Hot News

Marine Pollution Bulletin - The Gulfwatch contaminants ....

posted Oct 4, 2017, 6:05 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Oct 4, 2017, 6:06 PM ]

Sarah D. Chamberlaina,⁎, Peter G. Wellsa,b, Bertrum H. MacDonaldc

a Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University, Halifax B3H 4R2, Canada
b International Ocean Institute, Dalhousie University, Halifax B3H 4R2, Canada
c School of Information Management, Dalhousie University, Halifax B3H 4R2, Canada

Harbour water safe only on the surface

posted Oct 1, 2017, 6:00 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Oct 4, 2017, 6:07 PM ]

Letter to The Chronicle Herald  Sept 2017 

Reader’s Corner


Harbour water safe only on the surface


Not surprisingly, there is renewed interest in Halifax Harbor for recreational fishing and swimming (The Chronicle Herald, recent articles). Sewage and other household effluents produced by HRM residents undergo advanced primary treatment before entering the harbor.  Storm water overflows after severe rain events are not always treated.  But overall, harbor water quality appears to have improved – waters are clearer and visible surface sludge is rare. 

But a word of caution is apt. Despite earlier studies, there is no ongoing monitoring of harbor water, sediment and fish tissue(s) to ensure the safety of citizens. The data publically available for comprehensive health risk assessments of fishing and swimming are severely limited or out of date.  

Federal departments (Fisheries and Oceans, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada) should be conducting such monitoring and assessments but apparently do not, despite their respective responsibilities.  As well, the Province and HRM do cursory monitoring, if at all.  

Occasional single-point monitoring of fecal coliform bacteria is inadequate for meaningful health risk assessments. Water masses are highly variable in space and time, and contaminated bottom sediments sometimes mix with sub-surface waters that contact fish and swimmers.  In the absence of on-going reliable data on levels of chemical contaminants in local fish tissue (e.g., mercury, lead, plasticizers, oil constituents) and levels of water-borne pathogens (e.g., bacteria, viruses, parasites), safe conditions may be illusory.   

Hence, several actions seem prudent.  If you fish, eat what you catch sparingly, avoid bottom feeders and practise catch and release. If you swim, avoid ingesting the water, and wash well afterwards.  Most important, contact your government representatives and demand renewed comprehensive monitoring programs. Harbor waters deserve timely, evidence-based protection if fishing and swimming are to proceed safely.


Peter Wells

Halifax, NS.

Prime Minister introduces Canada’s new top scientist

posted Sep 27, 2017, 7:14 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Oct 4, 2017, 6:07 PM ]

Prime Minister introduces Canada’s new top scientist

September 26, 2017

The Government of Canada is committed to strengthen science in government decision-making and to support scientists’ vital work.

In keeping with these commitments, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced Dr. Mona Nemer as Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor, following an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process.  

We know Canadians value science. As the new Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Nemer will help promote science and its real benefits for Canadians—new knowledge, novel technologies, and advanced skills for future jobs. These breakthroughs and new opportunities form an essential part of the Government’s strategy to secure a better future for Canadian families and to grow Canada’s middle class.

Dr. Nemer is a distinguished medical researcher whose focus has been on the heart, particularly on the mechanisms of heart failure and congenital heart diseases. In addition to publishing over 200 scholarly articles, her research has led to new diagnostic tests for heart failure and the genetics of cardiac birth defects. Dr. Nemer has spent more than ten years as the Vice-President, Research at the University of Ottawa, has served on many national and international scientific advisory boards, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Member of the Order of Canada, and a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Québec.

As Canada’s new top scientist, Dr. Nemer will provide impartial scientific advice to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Science. She will also make recommendations to help ensure that government science is fully available and accessible to the public, and that federal scientists remain free to speak about their work. Once a year, she will submit a report about the state of federal government science in Canada to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Science, which will also be made public.


“We have taken great strides to fulfill our promise to restore science as a pillar of government decision-making. Today, we took another big step forward by announcing Dr. Mona Nemer as our Chief Science Advisor. Dr. Nemer brings a wealth of expertise to the role. Her advice will be invaluable and inform decisions made at the highest levels. I look forward to working with her to promote a culture of scientific excellence in Canada.”
— The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“A respect for science and for Canada’s remarkable scientists is a core value for our government. I look forward to working with Dr. Nemer, Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor, who will provide us with the evidence we need to make decisions about what matters most to Canadians: their health and safety, their families and communities, their jobs, environment and future prosperity.”
— The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

“I am honoured and excited to be Canada’s Chief Science Advisor. I am very pleased to be representing Canadian science and research – work that plays a crucial role in protecting and improving the lives of people everywhere. I look forward to advising the Prime Minister and the Minister of Science and working with the science community, policy makers, and the public to make science part of government policy making.”
— Dr. Mona Nemer, Chief Science Advisor, Canada

Quick Facts

  • Dr. Nemer is also a Knight of the Order of Merit of the French Republic, and has been awarded honorary doctorates from universities in France and Finland.
  • The Office of the Chief Science Advisor will be housed at Innovation, Science and Economic Development and supported by a secretariat.

