rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Canada has many reasons to celebrate World Oceans Day

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Buried under a late-May news barrage, Canada's government made small but important changes to the Oceans Act and Petroleum Resources Act that will strengthen protection of at-risk marine ecosystems. The most significant is that government will no longer have to wait for marine protected area designation to prevent harmful activities, but will have the power to implement "interim protections."

Changes to the Petroleum Act "allow Natural Resources Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to negotiate the voluntary surrender of a company's oil and gas interests" and compensate companies if marine protected area designation means cancelling projects.

Freezing harmful activities for up to five years will give government time to consult with provinces, territories, Indigenous communities, stakeholders and the public before it formally protects a marine area. The changes are in line with the government's goal of protecting 10 per cent of Canada's ocean territory by next year. It has made progress, with 8.27 per cent now protected, up from less than one per cent in 2015.

It's progress worth celebrating on World Oceans Day, June 8. Many Canadians may not know the UN declared this special day at Canada's urging. With three oceans surrounding the world's longest coastline and more than 350,000 ocean-dependent jobs, it makes sense for Canada to honour and protect these ecosystems and the tremendous resources they provide. But is it too early to pat ourselves on the back?

Greenpeace study by York and Oxford university researchers argues we must protect at least 30 per cent of oceans by 2030, including areas outside territorial jurisdiction, "to address the crisis facing our oceans and enable their recovery." (I believe that falls short of what's needed.) The report, 30×30: A Blueprint for Ocean Protection, shows that a network of "fully protected marine protected areas" is feasible and something the world should consider as governments negotiate a global ocean treaty through the UN, expected in 2020.

The push for greater ocean protection marks a growing shift in our perception of the seas, from a resource storehouse and dumping ground for wastes to a source of life. Oceans are vital to our survival and contribute to our prosperity and quality of life. They produce more than half the world's oxygen and are the largest carbon sink. And they offer yet unknown potential for medical discoveries.

But we know more about Mars than the immense scope of ocean life. We've only explored about five per cent of the underwater world. Less then a half century ago, no one contemplated that a multitude of species could live around deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Further altering our value system to put the environment first and look out for all species' needs will allow us to base development decisions on recognizing that we benefit from maintaining natural ecosystems.

Beyond Oceans Act amendments, Canada is also examining Fisheries Act updates to address increasing pollution, ecosystem destruction and declining biodiversity. This would include measures to rebuild fish stocks, many of which are severely depleted. Similar action has proven successful in the United States. However, fishing quotas aren't enough, as fish face numerous threats that only healthy, abundant stocks may be able to withstand. Marine protected areas help safeguard the diversity and abundance of plants and animals in and around them, improving their resilience to human activity, climate change and other, often unexpected, events.

We often take the oceans' gifts for granted, underestimating their value, resulting in devastation to local economies and cultural values. Attempting to balance priorities between the environment and the economy requires constant, exhausting renegotiation and compromise. The false assumption is that conservation activities cost more than the environmental impacts of growing industrial activity.

We must continue shifting our perspective. We can't continue to prioritize short-term economic objectives over the very ecosystems that sustain us. Acting for our immediate benefit can destroy the intricate balance and put a species or even the whole ecosystem in peril. A single oil spill could threaten the existence of southern resident orcas.

If we care about human prosperity, we must protect oceans. Supporting their natural resilience by restoring their biological diversity would deliver long-term benefits for food security and social and economic well-being. Let's stay the course on leadership and progressive action on this important issue.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Specialist Olga Shuvalova. Learn more at https://davidsuzuki.org/.

Image: James Mann/Flickr

Make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation and join us as we take on the 2019 election. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.