Georgia Strait Alliance is the only citizens' group focused on protecting the marine environment in and around the whole Strait of Georgia – Canada's most at-risk natural environment, and the place where 70% of British Columbians live, work and play. We are committed to a future for our region that includes clean water and air, healthy wild salmon runs, rich marine life and natural areas, and sustainable communities.

December 19, 2012

The year of the radical

If at the beginning of 2012 you had asked me to list a few words to describe myself, I might have chosen words like “wife”, “aunt”, “godmother”, “environmental advocate”, “news junkie” and “theatre lover”, to name a few.  But I can tell you that nowhere on this list would you ever have seen this one word – “radical”.

But come the end of January that was the word being attached to my work as an environmental advocate, and to all those who work tirelessly to ensure that protection of our air and water isn’t an afterthought, but is a foundation of our social and economic health.  We were also being called “enemies of the state” for our views, another descriptor you would not have found on my list.

As I look back on this year and see the devastation left behind by a federal government that sees the environment – and its protection – as an impediment to an economy they believe should be solely built on resource extraction, I’m left wondering – who exactly are the radicals here?

Canadians have consistently indicated that they place a high priority on the protection of our environment.  From a commitment to parks to tackling climate change, Canadians value a healthy environment and see it as fundamental to our identity.  Most recently, an Ipsos Reid poll found that over 4 in 5 Canadians (85%) say federal laws protecting species at risk are crucial to the diversity and abundance of wildlife.

Yet today, environmental assessment has been weakened and our oceans and rivers – and all the creatures that call them home – have less protection than ever before.  And we all know the carnage isn’t over.  It seems that our government is out of sync with Canadians and it is they who are acting in a radical way.

Now, the de-regulation of environmental protection in Canada is frightening enough, but that those who would disagree with government policy become the target of inflammatory attacks from a democratically elected government should all give us pause.  The government's decision to provide Canada Revenue Agency with additional funding to audit charities at a time when cuts to scientific research and environmental monitoring have been slashed underscores this strange reality we live in.  The current environment is so concerning that Pen Canada, an organization who works with others to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right, at home and abroad, has voiced its concerns.  This is an organization that is often flagging human rights violations in countries with few democratic rights, which says a lot about what they see happening in Canada.

Through all this, what I have found even more mind-boggling is the accusation that environmental groups have a secret agenda.  That sounds scary until you realize that our agenda is quite transparent, it’s just that it is beyond the understanding of our government and its supporters.  What we want is to build a different world than the one the oil and gas industry has decided we should live in.  We care about our communities and strongly believe we can have strong environmental health and a strong economy – we just have to start doing things differently.

This has been a year like no other in my time at Georgia Strait Alliance, but I’m actually feeling quite hopeful because I see a lot of good has come out of this “annus horribilis”.  What heartens me most is that these attacks have resulted in a more galvanized and cohesive social justice community.  Charities of all types have come out in support of environmental groups and voiced loudly their concern about a government that believes disagreement should be quashed.  In effect, the results have been not a quieting of opposition but a more thoughtful and emboldened movement because when you are being attacked for your right to speak out, this is not time to be silent.  And I can assure you as we go into 2013, we will not be.

Thanks to all of you who have supported Georgia Strait Alliance and other environmental groups during this past year.  We are your voice in these terrible times and by making a charitable donation, you allow our voice to be stronger – as we will need to be in the year ahead.  

December 13, 2012

Pipelines and Public Relations

"Information Session". Now isn't that a friendly, non threatening term. And indeed that's exactly what the Kinder Morgan Information sessions on their proposed new pipeline to bring Alberta Tar Sands crude to the coast to load onto tankers were for the most part.  These are almost over, with just one left in this region on Salt Spring Island in January.

 I attended the one in Nanaimo and saw nothing but overt good cheer and intentions from the full spectrum of opinions that we all know this project has. Apparently there were some minor kefuffles in Hope and Victoria but not having been there I can't give a perspective. Kinder Morgan seems to know they cannot just ram this project through as perhaps once was the case and have developed a strategy that is all about public relations at this stage.