Related Products

Salmon farms receiver feared 'environmental disaster' from sea lice outbreak

posted Mar 21, 2017, 5:41 AM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Mar 21, 2017, 6:11 AM ]

Salmon farms receiver feared 'environmental disaster' from sea lice outbreak

A quarter-million salmon died in their Bay of Fundy pens last summer during a sea lice outbreak

By Connell Smith, CBC News Posted: Mar 20, 2017 7:30 AM AT Last Updated: Mar 20, 2017 12:58 PM AT

If a sea lice outbreak at two Gray Group salmon farms hadn't been controlled, 600 tons of rotting fish could have washed onshore at Saint Andrews, according to court documents.

If a sea lice outbreak at two Gray Group salmon farms hadn't been controlled, 600 tons of rotting fish could have washed onshore at Saint Andrews, according to court documents. (CBC)


Documents filed with New Brunswick's Court of Queen's Bench reveal an environmental disaster was only narrowly averted last summer in the Bay of Fundy.

The incident is tied to an outbreak of sea lice at aquaculture sites managed by the Gray Group, which had slipped into receivership owing millions of dollars to creditors.

More than 250,000 salmon died from the fast-growing infestation before contractors managed to gain the upper hand.

An additional 284,000 salmon were pre-emptively killed to contain the spread.

Fears of dead fish on shore

Details about the event are laid out in a report and supporting documents written by Ernst & Young receiver George Kinsman and included in the file.

Kinsman describes fears at the height of the crisis that hundreds of tons of rotting salmon would wash up on the shoreline at Saint Andrews during last summer's tourist season.

Kinsman, a chartered accountant and vice-president with the firm, had been appointed to manage the aquaculture company and to find a buyer for its assets.

He had only been on the job for weeks when a spike in sea lice counts was discovered at Hospital Island, one of three salmon farms the Gray group of companies operated in Passamaquoddy Bay near Saint Andrews.

Insurers resisted pre-emptive kill

Information Morning - Saint John
Town of St. Andrews not aware of massive sea lice outbreak at salmon farm
00:00 08:17

The documents describe a race against the clock as Kinsman tried to convince insurers that more than 500,000 fish at Hospital Island and a nearby site at Hog Island needed to be killed to prevent the spread of the infestation to other areas.

Kinsman had been informed by insurance adjuster Greg Potten of a provision in the insurance policy against "intentional slaughter" that would prevent coverage for the loss of the fish.

In an email to Potten, Kinsman describe a potential "environmental disaster" if the fish were not pre-emptively killed, "with 600 tons of rotting biomass washing up along the Saint Andrews sea shore line, resulting in unsightly and unbearable odours that will affect the seaside vacation townships."

Without a green light from the insurer and with sea lice counts quickly climbing at the two cage sites, Kinsman went ahead with arrangements for contractors to collect and kill the fish.

Gray's Aqua farm sites passamaquoddy Bay

A fast-spreading sea lice outbreak killed nearly half the salmon last summer at two farm sites on Passamaquoddy Bay near Saint Andrews. (CBC)

Another letter, from the Department of Aquaculture's chief veterinarian, suggested the company should go even further and pre-emptively kill all fish at all three Gray-owned farm sites in the bay.

"With great certainty, as the Chief Veterinarian Prov. of NB, I can attest that all of the fish at the three indicated sites will expire within the next 30-60 days," wrote Michael Beattie.

Not to kill the fish now, he suggested, would be to create a "catastrophic event."

Kinsman hired contractors with pumper boats to collect the live salmon at the Hospital Island and Hogg Island farms, but the workers discovered nearly half the fish, or 252,000, had already died from the sea lice infestation.

The remaining fish were "euthanized," although the report does not say how that was done.

'No one had any knowledge of this whatsoever.'- Doug Naish, mayor of Saint Andrews 

The effort managed to contain the sea lice problem, fish at the third Gray farm, near Simpson Island were sold in September of 2016.

Saint Andrews Mayor Doug Naish says neither he nor town staff were aware of problems last summer at Hospital Island, which is visible from the popular tourist town.

"No one had any knowledge of this whatsoever," Naish said.

The executive director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, an aquaculture industry group, said the incident was a "great concern" for her members.

"There was a salmon farming company that was no longer able to manage its farms and take care of its fish and an accounting firm was trying to manage it," wrote Susan Farquharson.

"Our members were concerned about animal welfare and bio-security."

Location of farms a worry

Farquharson said quick action by members of her association helped the receiver gain control over the "unfortunate situation."

Reached by CBC News, Kinsman said his report is a public document and he did not wish to say more.

