Dare To Be Deep


CPAWS has been around for decades, but we seem to have missed it in these pages in the five years we have been linking out to notable conservation initiatives:

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land and water, and ensuring our parks are managed to protect the nature within them. In the past 50+ years, we’ve played a lead role in protecting over half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory! Our vision is to protect at least half of our public land and water so that future generations can experience Canada’s irreplaceable wilderness.

The Dare to be Deep initiative just came to our attention:

Every second breath we take comes from the ocean that covers 70% of our planet. The ocean also regulates the temperature of our planet, and provides us with an important source of protein and food.

The ocean supports a tremendous diversity of life from coastal areas to the deep sea, and Canada has been given the extraordinary gift having the world’s longest coastline and vast reaches of the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Canada has an immense opportunity to be a global leader in marine conservation, yet our track record is dismal.


Emerging science demonstrates that, like their terrestrial counterparts, marine and freshwater protected areas need to be connected so marine species can thrive.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) offer an effective way to address multiple threats to a variety of species, creating sanctuaries for marine ecosystems to recover and species to thrive. Canada has committed to establishing MPA networks covering a minimum of 10% of our ocean by 2020. This is an important step towards CPAWS long term goal of protecting at least half of our ocean ecosystem.

Despite multiple national and international commitments to establish networks of MPAs, less than 2% of Canada’s ocean estate receives any form of meaningful protection. View our annual Oceans Reports.


Commercial and Recreational Fishing

Scientific evidence shows overfishing is the single most serious threat to the health of our marine ecosystems. Bottom trawling, or fishing by dragging a net along the ocean floor, profoundly disturbs marine ecosystems and is perhaps the most destructive of fishing practices. Both target and non-target fish and other organisms are killed by the trawl, and the seabed is physically altered. Frequent trawling prevents the intricate physical and biological structure of the seabed ecosystem from fully recovering.

Even where ecosystems are not physically destroyed they can be damaged by unsustainable fishing practices. Targeting top predators – such as tuna, salmon and cod, can have significant impacts on marine food webs. In addition to habitat destruction, and ecosystem effects from fishing, entanglement and inadvertent catch of marine mammals, turtles and seabirds in fishing gear is another threat to marine species from fishing activities.

Fish Farming

The impacts of salmon fish farming have received much public attention. Pollution escapes the net cages; infectious diseases are spread to wild fish, and freshwater are colonized by escaped farm fish (including non-native Atlantic species). These are very real threats not only to the native salmon population, but to other fish, shellfish and marine mammals.

Oil and Gas Exploration and Development

Oil and gas exploration and production present grave risks for marine species with oil spills being the most obvious and greatest threat. The spills from the Deepwater Horizon (2010) in the Gulf of Mexico and Exxon Valdez (1989) in Alaska have demonstrated the widespread and long lasting devastation to marine species and ecosystems. Following the Exxon Valdez spill almost 40,000 dead seabirds washed ashore and almost all of the 2000 oiled birds that were found alive later died; an estimated 250,000 birds are thought to have died as result of the spill.  Oil deposits are still found in seabed sediments some 25 years after the spill and which some scientists have suggested may pose a continued threat to sea otters.

Seismic surveys, used to find oil and gas deposits, produce high intensity/low frequency sounds and can be heard up to 4,000 km away. As whales rely on sensitive hearing and song for communication and hunting they are particularly vulnerable, with effects ranging from avoidance and changes in behaviour, to stranding events, death and population decline. ,  Seismic testing is also linked to physical injuries, changes in behaviour and death of eggs and larvae of various fish, crabs and squids.

Oilrigs also have serious impacts on marine life. A study of Canada’s Grand Banks found that artificial lighting, a place to roost, food waste and artificial aggregations of fish attract sea birds to oilrigs, many of which die from striking the rig, being incinerated by the flare or oiled.  The authors of the study note that a single rig reported 60 small oil spills (averaging 10 litres per spill) over a two-year period.
CPAWS is a member of the BC Alliance for the Preservation of the Offshore Oil and Gas Moratorium and the Gulf of St. Lawrence Coalition

Shipping and vessel traffic

Commercial shipping poses many threats to marine ecosystems and wildlife, and recreational boating can also harm sensitive marine ecosystems. Cumulative impacts range from minor spills and leaks, noise pollution, through to groundings and sinking.

Collisions with whales are a serious problem. Studies on the east coast have found that 30% of stranded humpbacks show evidence of ship-strike. In 2003 Canada took a leading role in reducing vessel collisions with endangered right whales on the East Coast by working with the shipping sector to reduce vessel speed, ensure that the whales had right of way, and eventually re-route shipping lanes to avoid areas of critical habitat.  While this benefited one population in one location, the threats of ship-strike are more widespread, and need to be addressed.

Noise from vessel traffic is perhaps the most significant impact on marine species; from 1950 to 2000 marine noise levels doubled every decade. The frequency of shipping and seismic noise overlaps that of various whale species’ vocalizations  and so has the potential of masking important communications between animals. Noise pollution can interfere with whale communication and socializing, hunting and feeding, and cause whales to avoid certain areas; if these impacts affect reproductive success and critical feeding grounds, they may have consequences for the entire population.

Finally, studies have also shown that vessel traffic disturbs seabirds, and reduces their available habitat. By reducing foraging time and resting habitat for seabirds, commercial and recreational ship traffic can cause habitat fragmentation, as well as causing high stress levels and higher energetic requirements.

Climate Change

The entire marine realm – from estuaries and coastal waters to the open ocean and the deep sea – is at risk from climate change.  As marine biodiversity declines, the remaining species are more vulnerable to changes in their habitat.


Our long-term goal: Canada to complete a national network of marine protected areas that protect at least half of Canda’s ocean estate, with an objective to meet the international target of protecting at least 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020.

In the lead-up to Canada’s 150th birthday, CPAWS is calling on the federal government to accelerate efforts to establish a national network of marine protected areas as an essential step to conserve marine life and support sustainable fisheries.

To achieve this CPAWS is calling on Canada to:

  1. Act quickly to complete the establishment of current marine protected area proposals;
  2. Launch regional marine protected areas planning processes to systematically identify marine protected area networks in all three oceans, including a large marine sanctuary of at least 150,000 sq km in each ocean.
  3. Ensure that in Canada’s 13 marine bioregions, at least 30% is strictly protected -– that is closed to all fishing, as well as non-renewable resource development.

Read CPAWS’ Backgrounder for more information.

Read our Ocean Fact Sheet


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s