When I got there quite a few people had already gathered awaiting entry. When the doors opened I was one of the first in and was asked if I wanted to sign in. I presented my card and asked if I could speak to the main PR person expecting someone from Vancouver or Calgary. I was surprised to find they actually have someone based in Victoria. This means they are taking this PR stuff very seriously.

Lots of opposition at the Nanimo info session
Looking around the room the essence of slick PR professionalism was everywhere. From the many members of the young fresh faced PR team to the few experienced company, port and response representatives. The comprehensive, very professional looking information signage covering almost every conceivable aspect of the project including the inevitable environmental and socioeconomic concerns of course and the general layout of the room which allowed for the one-on-one discussion method to be most effective.Having been a somewhat serious student of the martial arts for almost 30 years I recognize this strategy of drawing your opponent in.

However a large number of the folks who were there seemed to be highly informed about the project already and were not letting themselves be drawn in. In fact many stayed outside the room singing songs and handing out  information from a different perspective. There were all sorts of signs in opposition and many blue drops (a sign of solidarity for clean water).

I let myself be drawn in order to tell the main PR guy very clearly and firmly that Georgia Strait Alliance does not support this project or any that would increase the risk of a major spill in our sensitive waters or significantly contribute to climate change. The environmental, social and economic consequences are just not worth any risk! Prepared to extract myself from a conversation geared to convince me to the merits of the project if necessary, I was pleased but not overly surprised to be told that he would not try to dissuade us from our position (another tactic I'm familiar with).

What I was surprised at however was a cheerful, though perhaps unintended, admission that there was really no point in me trying to convince him of our position either. I understand some of these folks are not just about growth or short term gain and they actually believe this is a good project, but I guess I'd call that a a bit of a PR disaster.
I thought they wanted to hear from us. Well maybe they do but they certainly didn't seem to want to actually listen.

In martial arts, a strategy following the drawing in, is a reversal of your opponent's energy to use it against them. I'm curious if Kinder Morgan will try this next? And will it work if they cannot actually draw people in? Another option of course would be to actually listen to the community concerns, in fact be part of the community - not opponents at all, and be prepared to pull out of the project if it is not supported, rather than forge ahead regardless.

November 29, 2012

There's more than tankers out there!

Ships at anchor, English Bay VancouverAnyone who spends time traveling around or gazing out on Georgia Strait will see ships here there and everywhere in the region. The anchored ships in English Bay, Vancouver are a world renowned spectacle for tourists, travelers  and business visitors alike. Personally I love to see them and greatly appreciate how they bring many of the goods that my family and I need to this part of the world.

In the Port of Metro Vancouver there are well over 3000 ships entering and exiting each year and that does not include BC Ferries. Nanaimo sees over 200 and Victoria the same once again not including all the ferry trips.  While many of the ships look similar they perform a wide range of functions. From ferries to oil tankers, bulk carriers to container vessels, military vessels to large pleasure craft and cruise ships to break bulk. More information about ships in Georgia Strait is available on our main website.

Excluding tankers, an average ship is over 2 football fields in length and carries over 1.5 million litres in fuel oil. Add in oil tanker traffic and that's a lot of hydrocarbons floating around our waters. For the most part, the shipping industry is very conscientious and usually gets  them in and out of here without incident. However there have been accidents and oil has been spilled here. Just like the increasing tanker traffic that has had so much media attention lately, the more other ships we have transiting our waters, the more risk we have of a hydrocarbon spill.

So in order to keep those risks at an acceptable level it behooves us as a society to ensure that those shipping trips are necessary and that the goods that are being shipped are needed. Ninety percent of world goods are transported by ships and unfortunately some of those goods are just satisfying consumer wants and/or perceived needs.  I suspect that the production, transportation and use of some products could do more harm than good when you look at the bigger picture of world environmental and socioeconomic sustainability. Oil and coal might come immediately to mind but there are many other examples. What would it take to ensure all products shipped fit into a world view of sustainable development as outlined by the Bruntland Commission Report way back in 1987?

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". It contains two key concepts:
  • the concept of "needs", in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."
Your respectful thoughts are welcome.

