Canadians speak proudly about Canada stretching from “sea to shining sea.” Those seas (all three of them, actually) are under serious environmental threat.

As we approach the October 21 Canadian federal election, it is crucial that voters look at the biggest issue there is – the health of our planet and its oceans.

Here are four ocean issues Canadians should demand their political parties address.

1.The climate crisis: Canada is warming at twice the global rate. We have seen the effects in extreme heat waves, unprecedented wildfires, rising sea levels, more intense and frequent storms, and thinning glaciers. The ocean is becoming more acidic and less oxygenated, which affects animal life and fish stocks. It is incumbent on Canada, along with every other country in the world, to reduce our carbon emissions to almost zero in this century. Whichever party is elected will be in charge of encouraging and enabling that change.

2. Fisheries management: When fish stocks shrink, it not only means less seafood for humans, it threatens the entire ecosystem. The Southern resident killer whales –  that rely on a species of salmon whose stocks have dwindled –  are down to an alarming 73 individuals. The recently revised Fisheries Act requires the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to prioritize the restoration of fish habitats, develop and rebuild plans to boost major stocks, and manage these major fish stocks in a sustainable fashion. As voters and as citizens, we must ensure that these requirements are quickly met.  

3. Plastic pollution: Microplastics in our oceans are a giant issue. Ocean plastic does not biodegrade but simply gets worn down into smaller and smaller pieces over time, winding up in the zooplankton that feed the food supply of other ocean creatures and human beings. Canada must stop contributing to the 8 million metric tons of plastic waste that ends up in the world’s oceans every year. While the current government has announced plans to ban single-use plastics (such as bags, straws and cutlery), by as early as 2021, this scheme needs to be crisply defined, with laws passed to impose consequences on major creators of plastic waste. We need leadership here, and we need it as soon as the day after the federal election.

4. Aquaculture management: The Government of Canada announced new standards, and a “holistic’ approach to aquaculture management in December 2018, recognizing that our aquaculture industry generates thousands of jobs. Initiatives includes studies on alternative technologies, (including land- and sea-based close containment); developing a risk-management framework for aquaculture management; and creating a single, comprehensive set of Canadian aquaculture regulations. Have these standards been implemented? What are the other parties promising to do with this portfolio?

It’s essential that our federal government makes the care and management of our oceans a top priority. Ocean health is central to the survival of this country and the wellbeing of its citizens.

Make sure that the party you support on October 21st clearly commits to addressing these fundamental ocean concerns.

Now get to the polls!

Lasse Gustavsson, president & CEO, Ocean Wise

Lasse Gustavsson is the president and CEO of Ocean Wise. He has dedicated his career to nature conservation and sustainable development having served on the leadership teams at Greenpeace International, WWF Sweden, WWF International and Oceana.

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