World Oceans Day about Environment and Economy

This Wednesday, June 8th, is World Oceans Day. There are hundreds of events taking place around the world, drawing awareness to the importance of the ocean under this year’s theme of “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet”. Join one of the events to celebrate the importance of our oceans as a reminder that we have an individual and collective duty to interact with oceans in a sustainable manner so as to meet current needs without compromising those of future generations.

World Oceans Day Canada has issued a call to action, “Together we have the power to protect but we must take action now to reduce our carbon footprint, protect marine life, conserve and protect water and waterways. The future of our planet is in our hands. Together we can make a difference.”

Although protection is paramount, it must also be recognized that protection of waterways, biodiversity, and marine life can and must happen in parallel with the recognition that the world’s oceans are a crucial component of the economy and way of life, especially here in B.C.

For centuries the ocean has provided valuable food resources and harvested fisheries for trade and has also acted as the great connector of coastal communities and a vital trading route – both domestically and internationally. Over the past thirty-five years the oceans have increasingly become vital farming grounds for marine animals and plants, and today farm-raised seafood is the most exported agricultural product from our province.

Of the wealth generating industries in the province of B.C. most rely on the marine environment for as a key element of their businesses. Of these businesses and industries, most have taken the UN declaration regarding World Oceans Day very seriously and made it part of their corporate values.

In aquaculture for example one of the most important advancements, of many, over the past ten years has been the ability to do more with less. For salmon farming, the biggest challenge has been the inefficient use of small oily fish such as sardine and anchovies, to include in fish feeds. This has been a pressure on the health of these fish stocks. However we are turning a corner in solving this problem. Developments in non-marine feed ingredients over the past five years, and further advancements that are extremely close to commercialization, are providing a bright future. While maintaining a focus on delivering consumers the highest levels of heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids of any protein source, in salmon aquaculture for example, feed today contains less than 18% marine ingredients, with the remainder coming from terrestrial animal and plant sources.

This matters. Sustainable food production is the single largest environmental challenge we face. Whether we think of climate change, conservation of ecosystems or clean air and water, changing approaches to feeding ourselves is at very centre of our environmental challenges and needs to be a central focus addressing those challenges.