Time to help protect the southern Georgia Strait

Have you written your letter to Parks Canada about moving the feasibility process along to create permanent protection for the incredible, amazing, unique and essential marine environment of the southern Strait of Georgia?  Here's some help in making it happen! (With thanks to Canadian Parks and Wilderness Committee!)

Feel free to copy and paste parts of this letter to make it easier to write your own. Yours can be as brief and to the point or as long and elaborate as you like.
You can compose and post your letter here.
The Georgia Strait will love you for it!

Subject: Southern Strait of Georgia Marine Conservation Area (NMCA)
To whom it may concern:
I am writing this letter to show my strong support for the establishment of the proposed National Marine Conservation Area in the southern Georgia Strait.  The body of water that lies within the current proposed NMCA boundary is very special to me because… (I live there, I visit there, I take the ferry across all the time, I have watched whales there, I take visitors there, I have a cabin ... (you get the point). I love the ocean, I value the ocean ecosystem, I care about the marine species... I want my children, grandchildren to be able to experience this amazing environment, etc..  For some reminders, see our website.

I support the proposed NMCA because it will protect and maintain the integrity of the marine environment in the most threatened ecosystem in Canada. It will also ensure that the multitude of ongoing marine activities are managed in an ecologically sustainable manner.
I support the primary goals of the NMCA proposal stated by Parks Canada as 'conservation, public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment" (Parks Canada, Project Update 2012).

In addition to my support for its establishment, I would like to add:
(Add as many as you would like)
  • The NMCA should be as large as possible in order to facilitate the appropriate zoning for bothconservation and sustainable use. 
  • I urge the inclusion of the large rectangular area just off Galiano and Valdes Islands that is 'cut out' of the current proposed boundary. 
  • The NMCA should extend up to the high tide line and include important near-shore ocean habitats. 
  • The NMCA should encompass areas adjacent to existing provincial parks (these areas are currently excluded) to ensure effective management of the entire marine area. 
  • Parks Canada should assume management responsibility for the entire NMCA upon establishment, as opposed to the proposed “phased implementation” plan.  I am concerned that a phased implementation approach will leave important marine areas without protection and fragment the integrated management of the area.
  • I support the need for a network of core 'no take' areas  to be included in the NMCA.  Prominent scientists and marine experts have recommended that at least 30% of  each Canadian marine bioregion should be zoned as 'reserves' or 'no take' areas in order to achieve conservation and fisheries benefits. (CPAWS,2011, Science Based Guidelines for Marine  Protected Area and MPA Networks in Canada). In the Southern Strait of Georgia NMCA, a network of 'no take' areas will act as nurseries to increase the number of fish, prevent habitat damage, allow depleted species to recover and allow for a diversity of life to flourish and serve as educational and recreational resources.

Thank you for taking the time to consider the above feedback and your continued efforts to protect the southern Strait of Georgia marine ecosystem.

[your name]

  • (Thanks from all of us who love the Georgia Strait too!)

November 23, 2012

Cohen said...

It seems everyone has found quotes in the final report from the Cohen commission to back up their established position on open net cage salmon farms. The industry claims that he found no problem with the farms and people who have been concerned about the farms for years are calling for their immediate removal.

Who’s right? What’s the real story? What does this report really say?

The report is quite daunting, 1100+ pages of testimony and documentation. Judge Cohen did a remarkable and thorough job of investigation and sifting of information to come up with 75 recommendations regarding a number of factors that seem to be impacting the health and well being of the Fraser River Sockeye.

From the very beginning of the Inquiry, salmon aquaculture has taken centre stage and continues to do so. British Columbians long for this issue to be resolved. We care deeply about this amazing fish and have little tolerance for threats to its well being.

