Newcomer’s View of Our Ocean Home

Over the summer, we have the pleasure of having Bryan Nordley join us as our Communications Assistant.  Here, he shares with us some of his thoughts on our oceans.
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Photo: Bryan Nordley
The ocean is the heart beat of our planet. We depend on it for recreation, for food and for our economy. Human life as we know it could not survive without these vast, majestic and mysterious waters that surround and divide our continents.  Our reliance and dependence however places great stress upon the complex ecological systems and species which inhabit the sea. As the human population increases and nations around the world continue to industrialize the world’s oceans will face unprecedented stress and challenges to their ecological well-being. 
Unlike most organisms in the world, humans don’t live symbiotically with their environment, including the ocean, and the problems we create are numerous.  Pollution in particular is a critical problem.  One would think humanity would find occurrences like the Great Pacific garbage patch to be unacceptable yet this offensive toxic bed of floating trash grows each year and is estimated to be anywhere from 270,000 sq mi to 5,800,000 sq mi. In larger terms the estimate is 0.41-8% the size of the Pacific Ocean.
Elsewhere marine traffic such as containers ships and tankers continue to pollutethe air and water across our oceans leaving suspended particles in the water.
Furthermore our release of C02carbon emissions, which contribute to global climate change, actually cycles into our oceans increasing acidification. Ocean acidificationcritically affects species with carbonate shells, like molluscs by impacting their ability to create their shells and survive, and this has a big impacts on ocean ecosystems as many marine species depend on these species for food.  Eventually this problem alone will directly cost coastal nations’ economieswith losses in the billions of dollars. The problem will only be compounded with industrialization of Asia and the global south, whose economies are also most at risk as they rely heavily  on our oceans as a food source for their growing populations (the first article talks about economic impact). These are only a few problems, which plague our seas.
Here in Vancouver, we are surrounded by the beauty of the mountains and the ocean, home to an abundance of marine wildlife.  In my opinion, it is a coexistence unlike any other major city in North America.  Because we are immersed in such beauty, the larger man made problems of our oceans may seem
Photo: Bryan Nordley
 far away. Those who grew up here may not be aware of the rest of world’s oceanic perils but this is often something we take for granted.  Vancouver’s environmental awareness has spawned both from community and political efforts that emerged from dedicated and concerned citizens of British Columbia.  British Columbia’s climate of environmentalism is one of the factors that drives people to come, experience and live here. There are very few places in North America where is it safe and verifiable to swim in a bay with such a spectacular backdrop of a skyline.  Beachesin Vancouver Harbour are regularly safe to swim in, with little to no beach closures throughout the summer. This is in stark contrast to beaches in Los Angeles, with famous destinations like Santa Monica Pier Beach closed 57% of last years season.
Our stewardship as a community  is what makes this place unique and it’s environment so awe-inspiring.  British Columbians love the relative pristine waters of their Georgia Strait, and this unprecedented environment is what drew people like me to want to live here from thousands of miles away. Yet the Strait of Georgia faces many threats like the world at large such as increased tanker traffic and ocean acidification.

But it is the community of advocacy and awareness which helps maintain the health of our waters and protect against such increasing threats.  And this is why programs like Georgia Strait Alliance’s Stewards of the Strait are vital to maintaining the health of our waters and their ecosystem as well as a community of awareness. 

We may not be able to fight against all the greater oceanic problems of our world but we can make changes where we live at the grass roots.  Stewards of the Strait’s pledge system of simple everyday practical steps can help us do our small but important part in protecting  species and ecosystem against harm.  Easing the damage that greater issues may place on them and our environment might not seem like much but a water recreational and beach city constantly interacts with its oceanic environment and if every person does their small part, together as community, we can maintain the health our inland sea, continue to set an example for other oceanic communities and in the process protect our environment for generations to come. 

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