by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Ottawa – Canada’s beautiful West Coast is home to unique marine ecosystems and iconic species, all contributing to the cultural identity of British Columbia. Seamounts, hydrothermal vents and glass sponge reefs highlight the incredible biodiversity that lies below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. But changes to the climate are making the waters warmer, more acidic, less oxygenated, causing some habitat and species loss, and impacting marine food webs. As stewards of our Pacific waters, it is important for us to understand how ocean conditions and aquatic life are being directly and indirectly affected by climate change and human activity, so we can continue to find sustainable solutions to protect and restore coastal areas and deep offshore waters, while ensuring sustainable fishing opportunities for present and future generations.
Today, the Honourable Joyce Murray, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced the release of Canada’s Oceans Now: Pacific Ecosystems, 2021, the fourth report of the annual ocean series on the current status and trends of marine ecosystems in Canada. The report was prepared by Fisheries and Oceans Canada with contributions from Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Government of British Columbia and the Council of Haida Nation. It was endorsed by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO as a United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development activity. Later this month, Minister Murray will be participating in the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal to continue this dialogue with international maritime partners.
The report gives an overview of the health of Canada’s Pacific Ocean and shares our knowledge of the many influences that affect it. It highlights the key challenges facing ocean ecosystems, coastal communities, fisheries and other ocean economies, such as the effects of extreme warming events on species distribution and habitat, and how changes to the marine food web may impact the livelihoods and well-being of coastal communities.
The Government of Canada has made significant progress in recent years, having protected 14.6 per cent of our oceans. By continuing to work with provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners, as well as stakeholders, Canada is on track to conserve and protect 25 per cent of our oceans by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030. Ocean observation, research and monitoring work along with conservation activities help us better understand marine ecosystems and how to protect Canada’s Pacific Ocean. In addition to domestic efforts, Canada is also engaged in a number of international initiatives such as the Global Ocean Alliance, and recently became a member of the newly formed High Ambition Coalition on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction to advance the protection of marine biodiversity.
“We are seeing changes on the West Coast that are significantly affecting our coastal communities. This report contributes to how we understand these changes in the environment. The more we know what is facing ocean ecosystems, the more we can provide sustainable harvest opportunities, while conserving and working to restore marine ecosystems.”
The Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
“We are seeing the effects of high-carbon pollution on disrupted ocean habitats, shrinking ice-sheets and a rising sea level. Our generation has a window of opportunity to halt this pollution and the heating of our climate, which is why our government has set the ambitious but achievable target of reaching net-zero emission pollution. Our Government is also committed to protecting 25 per cent of lands and oceans by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030, because we know conservation is one of the best ways to fight climate change and support biodiversity.”
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“The information in this report provides important insight to what is happening below the surface of the Pacific Ocean as we continue to grapple with the effects of climate change. By working together, we are supporting coastal communities and First Nations while ensuring B.C. seafood will be available for future generations.”
Fin Donnelly, Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Government of British Columbia
- The Pacific Ocean covers almost 30 per cent of the earth’s surface and absorbs heat and carbon dioxide. This is causing warmer and more acidic surface waters, lower oxygen levels, and more frequent and extreme marine heatwaves.
- Daily sea surface temperatures along the coast of British Columbia over the past 80 years show coastal waters have warmed about 0.7°C.
- Warm ocean temperatures have changed the zooplankton community with consequences for fish, seabirds and the entire Pacific marine food web.
- Climate change alters the ecosystems that Canada’s Pacific salmon depend on at every stage of their life cycle.
- Humpback whales, sea lions and sea otters are recovering from hunting and the Bigg’s killer whale population is growing.
- Scientists use tools and technologies like gliders, saildrones, acoustics, remotely operated vehicles, drop and stereo cameras, and environmental DNA to monitor changes in our Pacific waters.
- The United Nations proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, beginning in 2021, to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and ensure a sustainable ocean for future generations.