Canada’s Dangerous Waters

November 28, 2022
Canada’s shipping laws are clear-cutting the kelp forests, destroying kilometers of habitat for critically endangered species.
Orca breaching near Vancouver Island twitter sized

Ship pollution is clearcutting kelp forests, leaving only 73 southern resident killer whales

Essential for a thriving marine ecosystem, kelp forests provide shelter and food to critically endangered orca, endangered sea otters, and threatened fish species. These once vast and thriving forests stretched for hundreds of kilometers and were lush feeding grounds. In their place, today, are marine dead zones stretching for kilometers.

The kelp forests are an ever-dwindling ecosystem for the remaining 73 critically endangered southern resident killer whales. This silent struggle is happening under the Salish and Great Bear Seas. The evidence is there, if you know where to look and with your help, we can spotlight a solution.

Environmental organizations, communities, and even photographers are all working to bring visibility to ongoing kelp forest destruction, orca decline, and the interdependence of a thriving ocean and coastal communities. Globally, however, few are heeding these warnings because the general public can’t easily see below the water. Under the surface of the sea, almost no one is watching. Were this to happen above the surface, global citizens could see Canada promoting what is essentially aquatic clear-cutting.

Why isn’t anyone stopping these ships?

Canada has no laws in place to stop them from dumping. Any ship can dump sewage directly into the ocean, contributing to the destruction of critical habitat and food sources for endangered orca and threatened species. Not just a “Canadian problem”, ships from far and wide can cross the Canadian maritime border simply to dump waste into the sea kelp forest (including raw sewage). Water doesn’t respect maritime borders and neither does pollution; global oceans need your help.

Shipping practices are today’s version of overhunting.

Of course, Canada’s legacy of destroying the kelp forests stretches back hundreds of years, beginning with over-hunting sea otters for the fur trade, almost to the point of extinction. Sea otters were the caretakers of these forests, hunting and eating kelp’s main consumer. Hovering around one percent of their original population, sea otters cannot keep up with the sea urchin explosion.

The destruction continues today in new ways. Canada allows ships to dump waste directly into this fragile kelp forest ecosystem. Canada’s dumping laws are so famously lax, that Ships from far and wide save their waste until arriving at the border where they pour it directly into the ocean where it further degrades the kelp forest and compromises the habitat and food sources for endangered species. Even in the United States, dumping laws prohibit these kinds of practices.

Right now, there is nothing to stop any ship from crossing the Canadian maritime border simply to dump waste into the sea kelp forest. From orcas to plant life, nothing can escape this pollution and habitat destruction. 

Solutions on the horizon: *spoiler* you need to help

The community was founded to protect forests. And we have succcesfully gone up against banks, corporations, and governments and lobbyists to stand with communities protecting their homes. We have gone head-to-head with a $75 billion corporation to secure permanent protections for critical caribou habitat. Over the years we’ve been proud to help protect millions of acres from logging in the Great Bear Rainforest, Northern boreal forest, and in Chile. Now we are fighting to protect kelp forests in the Great Bear and Salish Seas.

The good news is that you can protect kelp forests. The world can demand that Canada do its part for ocean health, and enact laws that protect this fragile ecosystem and the critically endangered species that rely on it.



Sign here to call on Canada's Minster of Transport to end ocean dumping and protect biodiversity now:

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