The greatest mystery left on Earth is our oceans. It’s the final frontier: A dark, deep, cold, pressurized world posing many obstacles to scientific researchers. We know more about the surface of the moon than the ocean floor.
Historically, the prevailing wisdom was the oceans were so vast that humanity could not appreciably impact its bountiful resources. No longer. Fishery after fishery has been depleted.
Now we know the world’s ocean ecosystems face great peril from overfishing and climate change. That affects B.C. With our 320-kilometre limit, a third of our province is actually underwater. And our economy depends on that third.
But our deep blue resource continues to be plundered. Scientists know fisheries can’t produce fish from nothing: Fish are products of — and participants in — complex functioning ecosystems. Yet bottom trawlers scrape our ocean floor as if it were a supermarket aisle to be vacuumed clean.
Worldwide, fish populations have been decimated. More people, less fish. It’s unsustainable.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can help. They’re essentially parks. Left alone, they can often regenerate healthy marine ecosystems.
It’s a no-brainer we need MPAs. And we need our governments to get serious about creating them. We need governments to boldly go where few governments have gone before.
Kai Chan is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES) at UBC. He’s a transdisciplinary environmental researcher, integrating ethics and social and natural sciences. Carrie West is the communications co-ordinator for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, B.C. chapter.