Here’s my summary interpretation of Judge Cohen’s assessment of the part that salmon aquaculture has played in the decline of Fraser River Sockeye:
• Disease from the open net pen farms appears to be a major and potentially irreversible risk to Fraser River Sockeye.
• The data required to actually verify the degree of risk was not collected or interpreted adequately by DFO.
• This lack of transparent verifiable information is a result of DFO’s conflicting mandate to promote the industry.
• Siting criteria for open net farms should include proximity to migrating Fraser River Sockeye and farms not adhering to these criteria should be removed.
• The Discovery Island area open net pen farms are in the migration path of the Fraser River Sockeye.
• Production increases in the Discovery Island must not be permitted unless risk can be proven to be minimal.
• Fraser River salmon are important enough to British Columbians that we will not accept anything more than a minimal risk to them.
• DFO has to prove that there is no more than a minimal risk in order for the farms to continue after 2020 and they can only act on this once the conflicting mandate is removed.

This is what I understand, but I suggest you look for yourself. The whole report might be daunting, but the summary is manageable and a good read and Judge Cohen made some interesting comments and observations about our care and protection of this beloved BC fish. I highly recommend you read it and tell us what you think!
For more interpretation of the Cohen recommendations see our website: and

November 19, 2012

Down at the Dock: Clean Marine BC sees real, positive results!

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce on Perspectives on the Marine Economy. My talk focused on our Clean Marine BC green boating and marina eco-certification program, and how a clean marine environment is critical to a healthy coastal economy here in BC. Alongside teachers and politicians, the room was full of marine industry representatives, so I was expecting a tough crowd.

Photos taken at Maple Bay Marina by David Messier
The common misconception is that jobs and protecting the environment do not go hand in hand. The reality is that it costs too much not to protect our environment, but that kind of message can fall upon deaf ears. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how receptive the folks were to the idea that marine conservation is good business.  I was also lucky. Lucky that speaking right after me was a real life example of how this is true. Carol Messier of Maple Bay Marina spoke from the marine industry perspective. Maple Bay Marina is one of GSA’s eight eco-certified marinas, and among the highest ranking marinas within the program with 4 anchors (no marina has yet achieved the highest 5 anchor rating).

Carol spoke of many wonderful things going on at Maple Bay, but I was most excited to hear about how their hard work and commitment to marina environmental best practices is paying of for the marine environment, and for their business!

"We believe our participation in the Clean Marine BC program has been good for our business. The practical information presented by GSA and the collaborative nature of it, has helped us to improve the natural environment in and around the marina. This has translated into better boating experiences and in turn helps us to earn and retain high quality customers. It is also very satisfying to see the eel grass beds returning naturally along with the salmon fry and other wildlife." - Maple BayMarina

There you have it…Clean Marine BC is good for salmon, eelgrass, and business. We couldn’t ask for anything better, down at the dock!

November 8, 2012

Meet Megapus

If you haven't had the pleasure of encountering the new addition to the Georgia Strait Communities Atlas team yet, I officially introduce you to Megapus (that crazy looking critter to the right).  This multi-talented octopus, cleverly constructed by our summer career placement students, (Deanna McGillivray and Isabelle Gendron-Lemieux) attracted many visitors to GSA’s information tables at events over the summer.  Megapus not only gave us more opportunities to talk with people about the Georgia Strait Alliance, but having been crafted to record video, also provided a unique opportunity for people to 'talk to the octopus' and share what they value or are concerned about in the Georgia Strait…I mean, how could you say no to that face?

This is what people had to 'say to the octopus' at the, Powell River Open Air Market, Car Free Day and Vancouver Folk Festival;    

Did you know that you can submit your own videos to the Georgia Strait Communities Atlas?

It has always been a goal of the Communities Atlas project to engage the public to participate in the creation of a rich and informative Local Knowledge layer.  The Local Knowledge Atlas layer, a collection of submitted content that captures everything from observations of wildlife to concerns about shoreline development, helps us to understand what's important to citizens both in specific communities and region-wide. With the launch of the new Communities Atlas we have been exploring ways to increase public involvement and inspire people's creativity in helping to capture how we experience life on the Georgia Strait and how we envision a healthy future for our coastal communities.

What would you say to the octopus?  Sign up to the Communities Atlas to submit your videos and pictures.  We are currently looking, in particular, for stories about success stories of current marine protection/conservation projects and initiatives around Georgia Strait, but of course, whatever you would like to share is most welcome!

