Tag Archives: species at risk

Photo of Jumbo Glacier by Trevor Florence

Undemocratic Jumbo Resort Threatens Kootenay Grizzly Bears


The Jumbo Ski Resort planned for the Purcell Mountains has been approved by the provincial government, which has put in place legislation for the area to become a municipality.

The setting up of a municipality is so the government will have someone to work with as the various permits are dealt with (which is Liberalese for “approved”).

The irony, nay hypocrisy, of this seems to have been lost in the debate. This is nothing short of gerrymandering, for there already is a municipality to deal with – namely the several communities in the Kootenays which will be affected by this project This is a refinement of gerrymandering.

This technique came about when a Massachusetts governor, Elbridge Gerry, redrew an election district to suit his political needs. It looked like a salamander so the term gerrymandering entered the political lexicon.

At least there were real people living in Gerry’s new bounderies.

The obvious question here is, do people in the vicinity of developments have any say in the matter? They will be just as involved in, say, Nelson, as if the development were inside their city boundaries  – yet they have nothing to say on whether or not the project should be approved.

Well, not quite nothing, as we shall see.

This is eerily similar to the Ashlu River private power project in the mid-2000s. The proposal was to develop a dam on the river and make electricity. One of the main opponents was Tom Rankin, a rancher through whose property the Ashlu flows. Tom went on to form the Save Our Rivers Society, for which Damien Gillis and I worked the 2009 provincial election.

The regional district held public hearings around the district and learned that the various communities massively opposed this project. The Regional District voted down the proposal 8-1, so the Campbell government passed an amendment to the Municial Act, known as Bill 30, eliminating the right of any municipality to deny a private power licence.

Incidentally, it is of interest to know about the Ashlu that environmentalists claimed that it would – forgive the techical term – bugger up the fish runs returning to spawn.

The company stoutly denied this.

It turned out that the environmentalists were spot on – a marvelous salmon river all but gone.

Now, I alluded (above) that the public will have a chance to say their piece. They will – there will be public meetings to find out what environmental safeguards should be put in place.

The public will have no say as to whether or not there should be the development in the first place – thanks to the Campbell/Clark government the project is a “done deal”.

The opposition to this development is not all from tree huggers by any means. In fact, the diminishing grizzly bears will be further diminished by this project as will other wildlife.

Indeed, government scientists have spoken on this:

“The proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort has the potential for substantial and direct cumulative impacts to the Central Purcell Grizzly Bear population.”
– BC Ministry of Water Land and Air Protection, 2004

“…there will be a substantial impact to grizzly bear habitat effectiveness, mortality risk, and most importantly, the fragmentation of grizzly bear distribution…”
– Matt Austin, Large Carnivore Specialist, Biodiversity Branch, Government of B.C

Nothing anyone can say – not even the most prominent scientists in the world can make a difference – the project has been approved and the appropriate municipality set up, all nice and legal-like.

There is an election coming up in May and what the people are entitled to know is whether or not the NDP would restore to local bodies the right to be heard and listened to when large projects with sensitive environmental issues are involved.

Over to you, Mr Dix.


Russian scientist: Polar bears will go extinct within decades


Read this story from the Vancouver Sun on the prediction by a Russian polar bear expert that due to arctic ice melt, polar bears will be extinct within decades. (Oct. 12, 2012)

While Arctic sea ice reached a record low this summer, it is not widely known that almost all the ice that melted or drifted away was on the Russian, not the Canadian and Greenlandic side of the great northern sea.

One immediate consequence has been further grief and peril for Russia’s already seriously distressed polar bear population.

“It is worse for Russian polar bears than the bears in Canada or Greenland because the pack ice is retreating much faster in our waters,” said Nikita Ovsyannikov, deputy director of Russia’s polar bear reserve on Wrangel Island in the Chukchi Sea to the northwest of Alaska. “The best habitat is quickly disappearing. It is extreme.

“What we are seeing right now is very late freezing. Our polar bear population is obviously declining. It used to be that new ice was thick enough for them to walk on in late October. It now will happen much later.”

