Urgent action on climate is needed to halt dangerous rise in ocean temperatures

OTTAWA – Together We Can Protect Our Home, is the theme of this year’s World Oceans Day. Together with other UN member states, Canada has committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. SDG number 14 states that: “The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind.” 

“To have a clear perspective of where we are in the climate crisis, we need look no further than the world’s oceans,” said Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). “Ocean temperatures are rising and are now at record levels, which is alarming for many reasons. Oceans play a crucial role in shaping our climate and weather patterns. Warmer water means more extreme weather events – severe storms, floods, droughts and wildfires not to mention the disruption to coastal communities as sea levels rise. 

“Oceans are increasingly acidic due to increased CO2 in the atmosphere, with colder waters acidifying faster. On the west coast, warming seas are affecting marine ecosystems and threatening the livelihoods of coastal and Indigenous communities. It’s unknown whether they will be able to adapt and survive these changes. Vancouver Island oyster growers have had to move early stage growth to Hawaii as the water off Vancouver Island is already too acidic for shell formation.”

Recent studies have underlined the negative impacts of microplastics and other plastic waste on marine life. Last year the federal government committed to taking action to reduce plastic waste including banning harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021.

“I am encouraged by the government’s commitment to take action on plastic waste,” said Jenica Atwin (MP, Fredericton), Green critic for east coast fisheries, oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard. “It was breathtaking last month to see a humpback whale swimming in the St. Lawrence River. Even though it is highly unusual, even dangerous for these whales to swim that far in freshwater, these glimpses of marine animals remind us of the beauty and splendour beneath the waves. Currently the biggest threats to humpback whales are collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear. There is still a lot of work to be done to protect marine species, but I am optimistic that more awareness will lead to real action.”

“Recent measures taken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to protect Northern Atlantic right whales in Canadian waters are a step in the right direction,” said Green Party Interim Leader Jo-Ann Roberts. “Temporary and seasonal closures of marine areas such as the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Bay of Fundy and the Grand Manan critical habitat area are included in these new protocols. By safeguarding the oceans we are protecting ourselves and the communities that rely on the sea. This is a critical time for climate action and we must not renege on important obligations like our commitment to the SGDs and the Paris Agreement.”

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Rosie Emery

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