But environmentalist Matthew Abbott of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick questions whether the three Gray sites are appropriate places to allow salmon farming.

Abbott said there were problems before in north Passamaquoddy Bay.

Sees a flushing problem

"The area isn't really flushing," said Abbott, the council's Fundy Baykeeper.

"There didn't really seem to be a way to stop someone from essentially restarting an operation in an area where we had good reason to expect there would be problems, and indeed they had the very problems we could have expected them to have. That was certainly a disappointment."

A spokesman for the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries said the three former Gray sites are not being used and will remain vacant until at least April of 2018.

The assets of Gray Group, including the company's leased farm sites in New Brunswick and in Newfoundland and Labrador, were later sold for $15 million to Marine Harvest, a company with extensive operations in Norway and Western Canada.

A spokesperson said the company is developing a business plan for operations in the Bay of Fundy.

CBC New Brunswick News March 20, 2017

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Science, Information, and Policy Interface for Effective Coastal and Ocean Management

posted Mar 7, 2017, 4:22 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Mar 7, 2017, 4:29 PM ]

Few would disagree that in combatting serious anthropogenic ecological problems, such as climate change, public policy development should be informed by the best available scientific information. However, with the vast volume of information now available through multiple communication methods and with public resources constrained by current austerity measures, an urgent need exists to understand and strengthen the channels by which scientific information reaches policy- and decision-makers.
Science, Information, and Policy Interface for Effective Coastal and Ocean Management is a timely publication in the midst of this period of crisis and opportunity. This volume is the first to focus exclusively on the role of scientific information in the development of coastal and ocean policy and management of the oceans.
About the Authors
Bertrum H. MacDonald, Suzuette S. Soomai, Elizabeth M. De Santo, and Peter G. Wells, of the Environmental Information: Use and Influence Research Program (EIUI) at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, are the editors. Since 2004, EIUI has partnered with governments in Canada, in addition to NGOs and international inter-governmental organizations, to investigate the role that scientific information plays in the development and implementation of marine policy.
An international roster of over 30 practitioners and scholars contributed to this volume, representing multiple disciplines, including coastal zone management, fisheries management, information management, and public policy. This team combines the knowledge of leading researchers on science-policy interactions with the experience of practitioners at national, regional, and international levels of government. The text draws clear, practical lessons from the scholarly literature.
Essential Themes
The book presents fundamental concepts and principles of the science-policy interface, which are illustrated in contemporary case studies.
Essential themes include:
 The complexity of the pathways by which scientific infor-mation flows within and among organizations that set the context for policy and management decisions.
 The significance of the processes by which information is generated and assembled to inform policy.
 The necessity to produce information in styles and formats that are helpful to intended users.
 The diversity of methods by which information can be used (or misused) in policy development.
For further information about this book and EIUI’s work, visit Direct inquiries can be sent to
Key Messages
The book identifies major challenges facing researchers and practitioners wanting to improve the processes of evidence-based decision-making, including the need to:
 Develop policy solutions to balance trade-offs between evidentiary, political, and economic imperatives.
 Enhance knowledge sharing and information management processes to ensure that decision makers access the relevant information.
 Improve the reliability of scientific information presented to policymakers.
 Understand and effectively communicate the consequences of inaction on environmental issues.
 Encourage interdisciplinary approaches, that include information management, in the practice and study of integrated coastal and ocean management.
Published by CRC Press (Taylor & Francis), 6 May 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4987-3170-6
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4987-3171-3
Science, Information, and Policy Interface for
Effective Coastal and Ocean Management
Section I. Introduction
1. Introduction – B. H. MacDonald, S. S. Soomai, E. M. De Santo, and P. G. Wells
2. Understanding the Science-Policy Interface in Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management – B. H. MacDonald, S. S. Soomai, E. M. De Santo, and P. G. Wells
Section II. Fundamental Concepts and Principles
3. Exploring the Role of Science in Coastal and Ocean Management: A Review – Brian Coffey and Kevin O’Toole
4. Science Information and Global Ocean Governance – Jake Rice
5. Risk Refined at the Science-Policy Interface: The International Risk Governance Framework Applied to Different Classes of Coastal Zone Risks – Kevin Quigley and Kate Porter
6. Governing the Marine Environment through Information: Fisheries, Shipping, and Tourism – Hilde M. Toonen and Arthur P. J. Mol
7. Inducing Better Stakeholder Searches for Environmental Information Relevant to Coastal Conservation – Diana L. Ascher and William Ascher
8. When Scientific Uncertainty Is in the Eye of the Beholder: Using Network Analysis to Understand the Building of Trust in Science – Troy W. Hartley
9. Designing Usable Environmental Research – Elizabeth C. McNie, Angela Bednarek, Ryan Meyer, and Adam Parris
10. The Balancing Act of Science in Public Policy – Peter Gluckman and Kristiann Allen
11. Measuring Awareness, Use, and Influence of Information: Where Theory Meets Practice – S. S. Soomai, P. G. Wells, B. H. MacDonald, E. M. De Santo, and Anatoliy Gruzd
Section III. Case Studies
12. What Do Users Want from a State of the Environment Report? A Case Study of Awareness and Use of Canada’s State of the Scotian Shelf Report – James D. Ross and Heather Breeze
13. The Environmental Effects of Ocean Shipping and the Science-Policy Interface – Elizabeth R. DeSombre
14. Just Evidence: Opening Health Knowledge to a Parliament of Evidence – Janice E. Graham and Mavis Jones
15. Information Matters: The Influence of the Atlantic Coastal Zone Information Steering Committee on Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management in Atlantic Canada – Andrew G. Sherin and Alexi Baccardax Westcott
16. A Career-Based Perspective of Science-Policy Linkages in Environment Canada: The Role of Information in Managing Human Activities in Our Ocean Spaces – Peter G. Wells
17. Bridging the Science-Policy Divide to Promote Fisheries Knowledge for All: The Case of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Lahsen Ababouch, Marc Taconet, Julian Plummer, Luca Garibaldi, and Stefania Vannuccini
18. Informing and Improving Fisheries Management Outcomes: An Atlantic Canadian Large Pelagics Case Study by the Ecology Action Centre – Susanna D. Fuller, Kathryn E. Schleit, Heather J. Grant, and Shannon Arnold
Section IV. The Way Forward
19. Does Information Matter in ICOM? Critical Issues and the Path Forward – E. M. De Santo, S. S. Soomai, P. G. Wells, and B. H. MacDonald