November 1, 2012

Tankers, Thanks and Banks

Adapted from original publication on smallchangefund Blog

Oil tankers shipping out of Vancouver Harbour were really not paid much attention to by the general public a couple of years ago, and maybe even just a year ago. The increase seen over the last decade did not get much publicity and the fact that tankers of some form or another have been using our waterways since the turn of the last century seemed to make it less threatening. Thanks to a perfect storm of different but colliding events, all that is rapidly changing. Certainly all the publicity about dirty tar sands oil has been part of it and Enbridge’s beleaguered Northern Gateway Pipeline project, the climate change debate, Keystone XL pipeline kerfuffle in the US and the Kalamazoo pipeline spill in Michigan. 

However even before Kinder Morgan’s announcement earlier this year of intentions to build a second pipeline to Vancouver from the tar sands, Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA) and a few others were starting to be concerned about the steady but seemingly silent, increase in tanker traffic through Burrard Inlet and the ecologically sensitive Salish Sea. After some extensive research we published the first version of our citizen's guide to tankers, oil spills and the risks to our region late last year and we have updated it recently to reflect the current situation.

Why would GSA be concerned about a few tankers traveling our waters when there are so many other issues facing this fantastic body of water we work to protect? Well, when I give presentations I explain that what is happening to Georgia Strait is like the death by a thousand cuts. Each travesty of pollution or inappropriate development that befalls it is cumulative and at some stage, if enough is done, Georgia Strait would eventually become like so many other devastated bodies of water. That being said, the damage that is currently being done, can (at least partially) be undone or stopped, and over the years we have lead many projects which have helped restore parts of Georgia Strait or served to protect it.  We believe our work and that of others will save Georgia Strait as a place of much natural beauty and biological diversity.

That, however, would all change if we have a major oil spill here and anything that increases the likelihood of that happening is of real concern to us.  If we have a catastrophic spill here we simply do not have the capability or resources to stop the irreparable damage to the ecology, economy and social fabric of this region. It would be a disaster in the real meaning of the word. Also of considerable concern to us is the fact that our communities have not been given any real opportunity to say if they are willing to take the risks of tar sands crude being shipped through our waters. That is something we are working toward on a number of different levels from our petition  and information on our website and in print to our liaison and email listserve hosting with other groups working on this issue and contribution to reports to meeting with Industry representatives.  

To do that we need funding, and this is the point we’d really like to thank our current funders including Patagonia, MEC and smallchangefund for all their support and promotion and all the wonderful donors who are contributing to our work. Thanks for going to your banks to help make our community voice on crude oil tankers a strong one. If you have not had a chance to contribute yet please do so on our website or by calling our office at 250-753-3459.
Many thanks!

October 25, 2012

How do you stop a pipeline or two?

Monday I joined thousands of people on the lawn of the Provincial Legislature as part of the Defend our Coast movement to ‘stop the pipelines’.
Coastal indigenous people arrived in an impressive procession with a clear message that any pipeline and any increase in tankers on the coast is unacceptable.

It was invigorating to see so many people willing to travel from around the province, give up their day, stand in the rain and the cold for hours in hopes of sending a message that the people do not want the land and water of BC exposed to the risk that increasing oil pipelines and tankers would present.

The messages were passionate articulate and variations on a theme. We heard a heartbreaking call to ‘stop it at the source’ because of the unrecoverable damage that the development of the tar sands have wreaked on the neighbouring villages and ecosystems; a plea to refuse to allow Enbridge to drive a stake into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, and steadfast refusal to allow increased tanker traffic in coastal waters. The crowd was diverse, determined and inventive. There were very few organizations in evidence. This was all about the people. Creativity, thoughtfulness and humour flourished in the variety of signs, puppets and costumes.

