A British invasion in Ottawa on Oceans Day

As we’ve done for the past two years, we hosted a reception on June 8 to celebrate World Oceans Day (note to political reception planners and hardcore foodies with a conscience: our seafood for the event was all sustainable and prepared by Whalesbone Restaurant).

Oyster boat and Stephen Hall, World Oceans Day 2011, Ottawa (c) Ximena Salcedo/WWF-Canada
To complement this event we also hosted a ‘Roundtable’ which featured various government departments and industry reps, dialoguing on both conservation and economy in our oceans. We invited a British oceans expert to give us an overview of their unique approach to oceans health and economy. The UK recently passed a very visionary Marine Act, setting up a Marine Management Organization (MMO) to coordinate conservation, science and industrial activities. Stephen Hall from the National Oceanography Centre explained:

  • NGOs had a major influence on making the Marine Act pass into law. Apparently the politicians were sick to death of all the emails, phone calls and letters, so they made it happen;
  • Because of the General Environmental Standards of the EU, the UK needed a way to meet these targets or face fines. This helped create an incentive for the MMO;
  • A comprehensive sector by sector analysis made the case to the Treasury that there was opportunity for a coordinated approach to managed ocean spaces in the UK.

So, public pressure, a good economic case and an overarching regulation was their recipe for success.
Canada’s new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Keith Ashfield, also made some encouraging conservation announcements: three Areas of Interest (first stage of becoming a marine protected area) on the East Coast and a Pacific Region Cold-water Coral and Sponge Conservation Strategy on the west coast.

Later, we set up a meeting between Stephen and the UK High Commission. The commission’s science and innovation network manager, Nicole Arbour, was enthusiastic about our UK/Canada connection, and created a video blog interviewing Stephen and me about his trip.
Now the most important part of this ‘British invasion’… the royal visit! The newlyweds are due to grace the capital for Canada Day celebrations July 1. The itinerary was coincidentally announced on Oceans Day by the National Capital Commission (BTW the last time the queen was in town she unveiled a fantastic sculpture of Oscar Peterson at the arts centre… Worth a look, Will and Kate, if you are in the neighborhood).
Lots of excitement, but our day-to-day government and political work continues in Ottawa for the health of our oceans. How did you celebrate Oceans Day this year?