Seafood & Oceans
B.C.’s coastal waters are home to some of the richest marine ecosystems left on this planet. Our salt waters are home to many ocean “giants”, including , the world’s , sea stars, scallops, the and sea urchins. The diversity of basic life forms in B.C.’s ocean world is greater than on land. Close to 7,000 marine species—almost 4% of the world’s total marine species—are found in our waters. Marine biodiversity experts believe this number could double when all of B.C.’s marine habitat is fully explored.
Half of the oxygen in the atmosphere is produced by plankton and larger plants living in the oceans; you could say that the oxygen in every second breath you take is generated by the oceans. Ocean waters play a critical role in moderating global warming, because they absorb vast amounts of heat along with a volume of greenhouse gases equal to that absorbed by the plants and soils of the land, . But B.C.'s coastal marine ecosystems are beginning to undergo a rapid and silent collapse that parallels recent ecosystem collapses in Atlantic Canada and the Gulf of Mexico. More than 60 B.C. marine species—from recently-discovered glass sponge reefs to otters and humpback whales—are in peril.
Habitat damage, oil spills, urban and industrial activity, acidification, declining oxygen and warming water all endanger the survival of B.C.’s dazzling array of marine life. Population collapses have already taken their toll on , halibut, sturgeon, humpback and orca whales, lingcod, and English sole, among many other species. Coastal marine ecosystems have suffered greatly as a consequence, and so have B.C.'s coastal and fishing communities. The spectre of oil tanker traffic along B.C.’s inland coast for the first time in more than 30 years—along with proposed offshore oil and gas development—compounds the myriad dangers facing our marine species and ecosystems. Learn more about the issues facing B.C.'s marine environment.
While the challenges appear daunting, this is also a time of great opportunity. We have already made considerable progress towards protecting some of our threatened fish species. Sierra Club BC successfully campaigned for a wild salmon conservation policy. We spearheaded a groundfish reform process that led to the designation of rockfish conservation areas and mandatory at-sea monitoring of all harvests and by-catch. Recently we have been a client in a successful Ecojustice court action forcing the designation of critical habitat for endangered killer whales to include fish as well as clean water and quiet.Our work in the SeaChoice coalition helps consumers make seafood choices that support healthy marine ecosystems. We promote marine use planning according to the principles of ecosystem-based management, including the designation of marine protected areas to help us become more strategic about how and what we take from the ocean—and what we put into it. Learn more about the ways we can protect our seafood and oceans.