Figuring out how many bears still survived on and near the Chukchi Sea – home to the largest of Russia’s four polar bear populations – was difficult because they were spread across such a vast area, said the zoologist, who has spent his life studying bears in the High Arctic.

He guessed that the number of bears around the Chukchi Sea, which also sometimes migrate in small numbers to western Alaska, had dropped over the past three decades from “about 4,000 to no more than 1,700 at best.”

The retreating ice that has placed many Russian bears in a catastrophic situation has turned out to be a boon to the country’s Arctic mariners.

Taking advantage of the unprecedented sea conditions, dozens of freighters, including several mammoth 170,000-dead-weight-ton tankers, have used the Northeast Passage during the summer and fall of 2011 and again this year to bring as much as 110,000 tonnes of liquefied natural gas at a time from western Russia through the Bering Strait to China.

With no ice yet present near the Russian coast, there has even been talk that it might be possible to keep what is called the “Northern Sea Road” open until January.

The situation was so grave this year that sea ice that had already melted by July is not expected to return until as late as next January in the waters above the continental shelf where Russian polar bears traditionally spend a good part of their lives hunting from drifting ice for ring seals.

The explanation for the sudden, further decline in sea ice this summer was unusually low pressure in the Eurasian coastal seas and in the Beaufort Sea and East Siberian Sea, combined with unusually high pressure centred over Greenland and the North Atlantic, according to the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center. Air temperatures across the Arctic rose by as much as three degrees Celsius this summer.

With no drifting pack ice near the shore to hunt from, Russia’s polar bears have faced a stark choice. They either must go far out to sea on pack ice that has been drifting away from the coast in the late spring, or forage for food as best they can on Russia’s few Arctic islands or along the coast. However, venturing far from land presents special problems for female bears who traditionally build their hibernation and birthing dens on land.

Premiers Christy Clark and Alison Redford (Larry MacDougal/CP photo)

Rafe on Clark’s Embarassing Antics in Alberta and Renewed Calls for Wolf Culls


Today is a twofer – two for the price of one.

First, I’m beginning to feel sorry for Premier Christy Clark. She is a very nice person, personable and able to speak. What she is not capable of doing is speaking sensibly or making decisions that make sense.

It seems obvious to me that she is getting wretched advice and nowhere is this more evident than on the pipeline issue.

Let me illustrate.

The Premier, some months ago, laid down some rules that would govern her government’s environmental response to pipelines and added that to a demand for money from Premier Alison Redford of Alberta. The conditions were silly motherhood stuff and didn’t contain the one most British Columbians want – public hearings that would let people say whether or not they want these pipelines in the first place. This is, I daresay, a foreign concept to the Liberal government but the public know they are not able to express their opinions on the wisdom of the projects in the first place.

In fact, Premier Clark has avoided that issue like the plague.

She missed the very important Western Premier’s Conference on the lame excuse she needed to be in the House because the pipelines and tanker issues were on the agenda and she would have to make known her position.

Then she missed all the deadlines to get BC status as an intervenor as have Alberta, municipalities and First Nations. Consequently, a short time ago she was rebuffed for trying to intervene.

Reviews like the Enbridge Joint Panel Review – and the Cohen Commission as an example – realize that some entities have a greater issue to deal with than Joe Citizen and grant them the status to call witnesses, cross-examine government and industry witnesses and that sort of thing. This could not possibly be a mistake, but a deliberate decision. I don’t have much use for environmental hearings but at least British Columbians could hear what the evidence is. This was an egregious error obviously designed to let Ms. Clark act like the three monkeys.

Now she has horned her way into Premier Redford’s office to press BC’s case. Here is the part that tells you the abysmal ignorance from which Ms. Clark operates.

She is quoted thusly: “There is no amount of money that can make up for an unacceptable risk when it comes to our oceans, our coast and our land.”

Noble sentiments to be sure, but since Premier Redford supports the pipelines and tanker traffic and is content to have the federal government cram them past BC opposition – and bearing in mind that Premier Redford has made it clear that Alberta won’t give BC a nickel – the only purpose for Ms. Clark to crash Ms. Redford’s office is to make it appear to folks at home that she’s doing something.