Source:    Book Flyer

The iconic Torrey Canyon oil spill of 1967 - Marking its legacy

posted Mar 6, 2017, 5:40 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Mar 6, 2017, 5:41 PM ]

The iconic Torrey Canyon oil spill of 1967 - Marking its legacy
Peter G.Wells
International Ocean Institute, Dalhousie University,
 6414 Coburg Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4R2, Canada

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 29 November 2016
Accepted 5 December 2016

March 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the SS Torrey Canyon oil spill and cleanup, off the Cornwall coast in
the English Channel. It was the world's first major supertanker disaster. It was a signature event in the marine
pollution field, especially related to oil spill response and the initiation of scientific studies of monitoring and
researching the fate and effects of oil in the sea. This paper recalls this event, notes our growing understanding
of marine pollution and global efforts for cleaner seas, and encourages further work on both oil and the many
emerging environmental issues affecting the marine environment.
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Next year (March 2017)marks the 50th anniversary of the SS Torrey
Canyon supertanker oil spill and cleanup, off the Cornwall coast in the
English Channel. It was the world's first major supertanker disaster
(Hall, 2007; Barkham, 2010). Itwas a signature event in themarine pollution
field, especially related to oil spill response and scientific studies
ofmonitoring and researching the fate and effects of oil in the sea. Its anniversary
is an opportunity to recall this event, to note our growing understanding
of marine pollution and global efforts for cleaner seas, and
to encourage further work on both oil and themany emerging environmental
issues affecting the sea.
The Torrey Canyon was a very visible and well-documented spill,
given its location and size (119,000 tonnes of Kuwait crude). It killed
N25,000 seabirds and numerous other marine organisms, engaging
public attention for months. The spill coated beaches in southern England
(approx. 200 km of Cornish coast), the Channel Islands, and
northwestern France. It stimulated several UK studies reported upon
soon after the event (Corner et al., 1968; Nelson-Smith, 1968, 1972;
Simpson, 1968; Spooner, 1968, 1969; Southward and Southward,
1978; Zuckerman, 1967), two books (Cowan, 1968; Smith, 1968), and
scientific concern about coastal pollution from oil and many other
toxic chemicals, in numerous countries. At the time, relatively little
was known about the fate and effects of petroleum derived hydrocarbons
in the sea. The event was also followed shortly afterwards in
North America by the barge Florida spill in Buzzards Bay,Massachusetts
(1968), the Santa Barbara oil platform blowout off California (1969),
and the tanker Arrow bunker C spill in Chedabucto Bay, NS, Canada
(1970). All of these events helped initiate several decades of marine
oil spill impact and recovery studies.
The Torrey Canyon spill was burned, bombed, sprayed with
chemicals and physically removed from shorelines. It was the first,
major offshore and shoreline use of chemicals on a large spill. Unfortunately,
theywere first-generation dispersants (solvent-emulsifiers) and
detergents (solvent based cleaning agents, ITOPF, 2014). They proved to
be of limited effectiveness for the job of dispersing the oil at sea and for
cleaning the beaches, and where used on shorelines, they caused considerable
further ecological damage. The spill gave dispersants a bad
name that has lasted for decades.
The spill also occurred at a time when environmentalism was becoming
a prominent force in western society. Rachel Carson's Silent
Spring (Carson, 1962) had just been published to great acclaim. Toxic
waste dumps were prolific in the USA (these eventually led to super
fund site cleanups), there was the wide-scale use of Agent Orange in
Vietnam, and countries were recognizing the implications of the
burgeoning global human population. Public and political concern,
from local to international, was mounting.
It was shortly after the Torrey Canyon spill that the predecessor of the
Marine Pollution Bulletin began, initiated by Dr. Robert (Bob) Clark, University,
Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It was a mimeographed Newsletter
with a limited distribution to aquatic and marine pollution
specialists. Clark then became the first and long standing Editor when
the newsletter transitioned with Pergamon Press to the current journal
in 1970.
The influence in the marine pollution field left by the Torrey Canyon
disaster, and followed by the other accidents (some mentioned above),
has beenmulti-faceted. Over the past 50 years, there has been a huge investment
in oil pollution research, and research on a vast array of other
chemicals and physical threats to the sea. For oil, the result has been
thousands of papers and reports, and several major syntheses, such as
the US National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council reviews
of oil in the sea (NAS, 1975, 1985; NRC, 1989, 2003, 2005). The
Marine Pollution Bulletin xxx (2016) xxx–xxx
E-mail address:
MPB-08232; No of Pages 2
0025-326X/© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Marine Pollution Bulletin
journal homepage:
Please cite this article as: Wells, P.G., The iconic Torrey Canyon oil spill of 1967 - Marking its legacy, Marine Pollution Bulletin (2016), http://

