580 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, British Columbia

Lament For A Nation’s Oceans
A lament—a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. A fair depiction of how one might feel about the state of the oceans? Unduly strong? Overly pessimistic? And does a lament necessarily imply irretrievable loss? Or can it identify targets for politically supported, scientifically defensible strategies for conservation and recovery? Since the extension of the Exclusive Economic Zone to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) in 1977, a single human generation has passed during which Canada’s oceans have experienced historically unprecedented biological change. The Atlantic has borne witness to the greatest numerical loss of a vertebrate in Canadian history, the Atlantic Cod. The iconic Pacific salmon and Canada’s largest fish (Basking Shark, White Sturgeon), all of which depend on the coastal waters of British Columbia, are imperilled throughout much of their respective ranges. The Arctic, no longer a refuge from the environmental detritus of socio-economic ambivalence, is home to culturally and biologically integral species, such as Polar Bear and Beluga Whale,That are increasingly threatened with extinction. Biological depredation of the waters bordered by the longest coastline in the world ultimately reflects ineffectual leadership and disingenuous commitment to environmental sustainability. There is a clear need to replace governmental and societal lip service with meaningful responses to over-exploitation, habitat alteration, and climate change. Such responses will almost certainly require: committed, honourable leadership; legislative restructuring of ocean governance responsibilities; environmentally- informed consumer choices; historical perspective; and acceptance of the inevitable short-term, socio-economic costs — to be borne by all Canadians — that will be required to achieve longer-term, societal benefits. Recovering and maintaining the health of our oceans is a non-negotiable responsibility to future generations that we neither can afford, nor have the right, to ignore.

Dr. Hutchings is a Professor of Biology and the Canada Research Chair in Marine Conservation and Biodiversity at Dalhousie University. He is also the Chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada — the national science advisory body responsible for advising the federal Minister of the Environment on the status of species at risk in Canada. Additional professional responsibilities have included: Editor of Canadian Journal of Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences; founding Member of the Governing Council for the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution Member = and Co-Chair of the Evolution & Ecology Grant Selection Committee of NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Editorial Board Member for Proceedings Royal Society B, Evolutionary Applications, and Environmental Reviews; and Member of the Royal Society of Canada’s Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology and Committee on Expert Panels.

Official Website: http://www.sfu.ca/cstudies/science

Added by coastalcentre on October 6, 2008

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