Tag Archives: pollution

Dr. Peter Ross has published world-renowned scinece on pollution and marine mammal health during his 13 years at DFO

Silent Summer: Leading Fisheries Researcher on Harper Govt. Killing Ocean Pollution Monitoring


by Dr. Peter Ross

Since being hired 13 years ago as a Research Scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), I have been fortunate to conduct research on such magnificent creatures as killer whales, beluga whales, harbour seals and sea otters. I have visited some of the wildest parts of coastal British Columbia, Arctic Canada and further afield. I have been humbled by the power of Mother Nature as we deployed teams to explore and better understand the lives of creatures beneath the surface of the ocean. I have marveled at the evolutionary adaptations of marine mammals to an existence at the interface of land, sea and atmosphere. And as a scientist, I have come to learn that I possess but rudimentary powers of observation when it comes to the mystery and beauty of a vast ocean. For all of this, I remain eternally grateful.

A blend of challenging field work and cutting-edge laboratories has helped me to look into the lives of fish and marine mammals, and the ways in which some of the 25,000 contaminants on the domestic market affect their health. Our research has drawn on the combined expertise of dedicated technicians, biologists, vessel operators and aboriginal colleagues, ultimately leading to scientific publications now available around the world. This is knowledge that informs policies, regulations, and practices that enable us to protect the ocean and its resources, both for today’s users, and for future generations.

I am thankful for the rich array of opportunities aboard Canadian Coast Guard ships and small craft, alongside Fisheries Officers, chemists, habitat biologists and managers, together with colleagues, technicians, students and members of aboriginal communities. I have enjoyed weaving stories of wonder on such issues as the health of killer whales, effects of flame retardants on beluga whales, hydrocarbons in sea otter habitat, trends in priority pollutants in harbour seals, impacts of current use of pesticides on the health of salmon, the identification of emerging contaminants in endangered species and risk-benefit evaluation of traditional sea foods of First Nations and Inuit peoples.

Past scientific discoveries such as high levels of PCBs in Inuit foods, dioxins in pulp and paper mill effluent, and DDT-associated eggshell thinning in seabirds formed the basis for national regulations and an international treaty (the Stockholm Convention) that have led to cleaner oceans and safer aquatic foods for fish, wildlife and humans. Canada was a world leader in spearheading this profoundly important treaty, drawing on ground-breaking scientific research in tandem with the knowledge of aboriginal communities.

I am thankful to my friends, family, supporters and colleagues, who have always been there to converse, share, learn and teach – in the laboratory, in the field, in the cafeteria, in the hallway. These people have made it all worthwhile.

It is with deep regret that I relay news of my termination of employment at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the loss of my dream job. It is with even greater sadness that I learn of the demise of DFO’s entire contaminants research program – regionally and nationally. It is with apprehension that I ponder a Canada without any research or monitoring capacity for pollution in our three oceans, or any ability to manage its impacts on commercial fish stocks, traditional foods for over 300,000 aboriginal people and marine wildlife.

Canada’s silence on these issues will be deafening this summer and beyond.

For more information about Ross’ work:

Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic, by Marla Cone, published by Grove/Atlantic http://www.groveatlantic.com/?title=Silent+Snow








BC Orca, Toxins Expert Loses Job in Harper Cuts to Pollution Monitoring


Read this story from the Victoria Times-Colonist on the Harper Government’s slashing of jobs at Environment Canada – including the nation’s whole contaminants program, which means one of the world’s leading experts on pollution in orca, Peter Ross, is out of a job. (May 22, 2012) 

VICTORIA – Canada’s only marine mammal toxicologist at the Institute of Ocean Sciences on Vancouver Island is losing his job as the federal government cuts almost all employees who monitor ocean pollution across Canada.

Peter Ross, an expert on killer whales and other marine mammals, was the lead author of a report 10 years ago that demonstrated Canada’s killer whales are the most contaminated marine mammals on the planet. He has more than a 100 published reports.

Now, he’s a casualty of the Conservative’s budget cuts, one of 75 people across Canada told this past week his services will no longer be needed because the Department of Fisheries is closing the nation’s contaminants program.

For about a decade, Fisheries and Oceans has been trying to offload the program to Environment Canada, Ross said. Instead, this week, it axed it.

In total, 1,075 people working for the Department of Fisheries received letters Thursday telling them their jobs will be redundant or affected – including 215 in the Pacific Region.

The closure of DFO’s contaminants program in Victoria will see nine marine scientists and staff – two research scientists, a chemist and six support staff – based in North Saanich lose their jobs or be retrained and moved.

The entire Department of Fisheries and Oceans contaminants program is being shut down effective April 1, 2013. Official letters are expected to be delivered in June, and Ross said he’s been told he’ll have a few months to wrap up his files.

“The entire pollution file for the government of Canada, and marine environment in Canada’s three oceans, will be overseen by five junior biologists scattered across the country – one of which will be stationed in B.C.,” said Ross.

“I cannot think of another industrialized nation that has completely excised marine pollution from its radar,” said Ross, who was informed in a letter Thursday that his position will be “affected.”

“It is with apprehension that I ponder a Canada without any research or monitoring capacity for pollution in our three oceans, or any ability to manage its impacts on commercial fish stocks, traditional foods to over 300,000 aboriginal people, and marine wildlife,” Ross said.

Ross oversees pollution files including everything from municipal sewage and contaminated sites to the effect of pesticide on salmon and the impact of PCBs on killer whales.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/killer+whale+expert+work+feds+ocean+pollution+monitoring+positions/6655853/story.html


Fraser Riverkeeper Scores Victory for Regulation of Sewage From Vancouver’s Iona Treatment Facility


Read this media advisory from Fraser Riverkeeper regarding the announcement today that the Commission on Environmental Co-operation – an international regulatory body set-up under NAFTA – will conduct an investigation in possible failure of Canada to enforce environmental laws with regards to the Iona Sewage Treatment Facility in the mouth of the Fraser River.

The Commission, set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement, has authority to investigate wherever a member nation is failing to live up to its own environmental laws. Fraser Riverkeeper and the David Suzuki Foundation, working with Waterkeeper Alliance groups throughout North America, filed a complaint with the Commission in April, 2010, based on Canada’s failure to enforce the Fisheries Act against the Iona Sewage Treatment Facility in the Fraser River.

“The Iona facility continues to this day to fail its toxicity tests,” said Doug Chapman, Fraser Riverkeeper. “That means that the discharge from the plant kills fish: the very Fraser River sockeye stocks whose alarmingly low numbers are currently the subject of the Cohen Commission hearings in Vancouver.” (Dec. 16, 2011)

Read more: http://www.fraserriverkeeper.ca/2011/12/cec-to-investigate-metros-sewage-treatment-record/