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.

March 26, 2013

Farewell & Thanks!

Almost 13 years ago I was working as an environmental planner in Saanich when I got the call from then GSA Executive Director, Laurie MacBride, to offer me the opportunity to launch the fledgling Green Boating program and take it to the next level. For me, with a love of the ocean and boating, and a desire to be based on Gabriola Island this was indeed opportune. It was a chance to do something positive and proactive to help maintain and improve the health of our local part of the ocean, namely the Strait of Georgia and its adjoining waters.

In the years since I started with GSA I have been extremely fortunate to work with some amazing people and together we have accomplished much. We have worked hard though enormous challenges and all the while the focus on the health of our waters has been maintained.

All the staff have been and are incredible people who are totally dedicated to the mission of the organization. We've had some amazing boards over the years and it has been a privilege to work with them. Our volunteers continue to amaze and inspire me. My colleagues beyond GSA have also been an inspiration and it's great to know we are not alone in caring for this part of the world. To all, I thank you for everything you have done and are continuing to do. I also thank GSA for the confidence they have had it me and the tremendous support they have given me over the years.

While the essence of GSA's work is positive and proactive it is a bit of a shame that we have to spend valuable energy and resources reacting to the threats that continue to come at the Strait. While I know this work is necessary I have been (and continue to be) more excited by the projects and programs that inspire us all. I will take that positiveness with me on my new adventures and always thank GSA for it.

As for what I'll be up to; I'll be taking some time for myself but will be on the lookout for another position while I develop a facilitation & education consultancy on the side ( All while enjoying our new acreage in the islands and sailing around them. I may even do some contract work with GSA if the opportunity arises.
But for now, goodbye and thanks so much for 13 amazingly rewarding years!

March 15, 2013

Climbing aboard, speaking out

Hello, I’m Alexandra and I have recently joined Georgia Strait Alliance in the new role of Energy and Shipping Campaigner. In the coming months I’ll be using this blog to keep you up to date with our work to stop the expansion of crude oil tanker traffic in the Salish Sea. But to start, I thought I’d tell you a little about myself and why I’m so thrilled to be working with GSA on this campaign.

I grew up in Vancouver and spent my childhood summers exploring the beaches and forests of the Gulf Islands, the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island.  My roots in this spectacular place helped to foster my love of the natural world, and my commitment to speaking out against the forces that threaten earth’s life support systems.

After studying Geography at UVic, I moved to the UK to do a Master’s in environmental communication, and then a PhD exploring what motivates people to take action on climate change. At the same time, I was heavily involved in campaigning against major climate-polluting infrastructure expansion projects, including a new runway at Heathrow Airport and a new generation of coal fired power plants – both of which we eventually stopped. More recently, I led a transit user campaign to overturn the government’s plans to drastically increase public transit fares.

All along, I watched as more and more information came to light about the risks of Canada’s tar sands – to the lands and waters of Alberta, to our global climate, and to BC’s coast in the form of a juggernaut of new pipelines, terminals and tanker traffic. I also watched as a powerful wave of opposition grew, and BC residents came together to say a resounding ‘NO’ to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. That experience has provided us with important lessons, new alliances, and most importantly huge momentum that we can apply to stopping Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline proposal, and preventing the devastation it could bring to the Strait.

I feel very lucky to be working back in BC at this exciting time, at a set of decision points where instead of locking ourselves into more climate pollution and more oil spills, we can chart a new course towards a sustainable energy future for BC. 

I am also privileged to be joining a team of such passionate and committed staff, volunteers and members, and I look forward to meeting and working with many of you, both online and in the real world. In the meantime, keep an eye on this blog or drop me an email (alexandra AT with any questions, if there is any way I can help you in your work, or just to say hi!

March 12, 2013

Species at Risk on the Atlas

Photo by: Bruce Obee

We are pleased to introduce an addition to the Georgia Strait Communities Atlas, a new chapter of our virtual atlas which explores Species at Risk in the Salish Sea.  Over the coming year, we will be releasing a series of interactive Google Earth maps that will be featured on our Communities Atlas website.  These maps will provide information about species at risk (such as resident killer whales, nooksack dace, sockeye salmon and rockfish) and why they are considered to be threatened or endangered. In particular the maps will focus on providing information to support the strategies for the recovery of these species as mandated under Canada's Species at Risk Act.

With the generous support of the Schad Foundation, we present the first map in this series which tells the tale of why our southern resident killer whales are a Species at Risk.  These whales, found in southern BC and Washington, are considered to be at risk because of their small population size (currently 85 individuals), a loss of prey availability and their exposure to pollution and disturbances from human activity.  To illustrate this issue, this map provides interactive information layers that show how southern resident killer whale critical habitat and food sources intersect and overlap with human activity in these areas.  Check out the Species at Risk: Southern Resident Killer Whale map here. This map, and the maps that follow, will help us to clearly see that we do in fact coexist with these ‘Species at Risk’ and that their protection and the reduction of the threats that endanger them is our responsibility and should be a priority for all of us.

Help us Map Species Risk in the Georgia Strait

Would you like to share a story, photo or video of our amazing southern resident killer whales?  Help others learn about and witness the majestic beauty of these amazing animals by helping us build a Local Knowledge component to the Species at Risk Maps.  Sign up on the website to submit your contribution, and check the Georgia Strait Communities Atlas for the release of new Species at Risk maps and updates!

March 1, 2013

Georgia Strait Alliance featured on Victoria Foundation’s new Community Knowledge Centre

Georgia Strait Alliance was very pleased to be among the 32 not-for-profit organizations featured at the live launch of the Victoria Foundation’s Community Knowledge Centre on February 18th. The online hub showcases the work of local charities to potential donors, other organizations, and the greater community, and links with the Victoria Foundation’s Vital Signs report, which provides an annual snapshot of quality of life in Victoria.

Victoria's Inner Harbour
GSA’s Community Knowledge Centre profile includes an overview of the organization as well as links to videos, blogs and webpages, and illustrates how our work addresses the Environmental Sustainability issues raised in the Vital Signs report. The profile features our Clean Marine BC program, highlighting the work done in the Capital Regional District (CRD) in 2012 with the support of the Victoria Foundation.

Participation in the marina eco-certification program blossomed thanks to the grant, with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority recently achieving eco-certification, Westport Marina becoming our first facility to renew its eco-certification, and five other marinas in the CRD now participating. This includes the Royal Victoria Yacht Club which is currently undergoing self-assessment.

Orca breaching by Mike Grace
More facilities than ever are promoting environmental best practices to their boating patrons and the community, including using environmentally friendly products and construction, developing recycling strategies, and optimizing energy and water conservation. This translates into a more environmentally conscious boating community, improvements in shoreline health, and a cleaner marine environment.

Visitors to the Community Knowledge Centre can search for projects and organizations by name, by population served, by geographic area, and by Vital Signs issues addressed. The Victoria Foundation hopes that the online platform will inspire people to participate in projects and programs being delivered by local charities and that organizations will find ways of working together to address issues of concern. Congratulations to the Victoria Foundation for the successful launch of your Community Knowledge Centre!

Check out our profile here.

This blog post was submitted by Cheryl Onciul, Georgia Strait Alliance's Grant Coordinator.