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Every Day Should be World Oceans Day!

By Jenn Burt, Marine Planning Coordinator, CPAWS-BC

“What are you up to this weekend?” A common question at any office water cooler or staff lunchroom. As the week drifts by, like many others I know, I am already thinking about my plans for the upcoming days off. And like so many of my weekends, particularly those in the summer time, I will be spending this one near the ocean. Reflecting on this for a moment makes me think about how much the ocean is a part of my life. In many ways, it’s a part of everyone’s life and this weekend happens to be a great weekend to celebrate this concept.

Let’s start with today – it’s World Oceans Day. Did you know that?

As Canadians, one could argue we have even more reason to celebrate this special internationally recognized event. Why?

#1 – It was the government of Canada who first proposed the concept of a “World Ocean Day” at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Go Canada!
#2 – Canada has the longest coastline in the world!
#3 – Canada borders not one, not two, but three remarkable and spectacularly diverse oceans – the wild and rugged northwest Pacific, the icy and incredible Arctic, and the breezy and breath-taking Atlantic.
#4 – Our oceans are totally amazing!

Think about this for a moment – how lucky we are to live amongst such marine richness! For instance, where I live in BC, we have 27 different species of whales, dolphins and porpoises and pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). Just two years ago, I had an incredible experience kayaking out from Telegraph Cove where I was lucky enough to cross paths (at a safe observing distance) with three different pods of killer whales that had come together. I cannot express the glee I experienced watching them interact, vocalize and repeatedly ‘spy hop’ - a cool behavior where they bob up and down in the water (see my amateur video on YouTube). As a Vancouverite, you don’t even have to go far from home to see amazing marine mammals. My friend who lives in Lions Bay (just outside of Vancouver) went kayaking last year in Howe Sound and encountered a pod of dolphins that played, jumped and swam right under her boat!

Our Canadian waters are full of fish. Among the 409 (give or take a few) species living off the B.C. coast, we are fortunate to have species like the Pacific Salmon. These incredible animals serve as an important food source to coastal populations, play a key role in marine food webs, and bring nutrients way up into our freshwater riversheds. I went to go see the sockeye return to the Adams River in 2010 and was blown away by how the river came alive with thousands of bright red spawning salmon. We also have amazing forage fish like Pacific herring and sand lance that swim in huge schools up and down our coast. We have 36 different species of rockfish – very cool looking creatures in the scorpionfish family that can live to be over 100 years old. THAT’S OLD for a fish! And who can forget about halibut? They are in season right now in B.C. In fact, last week my friend invited me over for an incredible dinner of Pacific halibut (a sustainable seafood choice) and a side of local spot prawns. YUM! Just another example of a meal brought to me by the abundance of BC waters!

I could go on and on about our oceans. I didn’t even get started on our spectacular beaches, the dazzling communities that live within our incredible B.C. kelp forests, how great it is drifting in my kayak along our rocky reef coastlines, how my imagination runs wild thinking about the life below me when I’m traveling on a BC Ferry across the Strait of Georgia…the list is infinite.

Today there will be events held across the country to celebrate our oceans. I will start my day by doing yoga with beluga whales (yes, that is correct) as part of a truly cool and unique SeaChoice and Ocean Wise fundraiser. Then I will work with the CPAWS-BC crew to collect signatures for our Dare to be Deep campaign. We are trying to get 12,000 people to endorse a message to the Federal Government to advance marine conservation through the establishment of 12 new marine protected areas by the end of 2012.

Add your voice to this message! We need it. While Canada boasts one of the largest ocean territories in the world, less than 1% of it is protected through meaningful long-term conservation measures. I repeat – LESS THAN 1% - that is simply not good enough for the country with some of the largest and most pristine ocean environments in the world!

World Oceans Day will come and go, and when it is over our oceans will still be there. They will still need conservation ambassadors working hard to ensure their structure, function, and profound beauty remain in tact for generations to come. Really, we should shift our thinking to embrace the fact that every day is a World Oceans Day.

Whether you live on the coast and regularly drink in the seascape sights or you live in the interior and enjoy a nice salmon meal at a restaurant, we are all connected in some way to the oceans…and we must not forget that.

So now that I’ve convinced you that every day should be an “Oceans Day,” do you dare to be deep? Check out these 10 things YOU can do to help protect our oceans!

Get your party hats on and “cel-e-brate good times, come on” – Happy World Oceans Day!