Recent news out of Canada regarding whales has not been good. The endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, numbering fewer than 500, saw 17 whales killed in 2017. Entanglements in fishing gear or from collisions with shipping were the cause of most of the deaths. The Canadian government responded by regulating the length of the fishing season and asking ships to slow their speed in the presence of whales.
Whales Thought Extinct are Sited
Because of these sad circumstances on the Atlantic Coast it was with great relief that news from the Pacific coast was received. (photo – Christin Khan, NOAA)
Sei whales have not been seen off the Pacific coast in more than 50 years. They were feared to be extinct. So, a recent sighting of five of these endangered whales swimming in a pod of fin whales was welcome news. Canadian marine scientists were very excited to know that although they exist in limited numbers they still inhabit Canadian waters.
Sei Whales Discovered Using Acoustic Sonar
“Sei whales are so rare nobody is actually completely sure what they sound like here in the Northeast Pacific,” said Doniol-Valcroze a research biologist. “We started hearing those sounds that sounded very similar to what sei whales were recorded doing elsewhere. We started hearing them more and more and that led us to finding them and seeing them for the first time in many years.”
Before being targeted by whalers there were more than 60,000 sei whales in the North Pacific. Whaling was finally banned in the 1960’s but it was thought that it was too late for the Canadian sei whales.
Great Whites Tagged In Waters Off Nova Scotia
For the first time, Canadian researchers were able to tag great white sharks In North Atlantic waters off Eastern Canada. Satellite tags were attached to three great whites during an expedition off Nova Scotia.
The sharks were all healthy males. The third shark was named “Hal” in honor of the inhabitants of the city of Halifax.
Researchers from the marine research organization Osearch said the next target is to tag a female great white. That data will tell them a great deal regarding migration patterns “with the ultimate goal of locating the baby sharks and finding the nursery.” 9photo – Osearch)
“Looking after and finding the nursery is kind of the holy grail of the work, because that’s where the sharks are most vulnerable,” said Chris Fischer, the Founder of Osearch.
One of the primary causes of whale mortality is entanglement in abandoned fishing gear, commonly referred to as “ghost gear.” Spurred on by the deaths of North Atlantic Right Whales off Canada’s east coast, the government has joined an international alliance to rid the world’s waters of unwanted fishing nets.
Canada is now a member of the World Animal Protection’s Global Gear Initiative. The GGGI includes 13 countries, companies and environmental groups.
This good news from Canada was announced during the G7 meeting of Environment, Energy and Oceans Ministers in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The focus of this G7 meeting was on finding ways to eliminate plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.
“Canada’s agreement to sign on to this initiative is a game changer. Our country has the longest total coastline in the world and Canada is sending a clear message that it is a leader in tackling ghost gear, protecting vulnerable species, improving the health of marine ecosystems, as well as safeguarding fishing industry livelihoods,” commented Josey Kitson, of World Animal Protection regarding the announcement.
Abandoned fishing gear is estimated to make up nearly half, by weight, of the 80,000 tons of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Eliminating ghost gear will not only protect whales but seals, sea turtles and whale sharks. Almost all types of marine life that have been trapped or injured in abandoned fishing gear. See: Can Hi-Tech, the U.N. and Drones Defeat Ghost Gear? for an update on all the efforts to fight this plague in the ocean.
Combating the Ocean’s Plastic Pollution Plague
Canada joining the fight against ghost gear is an important step in the country’s commitment to reduce ocean plastics, but it is not the only new initiative. Also pledged at the G7 meeting in Halifax was a plan by the Canadian Government to eliminate 75% of all single-use plastic waste from federal operations by 2030. (photo – Greenpeace)
“We can’t just be talking about what everyone else needs to do. We need to be taking action” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
The government’s goal is to eventually remove all plastic straws, cups, cutlery, packaging and bottles from all government offices and operations. Equally of importance is to use the purchasing power of the government to lead the private sector in this transition to a zero plastic waste future.
“I’m putting on notice all of our caterers, all of our hotels, those who we procure products from, the buildings we use — we are going to be looking at your operations, and we will be working with amazing suppliers who are committed also to the zero plastic waste vision.” Said McKenna who also pointed to Canadian cities like Vancouver and Montreal that have passed legislation to ban or reduce the use of single-use plastic bags that “take five seconds to make” but can last “in our oceans for five centuries.”
Included in the announcement was the creation of a $12 million fund to drive innovation in the production of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics, saying ‘It’s time to turn trash into cash.” In the sights of the new funding are four types of plastic commonly used in packing, building and construction, textiles and consumer products.
“Additionally,” McKenna announced, there will be “a $65 million investment through the World Bank for an international fund to address plastic waste in developing countries.”
The Ocean Plastics Charter
The Ocean Plastics Charter that the Canadian government has been advocating during the G7 calls for national governments to set standards for recycling and eliminating plastics instead of landfilling them.
Leaders of the European Union and five of the G7 countries have signed onto the charter.
Japan and the United States are the two countries present at the G7 that did not sign the Charter. (photo – Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)
More Good News From Canada
During the G7 meeting in Halifax, Canada stepped up on a number of additional issues that can have impact on the health of the oceans. Starting with an investment of $11.6 million to fight illegal and unregulated fishing, around the world. Canada also pledged to support the Global Fishing Watch in their efforts “to promote healthy, productive and resilient oceans through transparent and effective governance of its marine resources.”
Building Resilient Coastal Communities Worldwide
Realizing that one out of five Canadians lives in communities along the ocean’s coasts, Canadians share the challenges that face inhabitants of small island nations worldwide.
Faced with threats from climate change and rising sea levels, Canada pledges to “provide $60 million to help small island developing states (SIDS) build back better after extreme weather events notably by accelerating their transition to cleaner energy systems.” For an overview of Canada’s Oceans Agenda, please visit this webpage at Global Fishing Watch.
“The health of our oceans is in danger and the time to act is now. Hundreds of thousands of Canadian jobs rely on sustainable oceans. Our Government is working with our international partners, including those in the G7, to combat illegal fishing, support ocean science, and tackle marine plastics. This way, we can protect our beautiful coasts and build prosperous, stronger, and more resilient coastal communities. Healthy oceans mean a healthy, thriving and growing Canadian economy,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
All of these initiatives are elements of a massive $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan that has been put forward as a counterweight to blunt some of the criticism the government has received for their projected Trans Mountain Pipeline connecting the oilfields of Alberta with shipping terminals in British Columbia.
By Blue Ocean Network
See These Related Blue Ocean Articles:
How To Get More Ocean-Hearted Intel Delivered To Your Inbox!
We believe ocean lovers can change the world. If you care about the health of the ocean and want to do something about it, then connect with the Blue Ocean tribe: Our growing community of ocean change-makers is turning ocean lovers into ocean leaders. It starts with you. Join us!