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NEWS: Harper to close marine pollution unit critical to the health of oceans

The Globe and Mail reports, “Ottawa is shutting down a section of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans responsible for monitoring marine pollution issues (such as the level of hydrocarbons in sediment off the West Coast of Vancouver Island and the amount of polychlorinated biphenyls found in the fat of killer whales in southern Georgia Strait). The unit, which is comprised of about 55 chemists, technicians and research scientists nationally, is being phased out as part of the government’s ongoing austerity drive.”

The article adds, “The group has been providing important early warning signals on the health of our oceans. …That kind of knowledge allows government to draft policies designed to reduce pollutants at source. …The current government, however, is blinding itself to such advance warnings.”

In her book ‘Sea Sick’, Alanna Mitchell examines the current state of the world’s oceans, “the great unexamined ecological crisis of the planet — and the fact that we are altering everything about them; temperature, salinity, acidity, ice cover, volume, circulation, and, of course, the life within them.” Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “‘Sea Sick’ is the most comprehensive book to date on the state of our oceans. With a writer’s eye for detail and a reporter’s expertise in pulling in disparate information, Mitchell has woven a powerful and deeply unsettling story about our collective abuse of the cradle of all life. Fortunately, she also gives us hope and a path forward if we have the wisdom to act.” The closing of the marine pollution unit by the Harper government demonstrates that it lacks that wisdom.

Additionally, the recent documentary ‘Sharkwater’ by Rob Stewart highlights the important role that sharks play in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans. NDP MP Fin Donnelly has even put forward a private member’s bill to make it illegal to import shark fins to Canada. He says, “Scientists are saying we are losing sharks at a dramatic rate around the world and apex predators like sharks play a critical role in maintaining ocean eco-system health.” This past October, CBC reported that, “Conservative MP Alice Wong ate a bowl of shark fin soup at a recent news conference. Wong, who represents Richmond, ate the soup during a news conference at a local restaurant. The restaurant owner is a vocal opponent of a ban on the Asian delicacy.”

And as Toronto-born Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has often stated, “The oceans have been so severely diminished that there’s a good chance we could kill them. If the oceans die, we die! It is as simple as that and, thus, to me, there is no cause more important.”

The Council of Canadians participated in the ‘Death of Evidence’ protest on Parliament Hill this past July. The purpose of that event was to speak out against the recent cuts to many scientific programs and the muzzling of scientists by the Harper government, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=16144. We are also campaigning in support of continued federal government funding for the Experimental Lakes Area freshwater research-science facility, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=17876. At an event in Winnipeg earlier this week, a new 5-minute video — titled ‘Stop the War on Science – Save the Experimental Lakes Area’ — was launched. To watch that video, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cjmlo8yBS4.