Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Good news for marine habitat in the States

The last few days have seen a flurry of oceans-related activity in the States. Last week, the U.S. government approved an Arctic fisheries management plan that places a moratorium on commercial fishing in the U.S.' waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.. The plan was recommended in a unanimous vote by the U.S. North Pacific Fishery Management Council after several years of research and consultation. This was done in the spirit of precaution, as very little is currently known about Arctic marine ecosystems - too little to allow a sudden influx of industrial-scale commercial fishing as the Arctic sea ice recedes. Now, there are reports that Canada is considering similar actions - although they apparently aren't too happy about the borders that the Americans claimed in their moratorium.

On the east coast, the environmental group Oceana reports that four deepwater canyons located in the U.S.' Atlantic waters will be closed to bottom trawling and dredging starting November 1, 2009. This is being done in order to protect deep sea corals, sponges, and other critical habitat features from the impacts of these fishing gears - which are known to be among the most damaging gears used in Canada, as well. Of course, here on Canada's Pacific coast we have areas that are closed to protect the famous glass sponge reefs, but no protections for our own deep sea corals - which is why Living Oceans decided to take the lead by conducting the Finding Coral Expedition this summer. But I digress....

Now, for full dislcosure I am an American (an Ohioan, specifically, which is not the same thing as an Iowan or an Idahoan, no matter how similar they sound). I've been in Canada for about 3 years now, and one thing that I've noticed is that even the nicest Canadians tend to assume that the States lag behind Canada in environmental protection. However, this often doesn't seem to be the case - for example, the States have had an Endangered Species Act since 1973, whereas Canada just enacted the Species at Risk Act in 2002. Another example: here on the west coast, Canada lags far behind the U.S. in protecting habitat from bottom trawling. With the latest fisheries management decisions, the States continue to demonstrate what seems to be a growing commitment to protecting habitat and managing in a precautionary manner. Meanwhile, we're still waitin' on that coral protection up here in B.C...

So, my questions to you are: do you think Canada tends to be stronger or weaker than the U.S. when it comes to overall environmental protection, and why?


  1. America seems to be stronger but they are still Americans so we are better. Sorry.

  2. As an ex-pat yank I've had some similar observations. My (obvious??) thought is that Canada's vast wild-lands, low population and economic dependence on extraction foster a view of nature as a set of exploitable resources. Similar views were driving factors in the US westward expansion and teh growth of resource-based industries there. I'm sure these views are still prevalent south of the border but they may be ebbing--perhaps due to more-rapid exhaustion of the US supply of nature.