I watched for hours wondering what exactly it is that we need to do in order for our governments to hear and understand what we feel is essential for the future of our world and our children.
Hundreds of people sat with a banner of equivalent length to one supertanker proposed for the coast, which is by the way equal to the length of three quarters of the legislature lawn – sobering when you see how it essentially doesn’t look like it would fit anywhere easily. Some sat for hours, indicating willingness to put their bodies on the line – to engage in the time-honoured tradition of civil disobedience – when all other avenues of opposition to unacceptable political action have been exhausted and there is nothing else to be done.
Have we done all we can? Have we written all the letters, made all the calls we possibly could? Have we bombarded the media with our thoughts and concerns? Have we pushed for alternate energy sources? Do we use them whenever we can? Have we exhausted our fertile imaginations?

Two days later people gathered in the hundreds in over 60 communities around the province to send a message to the Provincial Government that pipelines through BC are not to be negotiated.
We sang along with the Raging Grannies and shouted our determination to protect our coast and call on our government to do the right thing and protect what we love and what will sustain us for generations. 
Ruby as salmon at Courtenay rally

There is a ground swell of passionate resistance to pipeline and tanker development. Growing numbers of people of all political persuasions  are finding ways to voice their concern. There is still time to convince our governments that enough of us feel strongly enough. Let your politicians know that stopping the pipelines and protecting our waters from increased tanker traffic would turn them into heroes. Let them know that we support the courage it takes to stand up for a healthy future for the planet, our economy, and our children.

To find your MLA (provincial) go to:
To find your MP(federal) go to:                                                                                         To help protect the incredible Strait of Georgia check out:

October 18, 2012

Challenges Ahead

Since my cardiac arrest in January this year (see Crossing The Strait of Georgia - A Very Personal Journey), it's been a long journey of recovery and rehabilitation. After a number of setbacks, I was cleared to undertake a cardio rehab program (see Take Heart) with trained professionals. That program, which finished over a month ago, took over 3 months to complete and I've been in charge of my continued rehabilitation since.The trick now is to continue to challenge myself (but not too much). And to be honest it's bloody hard!

It's kind of like our work...
In order for the health of Georgia Strait to improve we must challenge ourselves. We must not give in to despair when the odds are against us. We must not back down just because we are challenged. We must push ourselves when we don't feel like it. We must set goals and aim to achieve them strategically. We must be open minded to ideas of others. We must nurture ourselves when we need it. We must not push too hard all the time. We must accept setbacks and keep positive. We must celebrate our successes and our victories. Perhaps, above all, in order to sustain our work we must take time to be rejuvenated by the natural world.

For many of us who live, work and play around Georgia Strait, being immersed in the natural world means being out on the water, on the beach or even beneath the waves. It's the deep connection to this part of the planet that allows us to understand what is at stake here.

 For the Strait there are many challenges ahead. Some small and insidious. Others large and overwhelming. I'd like to think that proponents of all projects in the Georgia Strait region believe what they are doing is right. Some projects however will potentially harm the ecological balance of Georgia Strait, and I do wonder if folks supporting these are missing that deep connection to the natural world so needed by us all.

 To that end let the challenge be for all residents and visitors to this wonderfully special part of the world to take time to be immersed in the natural Georgia Strait. Let the challenge be for all to understand this body of water and it's surrounds, not just in our heads and our wallets but in our hearts and our innermost beings. That way decisions can be made that support sustainability in all it's forms, economic, social and environmental.

October 12, 2012

Leadership where it matters most

I’m feeling pretty impressed with our local politicians these days. What an amazingly diverse array of dedicated caring people have been chosen by the people of British Columbia to represent them where it matters most – at the local level. I was fortunate to meet a number of them at The Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention, which happens every year.  This is when politicians and staff from the varied and scattered municipalities and regional governments around the province come together to consider issues which can and should be dealt with province-wide. They provide a very powerful message to the provincial government.

The UBCM is hosted by different communities around the province, and this year was Vancouver Island’s turn. On the shore of Georgia Strait, in the lovely city of Victoria, hundreds gathered with colleagues, representatives of the provincial government and other groups (like GSA!) to share stories and challenges and create plans for a better future.

GSA was there, connecting with old friends and making new, delighting in the interest and concern for the health of our beautiful marine environment, and building the relationships that help us be a voice for the Strait.  This year, we educated local leaders about the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA), among other issues, commiserated about the gutting of environmental protection at the federal level, and celebrated the passing of the resolution regarding oil tankers on our coast, which calls on the province to ‘use whatever legislative and administrative means that are available to stop the expansion of oil tanker traffic through BC coastal waters.’

