Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Saving the Salish Sea Part 3

(Mary Lynn Stephanson)
I love to say that the whales, salmon and eagles don’t know that on one side of a border people use dollars and cents and on the other they use loonies and toonies. The fact that there is a border in the water dividing what’s now called the Salish Sea makes all the difference to the critters’ health and future.

Native tribes and conservation groups have always thought of the shared waters of British Columbia and Washington as one ecosystem. The governments of Canada, British Columbia, the United States and Washington state came together as the Georgia Basin/Puget Sound Work Group in 1992 and, in 1994, the US/Canada Marine Science Panel issued its report and recommendations.

The scientists found that the most important things to do were to minimize habitat loss, to establish marine protected areas, to protect marine plants and animals, and to minimize the introduction of invasive species.

Now, 17 years later, what do the scientists say the governments’ track record has been in moving forward on these four most important recommendations?

Do we have as much critical habitat today as we did in 1994? If less, how much less?

Do we have more acres of marine protected areas established than we did in 1994? If so, how many more acres?

There certainly are more bald eagles, seals and sea lions but what about the populations of other marine mammals, birds, fish, shellfish and sea grasses? Are they more abundant than they were in 1994? If so, how much more abundant? If not, how much less?

Are there more or less invasive species in the Salish Sea today than in 1994? How much less or how much more?

I’m told that the science is much better now than it was in 1994 and that there is a much better scientific basis for doing the things that need to be done to protect the health of the Salish Sea.

But, to be honest, the whales, salmon and eagles don’t care about science and most people don’t either. Maybe it’s simplistic but what counts for whales, salmon and eagles— and for most people-- is results, not studies and plans.

Use those dollars and cents and loonies and toonies to protect and restore critical habitats, establish marine protected areas, protect marine plants and animals and stop the invasion of alien species. Put that money to erasing that border for the whales, salmon and eagles. That’s our legacy for the Salish Sea.

--Mike Sato

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