Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Oceans Update Summer 2017

Dear friend,

Living Oceans is proud to be partnering with Jack Johnson's All at Once campaign for cleaner oceans. We'll be tabling at his Burnaby concert this Sunday and we'd love to see you there! We have 2 tickets to the concert that have been donated back by their original winner and you could win them now! Just log on to our website and make a donation today. We'll send the tickets to the person who makes the highest donation to our marine debris cleanup efforts by midnight tonight (July 20th). The concert is this Sunday, July 23rd at 5pm at Deer Lake Park - look for our booth and say hello!


Karen Wristen

Film Screening in Sointula

For World Oceans Day, 2017, we hosted a screening of the film The Smog of the Sea in the Athletic Hall in Sointula, BC. The hall is beautifully decorated with old fishing nets, and was the perfect setting for screening a film about microplastics in the world’s oceans. 

Directed by Ian Cheney, the film chronicles a one week journey through the remote waters of the Sargasso Sea, where marine scientist Marcus Eriksen is joined by surfers, a spearfisher, a bodysurfer, and musician Jack Johnson, who all take on roles as citizen scientists gathering samples of microplastics from the side of their boat. We watch as they arrive at their destination ocean gyre, only to find that it is, at first glance, nothing but crystal clear blue water with no garbage in sight. Soon, though, they realize the plastic is most definitely there, in the form of tiny bits of broken down plastic spread out throughout the whole ocean, creating an almost invisible, but extremely dangerous, “smog” of microplastics.

Though many of us in the audience have participated in lots of beach clean ups, and have read numerous articles about marine debris, this film was still quite eye opening. And yes, depressing. Overall, though, it seemed most of the audience left more motivated than ever to reduce personal use of plastics – especially single use plastics! – and to do all we can to clean up our local beaches, and spread the word. Living Oceans has since been contacted about hosting additional screenings at a couple of local North Island schools, which we’re really excited about.

If you’re interested in screening this film at a school or event near you, please get in touch with the filmmakers here.

And if you’d like to learn more about our efforts to clear remote coastal habitats in Northern Vancouver Island of plastics and other marine debris, please see here

Clear the Coast 2017

Well, we'd hoped that this year would see significant government funding directed to marine debris removal, considering how much attention we've drawn to the issue, but not yet. Our plans for 2017 are accordingly a lot more modest and still in development, but we will be back out on Vancouver Island's West Coast to remove plastic debris before it becomes food for marine life.  Please read on if you're interested in volunteering this year!

Our thanks go out to the Sitka Foundation, Nachiko Yokota and the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund's Public Conservation Assistance Fund, as well as our faithful supporters, for the funding that will enable us to work on the coast this year. It's beginning to look as if we'll have a long list of companies and individuals to thank for in-kind donations, too: we've been gratefully receiving offers of help almost daily.

This year, we hope to get to more beaches than ever before, and involve more volunteers than in past years, too.  It’s looking good so far, although we’re still hoping to find more funding to remove all that debris at the end of the summer—with so many collection points, we estimate that we’ll need two days of helicopter time at about $14,000 per day!

panorama at Raft Cove

Cape Palmerston to Grant Bay

We’re making progress with the debris collection already.  Our summer student, Maggie Dietterle, has been leading trips to the beaches with nearby road access, from Cape Palmerston down to Grant Bay.  She’ll be hitting Hecht Beach starting July 28 and would welcome help.  Send her an email at mdietterle at if you’d like to join us for a day or two.

The North Coast Trail and Cape Scott Trail

collection bags on the beach

Notice to all hikers headed for these trails in Cape Scott Provincial Park on the Island’s iconic north and west coasts:  have an eye out for our large, white collection bags at trailheads and campsites and if you can, spend some time pitching in!  With the help of Port Hardy Water Taxi and 43K Wilderness Solutions (both of whom work regularly in the Park), we’re getting some collection bags placed on the trails.  Please leave nothing but plastic marine debris in them. Glass and metal debris just doesn’t cause the environmental damage that plastic does; and it’s expensive (heavy) to remove.

Guise Bay, Cape Scott

Volunteers looking for a more intensive experience might want to join us in August, when we’ll be heading to those same beaches to prepare the bags for heli-lifting. We’ll be leading expeditions from Port Hardy to a number of different beaches along these trails, including the enormously popular sandy beaches at Nels Bight, Experiment Bight and Guise Bay. These will most likely be 2-3 day trips ex Port Hardy, in the latter part of August.  Contact Rob O’Dea at rodea at for more details.

