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Posts from the ‘Environmental Issues’ category

Canada – Proposed Ban on Single-Use Plastics

Today, December 30th, the Canadian Government announced the comment period for proposed Regulations on single use plastics. Canadians have an opportunity to comment to March 5, 2022.

At the end of this blog, I include the email from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) that announced the proposed Regulations. I have bundled all the content here because it is not easy to access all the detail via that email. Below I also include a sample letter of possible feedback on these proposed Regulations.

In having read the documents referenced in the email from ECCC , even though I believe I am well aware of the problem of plastic pollution, I was stunned at some of the numbers. As an indicator of our plastic use / addiction in Canada, in 2019 alone an estimated 15,593 MILLION single-use checkout bags were used. The cost of those bags was estimated at $410 million.

Not reflected in that number are the further costs of “convenience” and disconnect from understanding the impacts of our consumer behaviour on our own well-being.
These include:

  • Energy and raw materials to manufacture, transport and dispose of plastics;
  • Resulting climate changing emissions;
  • Impacts to the food web when plastics slowly break down and attract toxins;
  • Further impacts to animals from ingestion and entanglement; and
  • Additional ecosystem changes resulting from the transport of organisms on drifting plastics i.e. invasive species and transport of potential pathogens.

    I believe we may need this jolt of awareness. It appears many of us have not recovered from the early stages of the pandemic to realize that, with the exception of masks, further equipment used by first responders and possibly cleaning wipes, we do not need to revert to the use of so many disposables. We can use our to-go mugs, shopping bags, etc.

    We are all empowered to reduce demand for single-use plastics and impact the systemic change that is so necessary.

    Resources to aid feedback on the proposed Regulations:
  • Email from Environment and Climate Change Canada

December 30, 2021


On December 25, 2021, the proposed Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations were published in the Canada Gazette, Part I initiating a 70-day public comment period ending on March 5, 2022. During this period, stakeholders and partners are invited to submit comments to Environment and Climate Change Canada on the proposed Regulations, the accompanying Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, as well as the draft Guidance for Selecting Alternatives.

The proposed Regulations would prohibit the manufacture, import and sale of six categories of single-use plastic items (checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware made from or containing problematic plastics, ring carriers [think six-pack holders], stir sticks, and straws), with certain exceptions for straws. 

The feedback received on the proposed Integrated Management Approach to Plastic Products has been considered in the development of the proposed Regulations. A What We Heard Report summarizes this feedback.

The draft Guidance for Selecting Alternatives to the Single-Use Plastics in the Proposed Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations has been developed to help businesses and other organizations make decisions on alternative products or systems that prevent pollution and help Canada transition to a circular economy.

We invite you to review the proposed Regulations, the accompanying Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, as well as the draft Guidance for Selecting Alternatives and to provide your feedback, no later than March 5, 2022, to the following email address:

Feedback should include the following for each specific comment:

1.       the section of the proposed Regulations, Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, or draft Guidance for Selecting Alternatives to which the comment relates

e.g., 5(1)(a)(i) of the regulatory text; “Select Canadian Market Characteristics” section of the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement;“Considerations for Alternative Single-use Plastics” section of the draft Guidance for Selecting Alternatives;

2.       the comment itself; and

3.       any supporting information or rationale.

All written feedback received during the comment period will be considered in the development of the final Regulations and Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, which will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part II. Feedback will also inform the finalization of the Guidance for Selecting Alternatives.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is available to provide further information and clarification on the requirements of the proposed Regulations to affected businesses or organizations, via virtual meetings or webinars.

Should you have any questions on this consultation process, or if you do not wish to receive future updates about the proposed Regulations please contact us at

Business is business, and business must . . .

Please know that in reference to the graphic and words above, I am not trying to be provocative nor glib.

It would be easy to avoid providing comment on the latest developments around the potential expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline but this is counter to what I am trying to achieve as The Marine Detective​. This is all about empowerment for change that serves future generations.

Thereby, below are my thoughts resulting from now having reviewed what I could of the National Energy Board’s “Reconsideration Report for Trans Mountain Expansion Project“.

It is respected that there is solid reporting and acknowledgement that “the designated Project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects” (detail below). However, I cannot respect the rationale along the lines of: there is already so much bad stuff happening that doing more bad stuff is justified. Nor do I agree with the conclusion that approval of the Project is in the interest of Canadians and the Board’s final recommendation that “the Governor in Council approve the Project by directing the issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC, subject to 156 conditions.”

This all reveals the lack of appropriately valuing future generations of humans, let alone endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Many of you will get my reference to The Lorax, where despite the knowledge of environmental impacts when seeing starving and stressed animals, the Once-ler says:

“I, the Once-ler, felt sad

as I watched them all go.

BUT . . .

business is business!

And business must grow . . .”

What to do?

Keep at it with political and consumer choices and supporting legal / First Nations challenges that do consider the health of future generations and transitioning from a fossil fuel based economy to alternatives that do not contribute to climate change.

To stay with the Seussian theme and wisdom, if you’ve read this far you are one of those who “cares a whole awful lot.”