Source;      Document.....pdf-185 kb  

The Proper Role of Science: Sir Peter Gluckman

posted Mar 6, 2017, 2:49 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Mar 6, 2017, 2:50 PM ]


The Proper Role of Science: Sir Peter Gluckman

( REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom )

Listen to Full Episode 54:00

The Harper government muzzled scientists. Donald Trump's administration is now doing the same.  But a better relationship between science and government is possible. Sir Peter Gluckman is the Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand. This episode draws on a conversation he had with host Paul Kennedy and a talk he gave organized by Canadian Science Policy Centre, and hosted by the Institute for Science Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa. His point: science's proper role is to help decision-makers make scientifically-informed decisions.

Science is in trouble: it's under attack from the outside and elitist on the inside. So what should science be doing?
01:19 01:19


Science in a troubled age

"Is scientific advice of any value at all? If experts in a post-trust, post-truth world are marginalised as elites and can't solve our problems anyhow, do they have any value? In my opinion, scientific advice in this context is more important than ever...

Scientific uncertainties can be inappropriately exploited and injected into complex societal debates. We've seen many values debates obscured by inappropriate co-option of science to avoid the values debate. We've seen that in climate change, where there wasn't really a lot of debate over anthropogenic climate change for a long time. But there were awkward economic debates to be had. We're seeing it over the safety of genetically modified foods and so forth. And I think this issue of science being misused as a proxy for societal values-based debate is very bad. I think it short-changes democracy."

Science as elitist

"The scientific community is not beyond reproach. Science can get easily caught up in an elitist framing, particularly when we're arrogant. Because we must admit that science cannot solve every problem. Nor can we claim that it does. Nor can we claim that we know better than politicians how to solve the problems of the world. 

We've seen many examples of scientists expressing considerable hubris and arrogance in trying to say they know what to do and ignoring the many other dimensions of addressing a problem. And of course, science is not the only input into policy-making."

Science vs common sense

"I think the issue [is] how you interpret the data. For example, you could pour a whole of the data into a computer and it might turn out something like: "where people eat more ice cream, there are more burglaries" -- to use a silly example. It doesn't mean that ice cream eating causes people to be naughty and steal things. What it's just telling you is there's a confounder, and the confounder is on hot days, people leave their windows open, and where windows are open, burglars are more likely to enter them.

You can't look at data without having an understanding of the system within which the data is looking. And particularly, just using that simple example, if you knew nothing about anything else you might naively think that eating ice cream caused people to become burglars. 

But when you get into things like the relationship between poverty and crime, or environmental contamination and ill health, these issues become really important. And you have to have expert domain knowledge to interpret what the data might be saying to you, and to ask the right questions of the data." 

Making science accessible

"I think if we go back to when I was a young scientist -- which was a few decades ago -- I think those scientists [who] appeared in the media were seen to be show ponies. It was disregarded. They lost respect from their colleagues. Now I think we understand that scientists who are good communicators are critical parts of the relationship between science and the rest of society. And that relationship is critical if science is to be well-used by society."

Scientists as knowledge brokers

"Scientists especially in the brokerage role need to recognize that in a democracy, policymakers have the right to ignore -- but hopefully not to deny -- the evidence, even if in my view it's unwise and ultimately counterproductive to do so. But the reasons they might ignore the evidence might involve many values-based considerations that scientific knowledge could inform but cannot resolve: political ideology, public opinion, fiscal consequences, diplomatic consequences, etc. The nature of democracy means that there are always multiple trade-offs at play in every decision a government makes, and different stakeholders have very different perspectives."