Sea Otter Cove and environs

Guise Bay, Cape Scott

An intrepid volunteer, Joe Stone, left Salt Spring Island on his sailboat last week, headed for our usual moorings in Sea Otter Cove where he’ll spend the rest of the summer bagging debris and buttonholing volunteers to help!  We’ll join him in late August aboard Karen’s sailboat Viajador, to lend a hand.  There is room for a few volunteers to join this trip at Port Hardy; we expect to be out for about a week.  Anyone volunteering for this trip should be aware that the dates will be subject to weather delays:  we take no chances with the weather when we round Cape Scott!  Contact Karen Wristen at kwristen at for details.

Wherever you enjoy the ocean this summer, we hope you’ll be bringing reusable plastics only. Start your own ‘refuse’ campaign with the 4 easiest-to-refuse single-use plastics: straws, coffee cup lids, single-use beverage bottles and shopping bags.

Two Friends Paddling for a Cleaner Ocean

Lucy Graham and Mathilde Gordon are two friends from Cairns, Australia, with a deep love and respect for the ocean. They have recently have launched their mission to paddle approximately 2000km, from Juneau, Alaska to Vancouver Island, Canada, to raise awareness of the issue of marine debris, while inspiring women to pursue adventure. The paddle will take the young women, both in their twenties, between 2 and 3 months and will test their resolve and commitment to themselves and their cause.  

Lucy, an kayak and adventure guide, has done various multi-day paddles in variable conditions before. In 2009, she travelled to Vancouver Island, and laid eyes on the islands in the southern part of the Inside Passage for the first time. Since that moment, kayaking the Inside Passage has been a dream. In 2016 Lucy approached her friend about sharing the adventure of the Inside Passage. Mathilde, despite her inexperience in long distance kayak journeys, immediately said “count me in!” and embraced the opportunity as an exciting leap out of her comfort zone.

Marine debris is an issue that is affecting our oceans worldwide and one that both women are deeply passionate about. Our oceans are clogged with plastic and debris, an international problem that one country cannot fix alone. Lucy and Mathilde want the everyday person to understand the problem and understand how to make a difference. They are encouraging people to go plastic-free with them for the duration of the paddle, or donate to Passage Adventures. All donations will be directed to two marine debris organisations: The Tangaroa Blue Foundation in Australia and The Living Oceans Society, in Canada. These organisations are working hard to reduce marine debris in our oceans and establish source reduction plans. Lucy and Mathilde hope their adventure will inspire others to pursue their own, and also encourage people to begin their journey to protecting our beautiful oceans.

If you would like more information, please contact Lucy Graham and Mathilde Gordon at +61 497 781 002 or email passage.adventures [at]

If you would like to make a donation, click here

GM Salmon Production Expands in PEI

Living Oceans teamed up with local PEI activists Sharon Labchuk (left), Mary Boyd and Leo Broderick (not pictured) as well as Ecology Action Centre’s Mark Butler (centre) to protest a decision by the PEI government to approve the first ever facility for the grow-out of genetically modified salmon for the marketplace. Living Oceans’ Karen Wristen was in PEI to deliver a presentation at a meeting of the Commission on Environmental Co-operation, set up under the environmental side agreement to NAFTA.

The PEI facility in Rollo Bay was recently purchased by Aquabounty, a manufacturer of genetically modified salmon eggs. Living Oceans and Ecology Action Centre had previously challenged federal approval of the manufacturing facility at Saris, on the grounds that the federal government has not undertaken appropriate analysis of the risk to endangered wild Atlantic salmon posed by this genetically modified fish. Aquabounty’s GM salmon is manufactured from Atlantic salmon broodstock and is reputed to grow at twice the rate of natural salmon, raising concerns about interbreeding and competition for food and habitat, should the fish escape.

The courts found the government was acting within its authority under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act when it approved the egg manufacturing facility. However, the risk assessment that was performed in support of that decision was not broad enough to encompass the risk posed by growing fish to market size in a PEI facility. The company’s original plan was to ship the eggs to Panama for grow-out and market the resulting product in Canada and the US.

All of the groups present at the media conference called on the federal government to step in and do an appropriate risk assessment. The PEI groups also expressed concerns for the local watershed, noting that the company’s original (and fallback) operating plan requires the extraction of an amount of water roughly equivalent to half of the City of Charlottetown’s consumption. The City is reliant on groundwater sources for its drinking water supply, as is most of the Island, and new water regulations are currently in development.

The issues surrounding the development of genetically modified food animals are, on the whole, poorly dealt with under current government regulation and policy. The secrecy surrounding government approval processes and risk assessments is particularly offensive to democratic values. We were accordingly very pleased to see a report tabled by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in June, recommending a number of changes to the Act including much greater transparency and accountability.

Living Oceans at the CEC: on Land-Based Closed Containment Salmon Farming

Courtesy of the CEC’s Facebook Page.

Living Oceans was invited to address a meeting of the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the Commission on Environmental Co-operation, held in Charlottetown on June 27-28. The theme of our panel was the conservation of the ocean for the environmental, social and cultural health of coastal communities. Karen Wristen gave the address, which focused on the potential for land-based, closed containment salmon farms to eliminate conflicts with coastal community fishermen and tourism operators.

