The Arctic is in the grip of unprecedented change and is warming at twice the rate of any other region in world.
Fundamental threats such as man-made pollutants contaminating the marine food web and climate change, are giving rise to complex changes in Arctic weather, ocean currents, sea levels, and sea ice formation. These dramatic shifts affect the stability of the climate and landscape and threaten the survival of plant and animal species as well as the livelihood of Northern and Indigenous people. As sea ice melts, there is more possibility of industrial development such as oil and gas, shipping and fishing.
For more than 45 years, the Vancouver Aquarium has been leading expeditions, research and education programs in Canada’s North in order to call attention to the crucial role this region plays in Canada’s ecology, economy and sovereignty. It is our duty to protect the Arctic’s vulnerable ecosystems; which is why Vancouver Aquarium supports Tuesday’s announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Obama of their commitment to actions ensuring a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem. Low-impact shipping, science based management of fishing and marine resources, and freedom from the future risks of offshore oil and gas activity are all important parts of addressing challenges in the Arctic.
This great step forward for Canada aligns with Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre’s longstanding commitment to protecting a fragile ecosystem that is important to us all. The Vancouver Aquarium’s We Need Our North campaign aims to advance relevant and meaningful Arctic scientific research, build greater awareness and understanding of Arctic issues among the Canadian public, and contribute to building capacity among Arctic communities to direct and implement scientific research that addresses local concerns.
Vancouver Aquarium’s Canada’s Arctic gallery connects more than one million Canadians and international audiences each year about the significant changes and challenges occurring in Canada’s North. The Aquarium is one of the only places in Canada where people can see and learn about Arctic marine life without physically travelling to the north.
In addition, the Vancouver Aquarium works collaboratively with governments, First Nations, businesses, donors, and non-profit organizations in the Arctic, including several areas that align with yesterday’s announcement:
- Protecting and restoring marine ecosystems, particularly marine mammals such as belugas and issues related to noise and contaminants.
- Tracking information about marine mammal distribution and abundance.
- Conducting baseline monitoring of nearshore ecosystems.
- Conducting studies on microplastics in Arctic waters.
- Communicating Arctic issues and science in clear and engaging ways.
- Working with Northern indigenous communities to develop sustainable Arctic fisheries, monitor sea ice, and collect information on important areas for hunting, wildlife and travel.
- Working in partnership with indigenous peoples through our award winning Ikaarvik program.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre thanks Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama for their commitment to Arctic conservation, and look forward to further commitments from all parties in support of a healthy Arctic agenda. We all need our north.