She is making a fool of all of us, painting us as supplicants to Premier Redford’s throne and the gold that is there.

This must be borne in mind: the oil revenues from the tar sands belong to Alberta under the constitution. If she were to take some of that money and give it to BC, not only would she be a damned fool – Alberta voters would eat her alive.

Premier Clark’s bleating about “risks to BC” is bullshit as she and the rest of us know. Even Enbridge admits that the chances of a spill are overwhelming. Clark is playing us for fools. it is egregious, disingenuous nonsense rivaled only by Bill Clinton’s assertion that, “I did not have sex with that woman.”

Still Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf

On another note, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Back in 1979, the Ministry of Environment was poisoning wolves in northern BC because, allegedly, they were killing cattle. There wasn’t a particle of evidence that this was happening, certainly not on a large scale. Within days of becoming minister I put a stop to the program, hired a man – an elderly fishing buddy of mine whom I trusted implicitly – to go through the area getting evidence, if there was any, of packs of wolves destroying cattle. Sandy was one if these guys who could find out things without anyone realizing he was asking questions.

He reported back to me that he could find no evidence of a major problem .

He told me of the case of a wolf pack driving a herd of cattle onto a frozen lake which caved in from the weight and the wolves devoured them. Interesting that wolves could kill cattle in the water and feast upon them without drowning themselves.

The interesting part is that three different ranchers in three different areas told the same story!

Despite all their bleating, ranchers couldn’t offer any evidence whatsoever.

The ranchers were claiming their losses were due to wolves to cover up their own bad husbandry.

It’s interesting to ask what the hell were all those cattle doing out on the range in temperatures that would freeze a lake?

A Socred back bencher, Cyril Shelford, and his seemingly unlimited number of brothers organized a huge rally and dared me to show my face.

I did – not through bravery but because Premier Bill Bennett would likely have fired me if I didn’t appear.

It was a very ugly meeting and I admit I was scared. When I was finally permitted to speak I said, “this is the first time in history where a man has been run into town on a rail.”

The humour of the remark escaped the 500 incensed ranchers.

The moratorium I imposed remains. Now the ranchers have popped up with claims that seem, after 33 years, to have suddenly re-appeared. Once again, the ranchers, by their own admission, are utterly unable to supply one scintilla of evidence.

The Minister of Environment should politely give the ranchers the international words for “go away”.


Rafe: ‘I Support Captain Paul Watson’


I see that all civilization and some uncivilizations, like the USA, want Paul Watson’s hide.

Just so there’s no doubt, I’ve known and supported Paul for over 30 years and for many years have been on the Sea Shepherd Society’s Board of Advisors. I have supported him all that time because, in my view, he’s doing what is necessary for want of any government involvement.

One of my first interviews with Paul came in 1981 when Paul and the Sea Shepherd crew had gone ashore on Kamchatka in the then Soviet Union and destroyed a mink farm that fed the animals whale meat. He did the interview on board using the “over and out” system while being pursued by the Soviet Navy and buzzed by the Soviet Air Forces – listening to Paul you could have thought he was just having a bit of a sail out on the bounding main!

Paul Watson is the most fearless man I’ve ever known.

Paul was a founder of Greenpeace and was fired because he was too much of an activist. His fellow founder, Patrick Moore, decided he liked money better than principles, so he prostituted himself to industry like fish farms and that in the Tar Sands, becoming a rich man selling their filth.

He plays on an inconsequential PhD, using the Doctor to imply that he somehow knows what he’s talking about.

A few years ago Moore was contracted to bring his hypocrisy to a cruise ship en route to Alaska. Paul, who had offered to debate him on his dog and pony show many times announced that he would be aboard to attend his lectures and speak from the floor. Moore instantly backed out of his contract with the interesting excuse that his wife’s birthday came up during the cruise.

Evidently, Mrs. Moore wasn’t delighted with a lovely cruise for their anniversary or suddenly discovered that she was prone to sea-sickness.