The presentation focused on the decision in 2016 to allow two more salmon farms into the Broughton Archipelago’s Clio Channel, directly on the path of a long-established prawn and shrimp fishery in which Sointula fishermen have fished for generations. The farms are situated on clam beds traditionally harvested by First Nations and near herring spawning habitat; this attracted objections from fishermen, First Nations and environmentalists alike. Clio Channel was designated in the region’s existing plan as a recreation area; and in the more recent MaPP plans as a “special management zone”. It’s part of the labyrinth of channels that make the Broughton such a popular tourism destination for all kinds of recreational boaters.

There are now three salmon farms located within a couple of kilometers of one another at the head of the Channel, displacing a great deal of economic activity that used to accrue to the benefit of Sointula and other local communities.

The employment and local economic activity generated by the salmon farms could have been realized without this conflict, if the farms had been established on land, like the nearby ‘Namgis closed containment operation called Kuterra. Kuterra salmon commands a premium in the market and has the highest sustainability rating of any farmed salmon. Begun as a pilot project, the operation has now proven out the technology for raising salmon to market size in containment tanks that eliminate environmental impacts while minimizing the need for drugs or chemicals in the production process.

Our presentation pointed to developments around the globe that are encouraging the development of land-based closed containment farms as a means of both protecting the environment and lowering production costs and risks. Norway is offering incentives in the form of vastly reduced licensing fees and loan guarantees for research and development. Other European countries are set to follow suit, while Canada lags behind in establishing a regulatory environment that will encourage responsible aquaculture development.

ASC Eco-Certified Farmed Salmon Isn't Really a "Good Alternative" Seafood

SeaChoice responded with disagreement to the new recommendation by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program to consider farmed salmon certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) as a “Good Alternative”.

The Seafood Watch benchmarking suggests that salmon farmed on ASC-certified Canadian farms merits the “Good Alternative” ranking—except that Canadian farms certified by ASC don’t actually meet the criteria benchmarked by Seafood Watch.

The benchmarking exercise looked exclusively at the Salmon Standard as written and did not review its practical application. In Canada and elsewhere in the world, ASC has approved Variance Requests that substantially alter the Salmon Standard in practice.

SeaChoice calls on the ASC to take immediate action to repeal its variance request processes, in order to legitimately benchmark to a Seafood Watch “Good Alternative” recommendation.

Variances are a ‘get out of jail, free card’ for BC salmon farms

As of June 2017, ASC has approved 121 variances to do with the salmon standard. A number of these override the standard’s environmental health criteria.

In B.C. ASC approved sea lice variances defer to DFO’s Pacific Aquaculture Regulation’s (PAR) 3 motile L. salmonis per fish instead of the salmon standard’s threshold of 0.1 female lice per fish during sensitive wild fish migration periods. The variance has been applied to benefit all B.C. salmon farms. This has led to the anomalous situation in which farms with adult L. salmonis levels as high as 19 motile lice per fish are being certified – more than 60 times the salmon standard threshold.

Our analysis of industry-reported sea lice counts for the 10 ASC-certified salmon farms operating during the 2016 sensitive juvenile wild salmon migration period, show none of the farms would be able to meet the ASC salmon standard on-farm lice level limit of 0.1 female lice per farmed fish. Sea lice counts ranged from 0.2 to 6.6 female lice per farmed fish. Simply put, the sea lice variance enables B.C. salmon farms that would not otherwise meet the salmon standard to be certified.

Living Oceans’ work, alongside our SeaChoice allies, is to hold eco-certifications to a truly sustainable bar and to not weaken requirements to accommodate norm industry practices. 

Sea Choice Changes Course

SeaChoice is changing course, with new ways for you to support healthy oceans.  For more than 10 years, SeaChoice has helped retailers and consumers make seafood choices that support sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. Now we're embarking on a new direction: To reform unsustainable seafood production and become Canada's leading sustainable seafood market watchdog. And we want you along for the ride!

SeaChoice's retail partners are stocking their shelves with sustainable seafood products. So we're moving away from ranking seafood, and you won't find SeaChoice logos in stores any more!

Now we're focusing on:

  • Improving seafood-labelling regulations
  • Eco-certification standards
  • Fisheries and aquaculture management
  • Making seafood sustainability transparent throughout the supply chain - from water to table

Our focus is changing, but we're busier than ever! We're challenging seafood labelling and engaging citizens in solutions. We voiced concerns about Seafood Watch listing farmed salmon certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council as a "Good Alternative".

Find out more about our exciting new direction and see how you can be involved

Your support over the years has grown Canada's sustainable seafood movement. Thank you for making seafood decisions that are good for oceans!

From the SeaChoice team