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Federal report shows the impact of warming oceans on B.C. coast

2021 Pacific Ocean report details climate change impacts and conservation goals
Characteristics of the Pacific Ocean. (Government of Canada)

Climate change and its effect on marine ecosystems is central to Canada’s conservation goals now and in the future, according to a new federal report on the Pacific Ocean.

Released June 9, Canada’s Oceans Now: Pacific Ecosystems, 2021, depicts key challenges facing ocean ecosystems, the livelihood of coastal communities, fisheries, and other ocean economies.

Climate change is making the waters warmer, more acidic, and less oxygenated, a news release announcing the report states. It is also causing habitat and species loss as well as impacting marine food webs.

Daily sea surface temperatures along B.C. coasts over the past 80 years show waters have warmed 0.7 C, leading to more extreme marine heat waves. These changes alter ecosystems that Canada’s Pacific salmon depend on throughout their life cycle.

“We are seeing changes on the West Coast that are significantly affecting our coastal communities. This report contributes to how we understand these changes in the environment,” said Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray. “The more we know what is facing ocean ecosystems, the more we can provide sustainable harvest opportunities, while conserving and working to restore marine ecosystems.”

Minister of Environment and Climate Steven Guilbeault expanded on that.

“We are seeing the effects of high-carbon pollution on disrupted ocean habitats, shrinking ice-sheets and a rising sea level,” he said. “Our generation has a window of opportunity to halt this pollution and the heating of our climate, which is why our government has set the ambitious but achievable target of reaching net-zero emission pollution.”

Guilbeault said conservation is one of the best ways to fight climate change and support biodiversity. Scientists use tools and technologies like sail-drones, environmental DNA, cameras, and more to monitor changes in Pacific waters.

The government says it has protected 14.6 per cent of its ocean territory and is on track to conserve and protect 25 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.

To see the full report, go to the Government of Canada website.

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