Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#SSEC14 Day 1: Will Science Inform Policy and Politics?

#SSEC14 is the Twitter hashtag for the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference that kicked off on Wednesday in Seattle at the Washington State Convention Center. The three-day conference brings together scientists, academics, tribes, NGOs, and government from both sides of the WA/BC border this year around the theme of how the Salish Sea is “Our Shared Responsibility.”

It’s good to see the prominence given to the Salish Sea Tribes and First Nations. Attendees were welcome by Suquamish Chief Leonard Forsman and the plenary keynote address was given by Grand Chief Ed Day of the Ti’azt’en Nation. It takes a chief of a natives people to give the gravitas of what these lands and waters once were, have now become, and will become for generations to come. Respect and responsibility, according to Chief Day, come in addition to rights.

It’s been a number of years since I’d attended this conference which was once known as the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin Research Conference. It’s heartening that many of the attendees are young folks, the future of the Salish Sea. I think they’ll be able to sustain their interest and enthusiasm for the three-day stretch.

The theme of science informing policy and politics has always been a theme of this conference. David Marshall of the Georgia Basin Council spoke of how science informed the restoration of the Brittania Mine area. Along those lines, he asked attendees to answer three questions by the time the conference was over:

  • -Give another example of how science and policy successfully went together.
  • -Identify a specific project that could influence policy.
  • -Predict what the Salish Sea will be like in 10 years.
If science could inform policy and politics, I think the Salish Sea might have a chance to be restored to health and protected.

I ended the day sitting in on a session about fish consumption rates and the associated issue of more stringent pollution standards to protect public health. That issue has the science clearly on one side with tribes and public health officials and industry on the other side— and the governor sitting somewhere in the middle.

We want a victory thereto be one as the example of both what Chief Day says about respect and responsibility and what David Marshall wants as an example of how science and policy successfully went together.

--Mike Sato


  1. Mike - thanks for the updates for those of us not there. Must be so much to take in. I imagine the energy level is high! Can you find a way to comment on the mix between men and women regarding young people involved? Look forward to more updates!

    1. Official registration didn't ask for gender but among the young people it seemed to be a 50/50 mix.


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