When Scott Wallace first went into marine biology more than 20 years ago, he worried about what we were taking out of the ocean; now he worries about what we are putting into it, from plastics to toxins to carbon dioxide.
"For most of human history, we've been concerned about the output, but now it's about the input, the big one being carbon dioxide. The ocean's broth, the fundamental ocean chemistry, is changing within our lifetime," says Mr. Wallace, now a senior research scientist with the David Suzuki Foundation, pointing to the impact of climate change. "And it's going to affect everything from the smallest plankton on up."
Organizers of World Oceans Day in British Columbia hope to help turn the tide on those changes with dozens of events, including festivals of ocean films, beach cleanups, guided intertidal walks, community canoe paddles, marine scientist talks and more from Vancouver to Port Hardy, and from Surrey to Skidegate.
In the Vancouver area, events include a beach cleanup and celebration at Kits Beach; films, speakers and children's activities at the Vancouver Public Library downtown; a marine planning workshop; the Vancouver Festival of Ocean Films at SFU Woodwards; and interpretive beach walks, touch tanks, live music, seaside stories and more at Blackie Spit Park in Surrey.
Mr. Wallace says there has already been a sea change in B.C. when it comes to fisheries and marine wildlife management; but the region is still facing enormous climate and chemical effects, among them Juan de Fuca waters that are almost devoid of oxygen, stresses on salmon stocks, and orca populations that are on the brink of collapse – and even people who never dip a toe into ocean will experience the effects.
"I think World Oceans Day is a chance to reflect on the fact that we live on an ocean planet. Ninety-nine per cent of the habitable space for life is marine," Mr. Wallace says. "Terrestrial life is this two dimensional surface layer, and we've got this huge ocean in three dimensions – and it does control our planetary system, whether it's temperature or climate. The fate of our planet is going to rest on what happens in the ocean."