On February 16, 2017, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced a variety of measures supporting the Vancouver Aquarium’s ocean protection agenda. While addressing 150 stakeholders at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Watch report launch, the Minister announced more than $1 million in support for two new research projects that will monitor contaminants and investigate their impacts in the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. He also outlined measures to address threats to whales.

Minister LeBlanc announced more than $1 million in support for our ocean protection agenda on February 16.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is providing $399,000 to Coastal Ocean Research Institute (CORI) to implement PollutionTracker, a program that collects data on a wide range of ocean contaminants. DFO is also providing $215,000 to the Vancouver Aquarium to support a new scientific project that, for the first time, will study microplastics in the Arctic Ocean and their biological effects on marine life. An additional $520,000 of in-kind support to this project will assist the Aquarium in collecting the samples.

“The Minister’s funding helps expand critical research, filling the urgent need for data on a wide range of pollutants in coastal British Columbia, and facilitates the use cutting edge scientific capacity and instrumentation to identify sources of microplastics in the ocean,” said Dr. Andrew Day, executive director of the Vancouver Aquarium’s CORI. “This partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada will help us all understand what needs to be done to protect ocean life and human health for future generations.”

Microplastics are barely visible litter that may be deliberately manufactured (microbeads) or may result
from the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic or textiles.

The Minister also announced measures related to marine mammals. These included the expansion of an underwater noise-monitoring network, supporting CORI’s ongoing work to understand and mitigate noise impacts on whales and sea life. Earlier in the week, CORI released a Mariner’s Guide to Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises of Western Canada to help address threats to whales and dolphins. The Minister also made a commitment to reviewing plans and recovery strategies related to Southern Resident killer whales and St. Lawrence belugas – two endangered cetacean populations that have been the focus of important studies by CORI.

“Marine mammals are sentinels of ocean health; right now, trends in these populations are not good,” said Day. “Urgent action is needed to increase our understanding of what is happening to them, and we need to act immediately on what we already know.

Established by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre to measure and monitor the health of coastal ecosystems on Canada’s West Coast, the Coastal Ocean Research Institute produces and communicates scientific knowledge and understanding about Canada’s West Coast. www.vanaqua.org/oceanresearch

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