Government of Canada launches search for Chief Science Advisor

posted Feb 11, 2017, 8:36 AM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Feb 11, 2017, 8:36 AM ]

Government of Canada launches search for Chief Science Advisor

Position key to advancing science and integration of science into decision making

Video: Chief Science Advisor

December 5, 2016 – Ottawa – Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

More than 35,000 people in the federal government are involved in science and technology
 activities. Also, nearly 50,000 researchers and trainees across the country are supported by
the federally funded research councils. From clean air and water to food security and
technological advancements, science plays a crucial role in providing the evidence the
Government of Canada needs to make decisions that improve the lives of Canadians.

Today, the search begins for the person who will be instrumental in furthering the Government's
commitment to science-based decision making. The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of
Science, is delivering on her key mandate commitment by launching the search for a Chief
 Science Advisor for Canada. The announcement took place at the historic Library of the
 National Research Council in Ottawa.

The Chief Science Advisor will be responsible for providing scientific advice to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Science and members of Cabinet. This individual will also advise on how to ensure that government science is open to the public, that
 federal scientists are able to speak freely about their work, and that science is effectively
communicated across government. The office will be supported by a team of scientists and
policy experts.

The position is now open to all Canadians. The full job description and information on
 applying can be found on the Governor in Council website. The application process is
expected to close on January 27, 2017.


"This search for a Chief Science Advisor is a historic moment. This position is critical because science affects everything from the health and well-being of Canadians to the economy and the environment. Science is also the foundation of sound decision making within government."

– The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

Quick facts

  • Minister Duncan was mandated by the Prime Minister to create the position.
  • The Chief Science Advisor will report to both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Science.
  • In the past year, the federal government has made a science-based approach to
    governance a top priority.
  • The Chief Science Advisor will be available to the Government to provide scientific
    advice on key issues.
  • The mandate of the position was developed after a rigorous process of consultation
    across government. The Minister also looked at best practices from around the world
    and listened closely to the research community.

Related product

Associated links

Follow the Minister on social media.
Twitter: @ScienceMin
Instagram: sciencemin


Véronique Perron
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Science

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Date modified:

Ministers announce Canada's Oceans Protection Plan in Eastern Canada

posted Nov 8, 2016, 1:23 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience

News ReleaseArticle from Government of Canada

Ministers announce Canada's Oceans
Protection Plan in Eastern Canada

November 7, 2016 – St. John's (Newfoundland and Labrador) / Halifax
(Nova Scotia) Government of Canada

Every day, Canadians across the country rely on transportation to get to work,
bring their children to school, and ship their products to market. The Government
of Canada is committed to protecting the country's marine environment by
 ensuring goods are imported and exported in a safe and responsible way.

Today, in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc,
 Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and in Halifax,
Nova Scotia, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and
 Climate Change announced a $1.5 billion national Oceans Protection Plan.

The Plan improves marine safety and responsible shipping, protects Canada's
 marine environment, and creates stronger partnerships with Indigenous and
 coastal communities. The plan meets or exceeds international standards and
 is supported by commitments to Indigenous co-management, environmental
protections, and science-based standards.

As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, the following initiatives were announced:

  • The re-opening of the Maritime Rescue Sub-centre in St. John's,
    Newfoundland and Labrador. This rescue centre provides regional capacity
    to facilitate effective operational coordination and response to all-hazard
    marine incidents.
  • The construction of two new Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat stations in
     Newfoundland and Labrador areas to improve search and rescue.
  • The refurbishment of the Canadian Coast Guard St. Anthony, Newfoundland
     and Labrador, lifeboat station.
  • The building of two new radars in Atlantic Canada – one to be installed in
    the Strait of Belle Isle area, and the second one in Chedabucto, Nova Scotia.
  • Increased domestic and international scientific collaboration on oil spill
    response through investments for Fisheries and Oceans Canada's
    world-leading Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research in
    Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
  • Continued investment in response planning for the Strait of Canso,
    Nova Scotia, and the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, including bringing
    together baseline biology, ecology, social, cultural, and economic data.
  • Improved timely availability of science-based expertise during incidents
     by placing additional emergency and enforcement officers in Atlantic Canada.
  • Increased marine safety information for mariners and improving hydrography,
     charting, and e-navigation products, including for the Strait of Canso,
    Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick.
  • Investment in research to support new and refined oceanographic oil spill
     trajectory models, including for the Strait of Canso, Nova Scotia, and the
    Port of Saint John, New Brunswick.
  • Learning how to better protect marine mammals from shipping-related
  • The launch of a comprehensive plan to address abandoned, derelict and
    wrecked vessels, including making vessel owners responsible and liable for
     vessel clean-up.