Georgia Strait protected from tanker increase by local politicians
 It was a narrow victory, but as we’re learning from the press, the more people who understand the threats of increased tanker traffic, the more people who are opposed. It’s simply a matter of education and letting our friends and neighbours know that the risks are aren’t worth the rewards and more investment in fossil fuel infrastructure is simply the wrong way to go. (See our handy tanker info kit)

I was also excited to note that several resolutions regarding issues that have been of concern to GSA, were carried by large margins. These included recommendations to maintain staffing levels of the Coast Guard, holding shippers of dangerous cargo responsible before a spill takes place and a ‘call upon the Government of Canada to develop revised Fisheries Act policies and regulations in collaboration with all stakeholders, specifically including local governments through the UBCM and Federation of Canadian Municipalities, to ensure changes address municipal concerns while strengthening environmental protection for our watercourses.’ 

The full text of all resolutions presented at the UBCM annual convention can be seen at: UBCM. It was a pleasure to spend time in the company of so many people from around the province who care so deeply about a healthy, sustainable future.  

October 9, 2012

Collaboration, GSA Style

Last week I had the remarkable experience of watching a seal catch and eat a beautiful bright silver salmon. The sleek head surprised a few of us as it emerged suddenly, triumphantly, wielding a large fish in its mouth. Those of us who gathered to watch, wondered how it would manage to eat the catch which was clearly too big for its mouth. Almost instantly, two other seals appeared, and as they tore at the fish, revealing bright pink and white flesh, we assumed they were fighting over the fish. As we watched however, it gradually became clear that they were not fighting, but rather helping each other and sharing the catch. After a bit, one of the smaller seals (a juvenile, perhaps?) retreated to the shore with a good chunk and the other two continued to rip apart and feast on their catch, periodically making room for a seagull or two to take part as well. It was a great opportunity for the young family watching with me; “see they’re sharing their food with each other and the birds.”

We so often think the world is about competing and fighting over meager shares, and seem surprised to notice cooperation. I had occasion to reflect further on this while attending Good Jobs for a Green Future, a Green Jobs BC conference of primarily trade unions and environmental groups, with a scattering of business and academics for good measure. We have been steeped in the rhetoric that we can either have a healthy environment or good jobs, but one is fundamentally opposed to the other. Well this gathering is out to prove the opposite. The development of green jobs means that we are able to work in a world where the health of the environment is paramount and from that we create meaningful work that supports healthy vibrant communities that are fun and interesting.

It’s about working together, collaborating to create the world we want to live in, rejecting the old jobs vs environment dichotomy.

GSA has always strived to work collaboratively, recognizing that we humans are an integral part of the beautiful, abundant, diverse Georgia Strait ecosystem and must figure out how to live and work in healthy connection with each other and the land and ocean with which we live. Like the seals, we need to work together to provide the sustenance necessary to support our families and communities.  From our multi-sector work in the Clean Marine Program to our push for salmon aquaculture transition to closed containment technology, GSA has always understood the importance of collaboration and inclusive problem solving.

September 27, 2012

Down at the Dock: summer excitement!

What a busy boating season we had with our green boating and marina eco-certification program. This was my first summer as our Clean Marine BC program coordinator, and what a summer it was! We made it to boat shows on both sides of Georgia Strait - twice -  to spread the word about green boating. And we also made great strides with our Clean Marine BC marinas.

Georgia and a band of pirates
Vancouver Wooden Boat Festival
Our first two boat shows were on Vancouver Island, starting at Maple Bay Marina. Maple Bay is one of our eco-rated marinas, not to mention wonderful hosts and great ambassadors of green boating. The Maple Bay Wooden Boat Festival was fun and colourful, showcasing some incredible, lovingly cared for wooden boats. Add to that some live music, and it was a lovely weekend down at the dock. Also on the Island side of the Strait, the Nanaimo Floating Boat and Marine Trade Show is just down the street from our head office, so it was nice to participate in this event and talk to folks about our marine conservation work.

