Swept Away by Oceans Week

Guest Contribution by Katie Brennan and James Leslie

As co-chairs of the Marine Issues Committee (MIC) and Ecology Action Centre (EAC), we’re always excited about the ocean. Which is why we were so thrilled to help organize a series of grassroots events in and around Halifax a few weeks ago for World Oceans Week. The week was a big success thanks to a concerted team effort, and contributions from awesome MIC volunteers, as well as Dalhousie Association of Marine Biology Students (DAMS), Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-NS), the Ocean Tracking Network and the Friends of McNab’s Island.

We set out to offer a wide range of activities, with the common theme of celebrating and appreciating the ocean and its ecosystems. Some events focused on education and outreach, such as an Intertidal Scavenger Hunt for middle-school students, the documentary film night, or the oceanography-themed Seacology Kayak tour, while others, such as Yoga by the Sea and the Coastal Hike, allowed participants to simply enjoy the presence of the ocean.  Finally, our Oceans Week Pub Night was the kickoff of Halifax Blue Drinks, a monthly meetup to network and discuss marine and water issues in a social atmosphere.

Yoga by the Sea

Yoga by the Sea

We thoroughly enjoyed the chance to celebrate throughout the week and wanted to share a few highlights:

With Oceans Week approaching, a thoughtful, engaging documentary film was high on our list of possible events.  MIC volunteer Clair Evers proposed the festival award winning film, “Sushi: the Global Catch”.  We agreed that a film about sushi would be interesting on so many levels, connecting ocean conservation, fisheries and fish farm issues, and personal food choices.  Evers secured the film rights, worked with the Natural History Museum to stage the event , and organized a successful and delicious bake sale to fundraise for it all (thank you to all bakers!)

Still shot from the film

Still shot from the Sushi: the Global Catch

The evening of the screening arrived, along with a big rain storm…  The film focused on Bluefin tuna, which are highly prized in the Japanese sushi market, and also a species threatened by overfishing, possibly facing future extinction.  The filmmakers interwove stories from sushi chefs, traditional Japanese fishermen, tuna market buyers, Australian fish farmers (or “ranchers”), and an eco-activist who started the first sustainable sushi restaurant. Among those who braved the weather were representatives from CPAWS-NS, with a petition in support of a national marine park in the Bay of Fundy. Derek Tittensor was on hand to introduce the state of global fisheries, and following the film, EAC’s Rob Johnson talked about the SeaChoice program encouraging the consumption of sustainable fish, and moderated a discussion on the issues raised by the film.

Our Oceans Week Coastal Hike took place on a suddenly sunny afternoon in the Purcell’s Cove Conservation Lands, just minutes away from downtown Halifax.  For this event MIC partnered with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, who provided a guide to lead the one-hour hike, pointing out the ecological wonders along the route.  Our  group of hikers to met at Mumford Terminal, taking public transit together to the trailhead.  A beautiful hike!

Oceans Week Yoga by the Sea took place in Point Pleasant Park beside the Sailor’s Memorial on a warm and sunny Tuesday evening.  MIC volunteer Sonya Lee had reserved the park location and worked with the Ashtanga Yoga Shala to find a yoga teacher to volunteer to lead the practice. As yoginis finished arranging their mats on the grass facing the blue sea, volunteer instructor Amy Schwartz (aka Ninja Yoga) started a flowing series of salutations and postures that were light-hearted but definitely muscle-engaging!  We listened to the waves crashing as we turned our bodies into ocean-themed poses like crabs, dophins, and boats.

Oceans Week was a fitting opportunity to launch this summer’s Seacology kayaking series. This event involved a beautiful paddle around the Prospect area while learning from a naturalist, hosted by East Coast Outfitters. Michelle Lloyd led discussion for this first session of the year, teaching the group about topics such ocean salinity and the different types of plankton. There were also varying levels of kayaking experiences represented but it was enjoyed by all, aided by having a clear and calm evening.

Kayakers ready to learn

Kayakers ready to learn

MIC also used this opportunity to kick off Blue Drinks Nova Scotia, a meeting of people who work with and are concerned by our oceans. The event was held at the Foggy Goggle on Halifax’s Argyle Street, and we had a section reserved for the occasion complete with blue balloons.  A variety of backgrounds and interests were represented, facilitating lively discussion and some laughs over a cold pint. As this turned out be our final Oceans Week event it was a suiting way to be cap off a fun and successful week.

Bring your own mat... to the sea

Bring your own mat… to the sea

The week of celebrating our oceans was lots of fun- but we also helped promote awareness and helped link people together. We had different ways of celebrating through our range of events and each one helped people engage with and around the ocean.  MIC  formed after the groundfish fishery collapse, and seeks to advocate and stand for healthy oceans and fisheries through a variety of methods. This has included outreach and education, which, along with just taking the time to appreciate our marine environment, is what Oceans Week is all about.

Oceans Week is over- but we’ll be celebrating and advocating for our oceans all year long. All MIC meetings are open to the community, and we welcome you to attend and get involved (last Tuesday of each month at 5:30pm).  Volunteers can contribute in many ways, and there is truly something for everyone no matter what your background. Join us and get swept away!

Along with Nikole Poirier, James Leslie and Katie Brennan are the co-chairs of the Marines Issues Committee (MIC) at the Ecology Action Centre. 

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