Moving forward, Canada will be better equipped, better regulated, and better
prepared to protect marine environment and coastal communities, achieving a
 world-leading marine safety system. These new measures will contribute to
 Canadians and to growing the middle-class.


"Through the Oceans Protection Plan, Canada's world-leading marine safety
system will respond better, quicker and more effectively to marine spills and
 incidents along all of our coasts and major waterways, including in Atlantic
Canada. In addition, preventative measures will help ensure marine spills and
incidents do not happen in the first place. Most importantly, this work will be
 done in strong partnership with Indigenous and coastal communities, valuing
 their traditional knowledge and expertise in preserving our coasts and their
pristine beauty for generations to come."
The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport

"Under Canada's Oceans Protection Plan, we are taking decisive steps to
address the needs and protection of Canada's three coasts such as following
through on our Government's commitment to re-open the Canadian Coast
 Guard Maritime Rescue Sub-centre. Canada's Oceans Protection Plan will
strengthen Canada's Coast Guard to better serve Atlantic Canadians, while
 investing in better science to inform our decision making and getting the
 right regulations in place to protect our precious coastlines and waterways
for future generations." 
The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc 
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

"Today's announcement demonstrates that the Government of Canada
 is taking action to ensure a clean environment and a strong economy go
hand-in-hand. The Oceans Protection Plan will support good jobs for
middle-class Atlantic Canadians, help us better fulfil our environmental
protection responsibilities to Canadians, advance our science, and keep
our waters and wildlife safe for generations to come." 

The Honourable Catherine McKenna
Minister of Environment and Climate Change


It’s Catching, If You’re a Clam: Infectious Cancer Spreading in Soft-Shell Clams, other Mollusks

posted Jun 24, 2016, 1:56 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Jun 24, 2016, 1:59 PM ]

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC by Cheryl Lyn Dybas in Ocean Views on June 23, 2016

More »

Transmissible cancer is now found in four                      species of mollusks.

Scientists have discovered cancer that’s transmissible from mollusk-to-mollusk, including soft-shell clams. (Photograph: Michael Metzger)

It sounds like the plot of a summer horror flick: Malignant cells floating in the sea, ferrying infectious cancer everywhere they go.

The story is all too true, say scientists who’ve made a discovery they call “beyond surprising.”

Outbreaks of leukemia that have devastated populations of soft-shell clams (Mya arenaria) along the east coast of the U.S. and Canada are the result of cancerous tumor cells making their way from one clam to another.

“The evidence indicates that the tumor cells themselves are contagious – that they can spread from one clam to another in the ocean,” says biochemist and immunologist Stephen Goff of Columbia University, co-author, along with Michael Metzger of Columbia, of a paper reporting the results in the journal Cell.

These mussels are one of four species of                      mollusks affected.

The mussels at Copper Beach in West Vancouver, Canada, are infected with the disease. (Photograph: Annette Muttray)

This week the team reported new findings in the journal Nature. The transmissible cancer has been discovered in three more bivalve species – mussels (Mytilus trossulus) in West Vancouver, Canada; cockles (Cerastoderma edule) in Spain; and golden carpet shell clams (Polititapes aureus), also in Spain.

Mytilus trossulus is the main native intertidal mussel in the northern Pacific. In North America, it’s found from California to Alaska. Cerastoderma edule is widely distributed from Norway to the coast of West Africa; Polititapes aureus is common in the coastal waters of Spain and nearby nations.

The plot thickens: Soft-shell clams…and their relatives

A total of four mollusk species has been                      diagnosed with transmissible cancer.

A disease first found in soft-shell clams is now confirmed in mussels, cockles and gold carpet shell clams. (Photograph: Michael Metzger)

The range of the soft-shell (Mya arenaria) extends along the eastern North America coastline from Canada to the U.S. Southeast. The species is also found along the U.K. coast, as well as in the North Sea’s Wadden Sea, where it’s the dominant large clam.

Soft-shell clams – also called steamers, longnecks and Ipswich clams – are popular in seafood markets and on restaurant menus.

For those who favor clams on the half shell, the researchers believe that clam leukemia can’t be contracted by eating potentially infected clams, nor by swimming in the sea.

Mya arenaria’s shell is made of calcium carbonate and is thin and easily broken, hence the name soft-shell. The clam lives buried in tidal mudflats, some six to 10 inches under the surface. It extends its paired siphons up through the mud to filter seawater for food. Water often spurts from the siphons, a tip-off for clam diggers.

Cockles near Galicia, Spain, have the                      disease.

Cockles like these were collected near Galicia, Spain, and tested for the disease. (Photograph: David Iglesias)

Means and opportunity: The disease

Clam diggers likely won’t wipe out a mudflat’s soft-shells, but clam leukemia may. The cancer, it’s believed, originated in one unfortunate mollusk. It’s astounding, Goff says, that a leukemia that has killed countless clams traces to one incidence of the disease.

