by Susanna Fuller.
Canada was instrumental in creating World Oceans Day in 1992. Recent national commitments to actually meeting internationally agreed targets of protecting 10% of our coastal and marine areas by 2020 have given new hope that perhaps Canada is on its way to becoming the ocean nation that its geography dictates. However, in thinking about what Oceans Day in 2016 means – from the work that the Ecology Action Centre does in Atlantic Canada and beyond, to my overflowing social media accounts full of messaging on what an individual can do to reduce human impacts on the oceans – I found something missing.
The missing piece seems to be ensuring that there is a compelling reason to actually take individual and collective action to better protect our oceans. We are bombarded everyday with so much information, so many reasons to take better care of our environment, so many petitions, sign ons, pledges etc that even for the most ardent environmentalist, choosing when and where to take action can seem overwhelming.
In order to work on ocean conservation and in order to take any individual action that may benefit or be seen to benefit the ocean, one needs to actually care and feel a deep motivation that overrides well-heeled and engrained habits. The basic human characteristic of caring comes most often from spending time in a place, experiencing emotions that can be intangible at the time, profound in a moment or life changing. It comes from making the time and space to set other things aside and allow ourselves to feel a sense of wonder.
Recently, the EAC marine staff made the space and time to head out to the ocean, to the Bay of Fundy whose tides are the highest in the world. Spending an afternoon on the mudflats, watching the eagles fly above, seeing the blue herons bide their time in the tide pools waiting for the perfect fish, glimpsing the ebbing tide that carried with it many species of fish who travel to and fro in search of feeding grounds and spawning areas was nothing short of magical. Taking the few minutes to bend down and examine the fragile sand formed homes of tube worms and amphipods and the slimy trails of moon snails felt was an incredible reminder of the amazing diversity of life that is supported by the marine environment.
That afternoon was a reminder to make the time to allow the ocean to wash away everyday worries and stress and to remember the benefits to our physical and mental well-being. From providing a natural source of protein, to the best possible cool down on a hot summer’s day, to generating livelihoods for so many people, to regulating our struggling climate and pumping out over 50% of the oxygen we need to survive, the ecosystem services of the ocean are invaluable.
On this Oceans Day, the most important pledge we can make is to find it in ourselves to care enough about the state of the oceans, fisheries, impacts of climate change, ever increasing amounts of plastic that make their way to the ocean. That caring starts with spending some time by the sea as if with an old friend, to reconnect and dredge up old emotions and create new ones that compel us to care. Then, it is time to pay attention to important and concrete actions that have been put forth by oceans conservation organizations around the globe. I’ve listed just a few below, pick on or two and remind yourself to make every day Oceans Day and do your part in reforming Canada’s ocean legacy.
David Suzuki Foundation is asking people to send a letter their elected representatives demanding better protections for Canada’s three oceans and coastline.
Choose your seafood carefully, by following advice provided by SeaChoice.
If you are in Halifax, several Oceans Week events can be found here.
Susanna D. Fuller is a Senior Marine Conservation Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax. She also sits on the board of directors of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition and on the steering committee of SeaChoice and the High Seas Alliance. Mostly, she likes to spend time in, on and near the ocean.