On the other side of the Strait we enjoyed the Vancouver Wooden Boat Festival at Granville Island. Once again the wooden boats were gorgeous, and the owners were proud to welcome everyone aboard for a tour. There was even a replica viking ship down at the dock, some lively sea shanties, and pirates plundering the Festival. Once again the Vancouver Wooden Boat Society put on an exciting event.

Photo courtesy Royal Vancouver Yacht Club 
The final show for us this season was the Boat Show at the Creek at North Vancouver's Mosquito Creek Marina. This show is very well managed and worth attending for anyone looking to purchase a boat, or just to daydream of the possibility.

But the most exciting part of the summer for me was visiting the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club Jericho Marina to present them with their Clean Marine BC eco-certification. They received a 4 anchor rating, which they should be very proud of, as no marina in BC has yet to achieve the highest ranking of 5 anchors. However, that may soon change as we have a dozen marinas getting ready for their site verification audit, as well as a few others to be re-certified as they are reaching the end of their 3 year certification term. Check out if your marina is one of our Clean Marine BC marinas, and if not, invite them to join ~ they could have the honour of being the first 5 anchor marina!

See you down at the dock!

September 26, 2012

Time to Turn the Tide on Fossil Fuels

Tammy, Rebecca and Georgia ( mermaid) at the GSA booth.
When it comes to a possible increase in fossil fuel oil tanker traffic in the Georgia Strait– whether in the form of the deadly tar sands bitumen or other forms of fossil fuels, we find ourselves in a debate of values.  Do we value our environment enough to turn the tide and live with less fossil fuel - and less products made from them?  Do we value our natural capital enough that we as societies and individuals will make the changes necessary to support this transition?  

We say, YES - and the sooner we get started on a full public debate about how we can transition our society away from carbon-based fossil fuels the better.  We at GSA are excited to be a part of this change and we have been advocating for individual and collective solutions for this region’s marine environment for over 20 years.  Recognizing that the transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, we need to ensure that current fossil fuel and crude oil tanker traffic in Georgia Strait has the absolute least possible risk of spills of any size and that we in BC have the capacity to respond should one occur.

Shane Philips play at No Tankers Ball
This weekend GSA attended the No Tankers Ball music festival at Providence Farm in Duncan -  a celebration of the community of people who have stood up for Canada's West Coast to keep it pristine, alive and tanker free.  The small and interconnected community of the Northwest Coast has come together in its unity of opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker traffic and we acknowledge and applaud their activism.  

While Georgia Strait Alliance focuses our attention on ensuring there are is no increase in crude oil tanker traffic in the Georgia Strait, no tankers carrying diluted tar sands bitumen and no new infrastructure that materially increases tanker traffic carrying diluted bitumen in Georgia Strait, we are inspired and moved by the work of our coastal neighbours and allied groups.  We joined with them to spread our local message, to celebrate the incredible efforts being made to keep this area pristine - and to dance!
People made signs at the event.

It was a lovely event, with the sun coming out just as we got our tent set up - ahhh - nothing like a sunny September day!  GSA staff and volunteers who attended the event Donna, Tammy, Rebecca, and myself, all had a wonderful time speaking with the people who came by our tent!

 We handed out our Oil Tankers in the Strait of Georgia Fact Sheet, gathered lots of signatures on our petition, gave out free GSA memberships, as well as having a free draw for a package of home-made cleaning products!  
We made a sign too!

We listened to wonderful music - Clover Point Drifters, Shane Philip, Shred Kelly, Kytami, and Kikeyambay!  We heard inspiring words from First Nations leaders, including Ta'Kaiya Blaney – just 11 years old, she had returned from speaking at the Rio Earth Summit and has won many awards and accolades  for eloquently speaking about the rights and power of all people to make positive change.  We also heard from Guujaaw, the powerful President of the Haida Nation about his communities' work to take back the environment from corporate and government interests, via Skype link.  

Every one of us can make a difference – for our beautiful coastal home and for future generations.  We can make our voices heard.  Sign up for our E-newsletter Strait Up for more information.