There is another reason one might conclude – Patrick Moore is a coward, the conclusion I came to knowing both of them as I do.

Patrick Moore has become rich doing PR work and consulting on how to bamboozle the masses for the Tar Sands, nuclear energy, fish farms and, I must conclude, private power desecrating our rivers, bitumen pipelines and tankers.

Moore hates Paul’s guts which is another big reason for supporting Captain Watson.

Paul is a preservationist who does that which countries refuse to do – enforce the law or, in some cases, simply to not be afraid to pass decent laws for protecting the environment in the first place.

Watson has been called an eco terrorist because he prevents the Japanese from whaling in the South Pacific because they say they need whales for “scientific research”. How the hell can a man who fights this kind of bullshit be called an eco terrorist?!

The people of the Faroe Islands had, until Watson arrived on the scene, a nifty little custom of slaughtering pilot whales once a year – not for food or any other reasons but just for the hell of it. With Watson away this year, they brutally killed 467 whales. On the back of a banknote the Faroe Islands show a pilot whale being hacked to death.

I’ve been to the Faroe Islands and can tell you that the Faroese are a prosperous people who make no defense of their whaling other than it’s a custom.

Paul Watson is an eco terrorist for stopping this practice?

We slaughter seal pups not because we have to but to supply fur coats to wealthy European women, Paul and many of his crew were sent to the slammer for simply taking pictures.

The list goes on and Paul Watson inches closer and closer to doing time in jail, which I predict will happen later this year when he comes ashore. His own country, instead of giving him an Order of Canada, which he deserves many times over, will throw him in jail.

I support Captain Paul Watson and believe all Canadians should.


Sea Shepherd Goes on Record to Clarify Captain Paul Watson’s Legal Position


Read this statement from the Sea Shepherd website, quoting Paul Watson’s attorney, clarifying the captain current legal predicament. (Aug. 11, 2012)

After much speculation and misinformation about the impact of the recently announced ‘Red Notice’ issued by Interpol for Captain Paul Watson, founder and president of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who was arrested at Frankfurt airport on May 13th and held in Germany for 70 days until his departure on or around July 22nd, Sea Shepherd is setting the record straight.  Using information posted to its website as provided in a letter from Captain Watson’s lead legal counsel in Germany, Oliver Wallasch, Sea Shepherd addresses the speculation head-on with the legal facts of this case.

Questions & Answers

Q.: What is the impact of Captain Watson forfeiting bail to leave Germany?

A.: Skipping bail in Germany is not a crime! This is totally different from U.S. jurisdiction and from other countries in the world. Article 2 of the German constitution states, that Germany grants personal freedom. Therefore it is not even a crime in Germany to escape from prison. The decision of the client to leave the country leads only to the consequence that the local (not international!) arrest warrant of the Higher Regional Court was set into force, and that bail is seized (forfeited) on decision by the court. Because of the fact that the client was arrested in an extradition procedure, Germany is not actively searching for Mr. Watson locally or internationally.

Letter from Paul Watson's lawyer. (Click to read the entire unedited letter)Letter from Paul Watson’s lawyer. (Click to read the entire unedited letter)

Q.: What is the extradition procedure in Germany as it pertains to this case?

A.: In the case of Mr. Watson, we knew that besides the request of Costa Rica, there was also a ‘blue’ note issued by Interpol on charges from Japan against the client. This ‘blue’ note on the warrant from Japan has been active since 2010 and has not converted into a ‘red’ notice with Interpol during the whole extradition procedure with Costa Rica. But we learned that Japan was highly interested concerning the procedure with Costa Rica because they sent requests through Interpol Tokyo to the Higher Regional Court to gather more information on the procedure itself. This was absolutely unusual. The German authorities are allowed to extradite even without a special treaty with the requesting country. Therefore it was very likely that Japan would ask for extradition itself on a bilateral basis; after Mr. Watson left the country, we learned that such an extradition request was forwarded by the Japanese Embassy through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the General Public Prosecution Office in Frankfurt.  The scenario would have been that Mr. Watson would have been extradited to Costa Rica, and then extradited after the procedure to Japan.

