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All is not lost. The Future of the coast after the Enbridge announcement.


By Alexandra Barron, Marine Conservation Coordinator, CPAWS BC

“We were born after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, we took our first steps when the East Coast cod fishery collapsed, and we will never have the opportunity to swim in a pristine ocean.”
Dalhousie Students, Coastal Zone Canada 2014

“Any government worth its salt needs to listen to its NGOs and scientists”
Hon. Paul Martin, Coastal Zone Canada 2014

The past few days have been both inspiring and depressing.

I have been in Halifax Nova Scotia for the Coastal Zone Canada conference, surrounded by scientists, conservationists and policy experts talking about Canada’s ocean legacy and future. 

The conference closed today with a review of the youth session, with an impassioned plea for us to step up and protect the ocean. This was followed by an inspiring speech by Hon. Paul Martin who spoke passionately about the need for Canada to regain leadership of ocean conservation, including marine protected areas (quoting CPAWS latest oceans report) and the high seas.

These inspiring messages were countered by Tuesday’s bitterly disappointing, but expected, announcement from the Federal government regarding the Enbridge decision.

Although we guessed that this would be the outcome, we were disheartened that this decision was made in the face of pleas by local communities, evidence from scientists about both potential direct impacts and climate change, and First Nations legal rights.

But all is not lost. The deal is far from made and the people of British Columbia still have the opportunity, and perhaps obligation, to show our resistance to Enbridge and industrial development of our incredibly rich but tremendously fragile coast. We need to speak up for our Great Bear Sea.

On Monday CPAWS BC launched a new campaign in partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation, Living Oceans Society and WWF Canada, to show public support for our Great Bear Sea and the marine planning work we have been engaged in for the past two years.

When I think of Canada, I think of BC’s rugged coastline and the Great Bear Sea.

The Great Bear Sea is an area of incredible natural beauty. It is home to whales and sea otters, lush kelp forests and eelgrass meadows. Bordered by the last stretch of pristine temperate old growth forest, the oceans are used by, and important to grizzly bears, eagles and coastal wolves. These are iconic species, the emblems of a magnificent Canada “glorious and free”, as we sing about the national anthem. It is an unparalleled natural beauty, the last of its kind.

Sadly the next thing that comes to my mind are the images of oiled seabirds and dead otters in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill some 20 years ago. And of course broken communities, people who lost their livelihoods, their culture, their homes and their health.

This is not the memory that I want to have of the Great Bear Sea.

But there is a vision for the Great Bear Sea. The marine planning work that we have been involved with offers a positive future and a hopeful outlook. The Marine Planning Partnership has brought all different ocean stakeholder around the same table, from fisheries to shipping and conservation, to discuss their use of the ocean and come up with a comprehensive plan to ensure sustainable and careful use of our Great Bear Sea for many years to come, including a network of marine protected areas. To find out more about marine planning.

So please stand with your neighbours across the Province, and the country and stand up for the Great Bear Sea.

Visit http://www.greatbearsea.org and show your support for sustainable use of the region.