Realignment of Ocean Science and Policy

by KYauChung on November 6, 2015 - 12:19pm

               Thurton informs of a request to the chosen Liberal government to implement four recommendations published in “Canada at a crossroad: The imperative for realigning ocean policy with ocean science” written by 19 ocean scientist across Canada. The group’s spokesperson, a researcher at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, Dr. Rashid Sumaila is happy about the change of government but also fears the new government will ignore evidence and neglect ocean science once again.

 The previous Harper government was known for cut downs in science funding, destroying archived data and material as well as discontinuing relevant scientific research. This led to a major setback in scientific knowledge in Canada, as well as a temporal economic development from massive commercial fishing at the expense of the environment.  Now, the damage to the environment poses important risks to Canadian ocean ecosystem health which the maritime economy and coastal communities are highly dependent upon.

 The scientists claim that research on the Arctic Ocean is imperative when trying to understand climate change. In addition, the chairs of the Inuvialuit Game Council, representing the aboriginal people who rely on fish for cultural purposes, subsistence and employment, also agrees with some of the recommendations. Gruben adds the need of the Coast Guard to the Western Artic and the restoration of DFO monitoring in the region.

 The problem arises from the Fisheries Act because it only protects fish with a high market value instead of all the fishes which are essential to preserve sensitive ecosystems. Ocean’s resilience has decreased due to commercial fishing, making them more fragile to changes that are certain to come, such as ocean acidification and the warming of water.

In order to repair the damage, the first recommendation is to protect all the fish, not just the valuable ones. Secondly, the government must call on the Oceans Act which says that in our oceans, 10% must be marine protected areas. Thirdly, the implementation of the Species at Risk Act is necessary in order to prevent the extinction of species such as cod. Lastly, scientists must be involved during policy making and the media in order to communicate with society and inform them about possible future decisions.

 I’m glad the scientific field is finally taking traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) into account in their decisions as it had in multiple times proven to be quite effective in answering questions that scientists couldn’t. Most of the time, the interests from the scientific community do not match those of the government. This leads to the government cutting their funding since scientists will resist and perhaps prevent their decisions which most of the time are related to the country’s economy. It is unfair but also a reality which was omnipresent during Harper’s government. It may sound cliché but environment destruction at the expense of the economy must be stopped to prevent further problems in the future.  Overfishing may yield a lot of money right now but what about later when that fish is no longer there?


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