These facts show, that there was a link between the extradition request from Costa Rica and the upcoming extradition request from Japan. Having in mind that the president of Costa Rica visited Japan at the end of 2011, having in mind that Japan granted an enormous amount of money for “environmental protection” in Costa Rica, it is obvious that these two countries have a very close relationship.

Q.: Is the Interpol ‘Red’ Notice a warrant and what is its impact?

A.: Interpol Notices are international alerts allowing police in member countries to share information. Interpol is not actively issuing arrest warrants, Interpol is not actively searching for the defendant, and Interpol is not involved in the extradition procedure.  Interpol just exchanges information between the police in the member countries.

The information that Interpol has issued a ‘red’ notice against Mr. Watson on the charges of Costa Rica only means that the police in the member countries shall be aware that Mr. Watson is wanted by Costa Rica.   It is up to the police and the judicial authorities within the Interpol member countries whether or not they want to act on this local arrest warrant from Costa Rica.

Read more: http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-media/2012/08/11/setting-the-record-straight-on-paul-watsons-legal-status-1425

Douglas Coupland-narrated video shows ship noise impacts on whales

Endangered Whales and Dolphins Affected by Tankers

Douglas Coupland-narrated video shows ship noise impacts on whales
Animation of acoustic impacts on whales (Oceans Initiative)

by Julie Andreyev

Scientist Rob Williams is concerned about the Enbridge, Kinder Morgan and Vancouver Airport proposals that will increase tanker traffic along BC’s coast.

It’s a gray day in Knight Inlet, B.C. The calm silver surface of the water occasionally breaks with the fin of a dolphin. Dr. Rob Williams, marine conservation biologist, alumnus of UBC and head of Oceans Initiative, is helping PhD student Erin Ashe to count Pacific white-sided dolphins as they swim by. With the boat engine turned off, they are listening for orcas. They hear a sound — in the air — not over the hydrophone. It sounds like a storm coming.

Williams pulls in the hydrophone and gets ready to head home before the rainstorm hits. He looks around. The boat is surrounded by a solid school, hundreds of dolphins, storming by at top speed like horses galloping. Out of the corner of his eye he spots the dorsal fins of orcas. Over the course of a half an hour the orcas herd the dolphins into the bay, closer and closer to the shore. In a panic the dolphins leap to get out of the way of the whales. The largest male orca breaches the water aiming for a dolphin, striking it. Stunned, the smaller animal floats motionless in the water while the whale comes back around.

Williams has researched the local dolphin, orca and other at-risk marine mammals since 1995. “You forget what extraordinary wild animals the orcas are, what extraordinary animals the dolphins are, and how they live their lives. And, of course, their lives depend on being able to hear signals — like an orca is coming. That reminds us how important it is to keep the ocean as quiet as possible so that they can hear what they need to hear.”

Currently a Marie Curie Research Fellow at University of St Andrews in Scotland, Williams spends half the year doing field studies and conducting research off B.C.’s coast, and the other half in a university setting. He is concerned about the recent proposals for increased oil and fuel shipping in and out of B.C. “The orca populations off Vancouver Island are listed in the Species at Risk Act. The populations off the south coast of Vancouver Island are in worse shape,” says Williams. More ship traffic could have a disastrous effect on these and other threatened whale populations.

The increased tanker traffic from the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline to Kitimat, Kinder Morgan’s planned expansion of the Trans Mountain line to Burnaby, and a proposal to ship jet fuel up the Fraser River, would bring with it intensified ship noise, increased risks of spills and more ship strikes. The Enbridge Project alone would add 200 ships per year to the coast. The Vancouver Airport’s proposed port for supertankers at the south arm of the Fraser River, and Kinder Morgan’s proposal would increase the size and frequency of ships in the southern coast region.

In 2008, Williams and Ashe partnered with Dr. Chris Clark at Cornell University to conduct an ambitious study of ocean noise from ships operating in B.C. coastal waters. Ship noise affects dolphins and whales that rely on sound to communicate, detect prey and avoid the ships themselves. Threatened humpback, blue, killer and fin whales are at risk of death by ship strike, and all marine mammals are threatened if there is a catastrophic oil spill.