As the cancer cells divide, break free, and make their way into other clams, leukemia has infected soft-shells along more than 600 miles of coastline. It’s now found from northern Newfoundland to Chesapeake Bay, nearly the soft-shell’s entire range. “The prospects for disease control therefore aren’t very promising,” says Goff.

Only two other transmissible cancers are known in the wild: Canine venereal disease in dogs and Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease, spread when one Tasmanian devil bites another.

Will soft-shell clams and related mollusks go the way of Tasmania’s devils, now listed as Endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species? No one knows.

Golden carpet shell clams near Galicia,                      Spain

Along with cockles, golden carpet shell clams near Galicia, Spain, have leukemia. (Photograph: David Iglesias)

On-the-loose: From New York to Maine to Prince Edward Island

In their studies of clam cancer, Goff and colleagues found that a particular sequence of DNA, which they appropriately named Steamer, was found at high levels in leukemia-ridden clam cells. While normal soft-shell cells contain only two to five copies of Steamer, cancer cells may have 150 copies.

The researchers at first thought this difference was the result of a genetic amplification process within each individual clam. But when Metzger analyzed the genomes of cancer cells from soft-shells collected in Port Jefferson, New York; St. George, Maine; Larrabee Cove, Maine; and Dunk Estuary, Prince Edward Island, he was astounded. The cancer cells were identical to one another at the genetic level. “They were clones,” says Metzger.

Adds Goff, “We were astonished to realize that the tumors did not arise from the cells of their diseased host animals, but rather from a rogue clonal cell line that had spread over large geographic distances.”

The cells can survive in seawater long enough to reach and infect a new host, the scientists found. They aren’t sure, however, how many mollusk species ultimately might be able to contract the leukemia. But the new findings suggest that transmissible cancers are more common than researchers suspected.

Mussels in West Vancouver, Canada, tested                      positive for the mollusk leukemia.

Mussels from Copper Beach in West Vancouver, Canada – potentially diseased – on ice. (Photograph: Michael Metzger)

Where’s the trigger?

Biologist Anne Bottger of West Chester University in Pennsylvania believes environmental contaminants may be the sparks that set off mollusk leukemia. She and colleagues studied soft-shell clams in three coastal New England locales: New Bedford Harbor, Massachusetts; Hampton Harbor, New Hampshire; and Ogunquit, Maine.

“Frequencies of terminal clam neoplasia are correlated with chronic environmental contamination,” Bottger and colleagues reported in a 2013 paper in the journalNortheastern Naturalist. “That’s likely involved in disease transmission by compromising their [the clams’] innate immune systems and making them more susceptible to infectious agents.”

Bottger found the most clam leukemia in New Bedford Harbor. Of the three research sites, New Bedford Harbor had the highest levels of contaminants, including PCBs.

Once leukemia is established in a soft-shell population, Bottger discovered, it kills 40 to 100 percent of the clams.

What will happen in other mollusk species?  Ominously, says Goff, “It’s too soon to know.”

For now, the best he or anyone can offer is: Stay tuned for the sequel…

Infected cockles near Galicia, Spain.

Is disease in these cockles near Galicia, Spain, an indicator of the future for still other mollusk species? It’s too soon to know, scientists say. (Photograph: David Iglesias)


Ocean Views

Ocean Views brings new and experienced voices together to discuss the threats facing our ocean and to celebrate successes. We strive to raise awareness worldwide to the benefits of restoring fisheries and creating marine reserves. We inspire people to take better care of the oceans and leave a legacy of pristine seas to future generations.

Opinions expressed are those of the blogger and/or the blogger's organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Bloggers and commenters are required to observe National Geographic's community rules.

Ocean Views director: David Braun ( photograph above, by Chris Fallows, Apex Shark Expeditions, is from the most popular post on Ocean Views: Ten Photos of Great White Sharks to Take Your Breath Away

The Aquarium of the World

Described by Jacques Cousteau as the "aquarium of the world," the Gulf of California in Mexico is threatened by coastal development, climate change, and other human activities. To learn firsthand what's going on in and around this marine treasure of global importance, the National Geographic Society sent its top scientists and officials to the region in January 2016. They toured the desert islands off the southeastern coast of the Baja Peninsula and they listened to presentations by more than a dozen experts, including several whose Baja California research is funded by the Society. Bring yourself up to speed about this important place in this series of posts: National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration Visits the Gulf of California

Latest Ocean Views

Acid Seas

The carbon dioxide we pump into the air is seeping into the oceans and slowly acidifying them. One hundred years from now, will oysters, mussels, and coral reefs survive? Read the National Geographic Feature

Photograph: Clownfish reared in acidified water can't recognize the chemical signals that guide them to their unusual home—the tentacles of an anemone. Some are even drawn to the scent of predators. View more of David Littschwager's "Acid Sea" photos

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