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Rising to oceans’ great challenges

posted Jun 11, 2014, 12:32 PM by SOS SaveOceanScience   [ updated Mar 29, 2015, 5:35 PM ]
Fuller, S., & Wells, P. (2014, June 6). Rising to oceans’ great challenges. The Chronicle Herald. Retrieved from
Rising to oceans’ great challenges
By Susanna Fuller and Peter Wells
Published June 6, 2014 - 4:10pm

A group of endangered North Atlantic right whales in the Bay of Fundy in 2006.

June is full of oceans-related events, and Nova Scotia is host to many important meetings that celebrate our past and future as a coastal province.
This week is Oceans Week, culminating on World Oceans Day, June 8. In mid-June (the 15th-19th), Halifax is hosting a major international conference on ocean management, entitled “Our Coasts — Legacies and Futures.” It is sponsored by the Coastal Zone Canada (CZC) Association and the Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership.
As well, there is a workshop on coastal and estuarine science, an international history of oceanography conference in honour of Dr. Eric Mills, the eminent marine historian at Dalhousie University, a meeting of the Gulf of Maine Council, and many public events celebrating our oceans.
Twenty years ago, over 600 people from many countries gathered in Halifax for the first international CZC conference. This marked a commitment by government, academia and non-government organizations to share best practices and move ahead with a progressive agenda to properly manage our coasts and ocean spaces. Today Canada’s coasts, the oceans management framework and the science are in a much different place. Budgetary cuts, regulatory changes and shifting policy priorities have slowed the progressive agenda set out in 1994.
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At the 2014 CZC conference, over 400 national and international delegates will convene to discuss new ocean information, technologies and policy frameworks. The primary goal for Canada is to map out the next few years of ocean resource and environmental management, building on the lessons of the past and new knowledge.
Many aspects of the health and sustainability of ocean ecosystems will be discussed. A youth session, “The Oceans We Want,” will bring high school and university students together to discuss priorities for future generations.
The impacts of climate change, current and future, will be highlighted by keynote speaker Frances Zwiers, a contributor to the recently released report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Former prime minister Paul Martin will discuss work of the Global Oceans Commission, an 18-month study on protecting the high seas from human impacts and ensuring that science is used in decision-making.
Tim Kearns, an NSCC graduate now involved in using big data in oceans management, will explore new ways of working together for the common good.
These meetings occur while we celebrate the lives and contemplate the messages of two, very familiar ocean icons of our era. Rachel Carson was the author of many books on the sea, such as Under the Sea Wind and The Sea Around Us. Her death 50 years ago is being remembered this year. Our Canadian literary icon, Farley Mowat, recently passed away. His books on the sea, such as Sea of Slaughter (1984), documented the challenges that marine species face as humans increasingly dominate the sea. Mowat implored that we take better care of our coastal spaces and species.
In Nova Scotia, our coasts are where most of us live and where our fisheries, tourism and real estate contribute to the economy. They are also places where municipalities face increasing challenges, as infrastructure is damaged by storms and threatened by sea-level rise.
All of the above events this month will result in looking at our progress in oceans and coastal management. Where have we succeeded? Where have we failed or been stalled? How can the broad ocean community continue on the quest to manage our oceans better, at every level of operation and use — personal, municipal, provincial, federal, international? How can we carve a path forward in a challenging funding environment? The ocean’s future and our own urgently need answers.
Dr. Susanna Fuller (Ecology Action Centre) and Dr. Peter Wells (International Ocean Institute, Dalhousie University). Public events associated with the various meetings can be found at

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