Sound is the key sense for dolphins and whales to find their way around, detect predators, find food and communicate. The sound frequency range within which whales communicate and echolocate corresponds to the frequency range of ship noise. Ships hundreds and even thousands of miles away interfere with the acoustic space of these animals. With more ship traffic, the ability for whales and dolphins to communicate, search for prey, and avoid predators will be compromised.

“Mind-bending” is how Dr. Peter Tyack, formerly Senior Scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and now a professor at the University of St. Andrews, describes the distance that sound travels through the oceans. He cites a study where sound released underwater in the southern Indian Ocean could be heard in Bermuda and Monterey, California, thousands of miles away. Whales use sound for communication, sometimes over a thousand kilometers. “Marine mammals have evolved over the last tens of millions of years ways to depend on sound to both explore their world and stay in touch with one another… In this frequency range where whales communicate, the main source globally in the planet for noise comes from human ships. The effective range of communication [between whales] goes from a thousand kilometers to ten kilometers,” says Tyack. “If this signal is used by males and females to find each other for mating, imagine the impact this could have on the recovery rate of endangered populations.”

In the presence of ships and ship noise, whales have to expend more energy to find food, and they have to change their calls to use higher frequency sound and increased volume. If a whale can’t find food because of ship noise, his survival may be threatened; if a mother can’t hear and locate her calf, they risk being separated and the calf killed by predators; if whales can’t hear each other to locate mates, their population recovery is in jeopardy; if dolphins can’t hear approaching orcas, they can become prey.

On July 25, 2009, The Sapphire Princess, a massive cruise ship owned by Princess Cruise Lines, headed into the Port of Vancouver. The crew and holidaying passengers were unaware that the body of a 70 ft. long female fin whale was wrapped around the ship’s bow. It had been there probably since the ship toured the area between Alaska and Vancouver Island.

The fin whale, after the blue whale, is the earth’s largest living animal and is listed as “protected” by the International Whaling Commission and “endangered” by the World Conservation Union. Hits can result in external and internal injuries, suffering and drawn-out deaths. Williams has conducted studies of ship strikes that have injured or mortally wounded whales. The areas with highest risk for ship strikes with humpback and fin whales (Dixon Entrance, north North Haida Gwaii Islands, Hecate Strait) correspond to areas where the proposed Enbridge ship traffic would occur.

Propeller wounds on orcas are relatively common and the highest risk area for them is Johnstone Strait. “Port expansion and a proposed pipeline for carrying oil from Alberta to BC’s north coast (with associated oil tanker traffic) would increase ship strike risk for all three species,” says Williams. South from Kitimat through Hecate Strait, Johnstone Strait and around the southern tip of Vancouver Island have areas where whales and ships overlap. The sound of ships in the same area where whales are feeding is believed to cause the whales to be disoriented, which could increase the risk of potential strikes. Williams believes that “the few known cases of collisions involving fin whales suggest that mortality due to ship strike for this species may already be approaching or even exceeding sustainable mortality limits.”

At noon on August 20, 2007, a Ted Leroy Trucking Ltd. barge moving fuel and heavy equipment listed and drifted into Johnstone Strait’s Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. The barge tipped over, losing to the sea its cargo of eleven vehicles and a fuel truck loaded with 10,000 L of diesel fuel. The resulting spill affected 62 square kilometers of marine environment. The slick on the surface of the water persisted for days until it dispersed into the larger body of water. “All the oceanographic factors that help concentrate salmon into a bottleneck area, such as narrow areas in Johnson Strait, will attract orcas,” says Williams. In fact, during the days of the barge spill, scientists estimated that 25% of the threatened northern resident orca (NRKW) population was seen within its vicinity. “Oil spills have been identified as posing a threat to the recovery of transient and resident orcas, and this proposed [Enbridge] pipeline and associated tanker traffic are expected to increase oil spill risk substantially.”

