What is SOS?
Support Ocean Science (SOS) was formed in 2012 by southwest New Brunswick people with concerns about planned federal cuts to Fisheries & Oceans programs and facilities across Canada.
SOS focused its first efforts on the federal St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, NB, where Ottawa planned to close a new $4 million research library and end nationally-important toxics and contaminants research. The federal government eliminated both of these in 2013.
SOS now has new directions. It is working to promote southwest New Brunswick’s Marine Hub (over 20 research, education, industry and conservation entities working locally) and encourage the federal government to maintain strong ocean science programs that support its future national policies and decision making. See WhatWe Do for details.
I don’t live near the coast; why should I care about ocean science?
Actually your taxes, household purchases and regional outlook are all affected, wherever you live in Canada.
As one of the world’s largest maritime nations, Canada depends heavily on its ocean resources. See this government website for astonishing examples of Canada’s strategic, economic and social reliance on the oceans that surround us on three sides: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/oceans/publications/oap-pao/pdf/oap-eng.pdf
Canada’s economy depends extensively on imports and exports carried, hopefully safely, by ocean-going ships. Its $4 billion seafood industry and $6+ billion coastal tourism industry rely entirely on clean and productive ocean waters. It maintains its identity as a nation ‘strong and free’ based in part on its coastal resources and strategic ocean access.
Strong federal science programs are needed to guide the political decisions that maintain these assets. Without this science, some of Canada’s major sustainable resources and its economic future are on less solid ground.
Are government libraries still needed? Isn’t everything now available ‘on line’?
No it isn’t – and much may never be. The loss of physical libraries means the loss of information, permanently.
For example, the state-of-the-art research library at the St. Andrews Biological Station, opened by the federal government in 2012 and eliminated in 2013, contained nearly 12,000 documents and books covering the last 100 years of Canadian science. About 96% of these are available only in print form. Many cannot be digitized due to copyright restrictions; the cost of digitizing the rest is high and not yet budgeted. Anyone wanting to access these must now travel to the eastern Canada Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) library in Halifax or request them by inter-library loan, at a cost and to a location acceptable to DFO.
The documents that have been digitized are available through DFO’s electronic library service, WAVES. Explore this at: http://waves-vagues.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/waves-vagues/
The loss of physical libraries also means the loss of the expert information specialists who staffed them. DFO librarians had extensive training and experience in assisting government researchers, students and others find needed information anywhere in the world. Their expertise greatly increased the productivity of Canada’s scientific research, bringing answers more quickly and effectively. DFO has now eliminated the majority of its library specialists.
DFO libraries are not the only ones being eliminated: other federal departments are seeing these reductions too.
When Ottawa cuts long-term ocean science programs, who picks these up?
The federal government hasn’t yet said who. Most sources say “no one”.
Universities and private contractors can’t fill this gap. They lack the dedicated facilities and staff for the longterm research that is needed to inform federal policy and management decisions. They also can’t afford to keep specialized scientists and equipment ‘on call’ to meet fast-breaking federal investigations that may range from local fish kills to international toxic spills. A non-governmental response to such emergencies can take months, not hours, to fund and deliver. Previously, federal scientists could respond quickly anywhere in Canada, but not now.
What is the southwest New Brunswick Marine Hub?
It is a general term for the diverse group of organizations, agencies and businesses that have been drawn to Charlotte County, New Brunswick, by the federal St. Andrews Biological Station and the area’s exceptional marine resources.
These include world leaders in the Atlantic salmon and live American lobster industries, North America’s largest sardine cannery, and top-rated marine tourism operators.
These include a range of non-profit organizations that are national or international leaders in research, education or conservation fields with marine connections. Hands-on college and university programs in the marine sciences. Associations representing traditional and new fisheries. One of Canada’s top marine aquariums. And the country’s premiere research museum for Canadian Atlantic marine life.
Together these entities drive southwest New Brunswick’s economy, define its character and sustain its marine heritage. The SOS website will have more on this Marine Hub in the future.
How does federal fisheries research support the New Brunswick and Canadian economy?
Here are just two examples:
Canada has the world’s largest harvest of Atlantic lobster, valued in 2012 at $663 million nationally and $107 million in New Brunswick alone. This traditional fishery continues to thrive and support many regional jobs, in spite of years of intensive harvests, due to on-going federal research and careful management by Fisheries & Oceans Canada.
Canada also supports the world’s largest Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry, a result of more than 20 years of salmon research at the federal St. Andrews Biological Station. In New Brunswick alone, this industry now employs more than 1,500 people and generates sales exceeding $192 million. It has revitalized a region that was previously in longterm economic decline.