas and marine planning. Perhaps we should be having tea with Laureen Harper to see if we can influence oceans policy?

Pacific Salmon Treaty

On Monday, Canada and the United States renewed the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST), first signed in 1985. Some changes were made to the PST, and the renewed chapters "will help to ensure the long-term sustainability of Pacific salmon stocks while supporting an economically viable fishing industry on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border".

While I applaud the Honorable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, (in picture) for continuing to keep long-term sustainability of Pacific salmon stocks on the agenda, I can't help but feel a little pessimistic. This treaty was first signed 24 years ago, and for the past 24 years, fish population and ocean health has declined - largely a result of poor fisheries management practices.

The renewed treaty will remain in place until 2018, at which point I assume it will be reviewed and renewed again. Or perhaps by that time, it will no longer be necessary, because there will be no remaining wild Pacific salmon to protect.

A gloomy thought...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Oil Hungry Nation

Some news from south of the border shows how important it is to maintain British Columbia’s moratorium on offshore drilling. Besides the reality that spills can have devastating effects on sea life, the hungry oil companies seem to be waiting for any opportunity to drill.

I didn’t know it, but America’s 27 year old moratorium on offshore drilling was allowed to lapse this last year when Congress failed to renew it. So now, a nation addicted to oil, with a new president and new adminstration, is considering drilling off the coasts of both Oregon and California. Seizing on this, the Department of the Interior has moved to open some or all of federal waters, which begin 3 miles from shore and are outside of state control for exploration beginning in 2010. This means there could be drilling rigs as early as 2012.

The surprising thing is that Obama is somewhat vague on how he is going to respond to this. As well, his designated interior secretary and head of the nation's ocean-drilling agency, Sen. Ken Salazar, hasn't said what he would do in coastal waters. And Obama, while indicating he wants to move America away from its addiction to oil, has also implied that he is open to the idea of offshore drilling if it is part of a comprehensive package, adding that he would turn over the question to his team.

Even more frightening is this: "We've been encouraged that the president-elect has chosen Sen. Salazar," said Dan Naatz, vice president for federal resources with the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a group with 5,000 members that drill 90 percent of the oil and natural gas wells in the United States. "He's from the West, and he understands federal land policy, which is really key."

Much of this activity began last summer when fuel prices shot through the roof and America was wrestling with foreign oil dependency issues. We are prone to the same forces here in Canada and therefore must remain vigilant that the BC moratorium remains!