During Williams’ field studies he found that “67% of the NRKW population was found to have visited the area of Robson Bight – Michael Bigg Ecological Reserve on one ‘superpod’ day, which makes this population highly vulnerable to extinction due to stochastic, catastrophic events.” The southern resident population off southern Vancouver Island is composed of only three family groups, and it is common to have 100% of the small population travelling together in Haro Strait.  An oil spill could easily affect the entire population.

The Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 caused losses of up to 41% to two groups of orcas that have yet to recover to pre-spill numbers. As large as the Exxon Valdez, Panamax-class vessels are the type that would service Richmond. The Burnaby expansion would use the larger Suezmax tankers that carry nearly 1 million barrels of oil. Even larger VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier) tankers – bearing up to 2 million barrels of diluted bitumen – would set sail from Enbridge’s port at Kitimat. If a significant number of whales in a threatened whale population were directly affected by another spill, losses to the population could be potentially beyond recovery.

Says Williams, “Any time you have an increase in ship traffic there is risk to dolphins and whales. In the worst-case scenario you could have a spill. Even in the best of circumstances ships make a lot of noise and whales rely on sound. Whales are at risk of ship strikes. In whale populations that are recovering their numbers from whaling, we have to be concerned about these factors. Underwater noise should definitely be one of the factors we consider when assessing the environmental impacts of industrial development applications.”

Julie Andreyev is a new media artist (video/audio/interactive) who teaches at Emily Carr University.



From Market Economy to Market Society


If we can accept the scientific opinion that the primary ecosystems of our planet are seriously degraded — a United Nations’ report recently warned they are on the verge of collapse — then why have we been so slow to seriously address a problem that is rapidly approaching a condition deemed grave? One answer comes from Dr. Michael Sandel, a Harvard political philosophy professor, in his new book What Money Can’t Buy.

Dr. Sandel concludes that, “We have drifted from having a market economy to being a market society.” The business of business, it seems, has infected society. Everything is now for sale and everything has a dollar value. We have stopped asking, “What are your principles?” Instead we are asking, “What is your price.” Life has been commercialized and money has become the primary measure of worth.

Want a law that favours your interests? Hire a lobbyist. Want to repair your damaged corporate reputation? Employ a public relations firm. Want to meet a powerful politician? Pay the $1,500 political contribution to a party’s fundraising event. Want special medical treatment? Go to a private clinic. Want to attend a special sporting event? Pay the ticket scalpers their asking price. Want to sell a product? Buy advertising. Want to avert the consequences of committing a crime? Hire a skillful legal team. Want to skirt the moral obligation of paying taxes? Hire a tax lawyer. Want environmental concessions? Invest huge sums in industrial development. Need fulfillment? Go shopping. Even the academic world is being skewed in the direction of money as universities are pressured to pander to commercial interests and students are lured toward business degrees rather than liberal educations.

The complicated moral and ethical issues of our time are reduced to monetary values. The virtue quotient is replaced by the asset balance. Wisdom is displaced by financial smarts. Success is measured by money, a gauge that somehow bypasses the old indicators of merit. So those with the most money are venerated with the greatest social approval. The result is a moral paucity, a materialistic quest that is swelling the ranks of the rich and the poor while shrinking everything between.

The evidence of this trend has been mounting for decades but only recently have some corporate remunerations become obscene enough to define the situation with shocking clarity. In 2009, the CEOs of the Canada’s top 100 corporations earned an average of $6.6 million per year in salary and benefits — 3 hours of their pay took their employees 12 months of labour to earn. In 2010, these same CEOs earned an average of $8.4 million per year while their employees’ wages remained flat. In 2011, a year of record profits for big American corporations, their CEOs earned an average of $9.6 million — a typical US worker would need to labour 244 years to reach the same remuneration. Such amounts of money can only be used to gain even more power to make even more money.

