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Why Now?

It’s more than just our problem

Protecting our oceans is not only a matter for Canada, it’s also a global concern. Around the earth, the oceans and the relatively unknown lifeforms that call them home are under threat. Scientists have recorded numerous changes and early warning signs that indicate we need to adopt policies and regulations to ensure that we develop sustainable practices to save one of the most important parts of our planet.


A Big Part of Our Planet

Our oceans are changing, and it’s not for the better. Numerous studies have shown significant differences in a number of things that indicate the health of our oceans and everything within them. From warmer ocean temperatures to thinner and smaller amounts of sea ice, scientists are finding results that raise concerns. Along with this, signs that the ocean’s acidity is increasing, while its oxygen levels are decreasing, provide an even better picture of why multiple commercial fish stocks are declining and the ocean’s food web is changing drastically. Sadly, although we know that all of these changes are due to natural and human stressors, our current recovery efforts are not doing enough. When we add this to what we know about the connection between the health of our oceans and our own well-being, the need to find a solution is obvious.

Through years of research, we have come to understand our connection with the earth’s oceans a little better. Currently, our oceans are responsible for:

  • 95% of the environment that can host life;
  • the greatest variety of species;
  • production of half the oxygen we breathe;
  • significant food resources;
  • a number of important industries and
  • the regulation of the climate.

With all of this tied to the health of our oceans, it should be no surprise that it is crucial for our species, and every other one on the planet, to ensure that the oceans are healthy. However, before we can effectively develop conservation and sustainable use strategies, we need to learn more about what it is we’re trying to save.

 

The Great Unknown

Given how much of the earth consists of our oceans, it is surprising that we know more about the land than we do that which takes up the majority of our planet. Looking further into our knowledge about this large influence in our lives, it is evident that the depth of what we know does not run evenly across the different groups of organisms, or even the different oceans themselves. In fact, while our knowledge of marine mammals and fishes is relatively good, our understanding of the microbes and other marine life such as phytoplankton and zooplankton is poor. Along with this, we also know relatively little about the Arctic Ocean and the deep sea.

In part, it is these gaps in knowledge that keep us from developing the sustainable solutions that we need to preserve our oceans, and, in effect, ourselves. Today, we understand that filling-in these gaps to be able to consider the entire ecosystem is a necessary step, and this is known as the ecosystem approach.

 

What We Are Doing

Using this approach, the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe) is developing the knowledge necessary for sustainable management of our oceans. Our key focuses include:

Although this level of research may have been difficult in the past, new advances in ocean technology have pushed the possibilities of marine biodiversity research to support an ecosystem-based approach to Canada’s oceans.

Armed with this technology, our researchers and students from across Canada are working on filling-in the gaps in our knowledge of the oceans. Through this, we hope to influence policymakers to adopt a number of sustainable measures that will not only ensure the future health of our oceans, they will also meet the needs of Canada’s international conservation agreements and national laws, such as the Oceans ActConvention of Biological Diversity, and Species at Risk Act.

Learn more about CHONe's Research or explore our research by theme: Marine BiodiversityEcosystem Function and Population Connectivity.  

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