These numbers are astounding for their effect as well as their amount. As humanity’s inherent intolerance for unfairness is violated, the result is a rise in crime, social breakdown and pervasive discontent. Devious profit-making schemes, exploitive investments and reckless banking practices have shaken the global financial system. Anxiety and insecurity are increasing in an age of apparent plenty.
Although these disquieting effects are important, they fall within the realm of human affairs and can be corrected with a change of mind and legislation. Much more worrisome, however, is the environmental damage caused by a culture that has evolved from a “market economy” to a “market society”. When the fundamental value system of a society is in sympathy with market values, it elects similarly inclined governments, the constraints on money’s destructive power relax even further, disturbances to nature accelerate and, ultimately, we victimize ourselves.

This is the trend that is making scientists, historians, philosophers and a rising number of economists uneasy. A society living by “market” values has internalized the economic rules that are external to nature’s inflexible and iimpassive principles. This partially explains why the warnings of environmental experts go unheeded and why conservation policies are so difficult to implement. If the public has become a “market society”, it is not inclined to provide political support for environmental initiatives, and reform is seriously handicapped. A collective ethos that worships at the altar of Mammon will not understand that some things are more important than money. The impending collision of the two conflicting systems could be messy.

Nature is essential to our well-being. Virtually everything we do is dependent on it. But its accounting system doesn’t understand ledgers, promises, intentions or risks. A ruined ecology cannot be legislated back to health. An extinct species cannot be reintegrated into the biological fabric of life. Weather changes caused by burning fossil fuels will take centuries to subside, even if we were capable of a radical and immediate reduction of greenhouse gases. An acidified ocean will take millennia to return to normal. A massive species extinction — exactly what we are causing today — takes evolutionary processes about 10 million years to repair. The logic of a “market society” doesn’t synchronize with the logic of nature.

So we know the answer to Dr. Sandel’s rhetorical question, What Money Can’t Buy. We also know the alternative. It’s carved into a stone in the ruins of ancient Rome — the old and silent Latin words of “Salve Lucrum”, roughly translated as “Hurray For Profit!”


Humpback’s Carcass Towed Off Beach


Read this story from the Calgary Herald on the juvenile humpback whale found dead early this morning on White Rock beach, likely due to starvation stemming from a fishing net that ensnared the whale. (June 13, 2012)

METRO VANCOUVER – The carcass of a beached humpback whale was towed off White Rock beach late last night with the help of a high tide.

The emaciated remains are now anchored off the beach while marine biologists decide what to do with the young whale, that died yesterday after beaching itself while wrapped in fishing line.

Efforts are now underway to identify the gear, in hopes of determining where and when the roughly three-year-old whale became entangled.

Vancouver Aquarium staff have also taken various samples from the remains to check for other causes of death, but say the whale’s condition suggests it starved after being tangled for some time.

The steady return of humpback whales to local waters took a graphic twist Tuesday morning when the juvenile wrapped in line washed ashore and died just east of the White Rock pier.

Hundreds of onlookers swarmed the scene, experiencing a mixture of sadness and awe at the presence of such a large marine mammal at their feet.

Some brought flowers for the whale. Members of the Semiahmoo First Nation danced and drummed in its honour. Both RCMP and federal fisheries officers stood in soaking boots and pants to maintain crowd control in the sea water.

In classic west coast fashion, one man on a standup paddleboard cruised by for a closer look before authorities shooed him away.

While grey whales are known to wash ashore in Metro Vancouver from time to time, this is the first such event in recent memory involving a humpback whale and is further evidence of the species’ gradual return to local waters.

“We know they used to inhabit the Strait of Georgia 100 years ago,” said Lance Barrett-Lennard, a marine mammal specialist with the Vancouver Aquarium.

“We see it as a good sign they are using these waters again, but they’re still not an everyday sight.”

RCMP Sgt. Paul Vadik said police were first notified of the beached whale at 5:15 a.m. It was still breathing but died about an hour later.

The whale measured 8.5 metres from the head to the base of its fluke, or tail fin, and is thought to be about three years old.

The creature had become entangled with heavy nylon line in its mouth, baleen and fluke, and could have suffered for months before dying.

Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/travel/Humpback+whale+carcass+towed+beach/6777710/story.html

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