A whole lot of people caring a whole awful lot is what creates change that does benefit future generations.


Below are sections from the National Energy Board’s “Introduction and Disposition (an excerpt from the Reconsideration Report)” which can be found at this link.

Pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) the Board is of the view that the designated Project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. Specifically, Project-related marine shipping is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects on the Southern resident killer whale, and on Indigenous cultural use associated with the Southern resident killer whale. This is despite the fact that effects from Project-related marine shipping will be a small fraction of the total cumulative effects, and the level of marine traffic is expected to increase regardless of whether the Project is approved. The Board also finds that greenhouse gas emissions from Project-related marine vessels would result in measureable [sic] increases and, taking a precautionary approach, are likely to be significant. While a credible worst-case spill from the Project or a Project-related vessel is not likely, if it were to occur, the environmental effects would be significant . . . ”


The evidence in the MH-052-2018 hearing is clear that the Salish Sea is not the healthy environment it once was. It is subject to a number of stressors, including vessel traffic and resulting noise, environmental contaminants, and a decline in salmon. The causes for the current state of the Salish Sea are numerous and diverse, and these effects have accumulated over time. There appears to be no serious controversy among the Parties with regard to these points, nor does there appear to be any serious controversy that Project-related marine shipping is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. This is despite the fact that Project-related marine shipping would comprise a relatively small increase in the total vessel traffic in the Salish Sea, and that increased pressure on the Salish Sea and its marine life can be anticipated regardless of whether the Project proceeds . . . ”


Given the cultural, environmental, and commercial importance of the Salish Sea, the Board has adopted an holistic approach to its consideration of the designated Project and how it fits into the wider context of the many current stressors on that body of water, the marine animals and fishes within it, and the people who derive cultural use, livelihood, or pleasure from it. The Board concludes that, while Project-related marine shipping’s incremental addition to cumulative effects on the Salish Sea will not be large, it will add to already significant effects.”


  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca): recovery strategy 2018. See Section 4 for “Threats”. There are many but the main threats are recognized to be prey availability (in particular, Chinook Salmon), chemical and biological pollutants and physical and acoustic disturbance. These are synergistic i.e. if the whales do not have enough Chinook, the fat-soluble toxins (both historic and emerging) enter their systems impacting immunity and ability to reproduce. If the whales are stressed by acoustic and / or physical disturbance, this can impede their ability to hunt, to fight disease and to carry out other essential life processes like nursing and resting. 



They Can’t Thrive If We Don’t Change.

[Dear folks, I anticipate some of you will have resistance to what I write below but I have to go there – not to bemoan problems, but in the desperate want for positive change.]

When will we get it? When?!

A science-based decision is made to extend critical habitat for the 74 endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales and what happens? Seventeen British Columbian coastal Chambers of Commerce “unite” in wanting to slow down potential further implementation measures claiming there has not been enough science done. The media release is here.

I understand the climate of uncertainty I really do when you have a Federal Government that wants a pipeline to go through and is being “assessed” on how it will impact the marine environment.

However, we cannot continue in the same way “defending” ourselves against potential fisheries closures and measures to reduce disturbance to the whales, claiming to love the whales and using them as a resource.

This is so difficult to articulate but you cannot keep on keeping on and expect things to change for the better, especially in a world that is undergoing climate change.

If we change we’ll lose jobs, jobs, jobs. Will we? What if we had a transition plan? What if we got ahead of the curve? What if we shed fear and entitlement and embraced precaution and human ingenuity, but not as an exit strategy? 

Pride and positive ownership can be taken in choosing for more modest takes of salmon i.e. leaving Chinook for the Orca, and in wildlife viewing that reduces stresses to the whales.

While we’re at it, let’s realize we are literally driving climate change and increased large vessel traffic on our coast through our excessive consumerism and demand for fossil fuels and our resistance to change, absence of understanding science, and being manipulated with fear.

Further, the idea that salmon enhancement is a panacea defies science, especially in light of climate change and the fact that we are releasing juvenile salmon into a gauntlet of open net-pen salmon farms (which indisputably amplify and transmit disease and parasites). Note too that salmon enhancement facilities are very often beholden to the open net salmon farming industry as funders. Oh what a web we weave . .

Precaution is not “let’s make sure we have done even more studies and then we’ll know for sure.” Precaution is the duty to prevent harm, even in the light of uncertainty and this involves urgency, not dragging our heals, gambling with the future.

When will we learn to draw a bigger temporal circle around our consideration of economy?

When will we truly recognize that the Orca are serving as indicators of environmental health and barometers of our value systems? The ultimate truth is that how we treat the whales will ultimately be how we treat ourselves, especially future generations.

We are all consumers and voters here. We are all empowered to influence change.

Photo: Member of the endangered Southern Residents in Blackfish Sound, ©Jackie Hildering.

In an effort to protect their communities, the Chambers of Alberni Valley, Bamfield, Campbell River, Chemainus & District, Comox Valley, Duncan-Cowichan, Ladysmith, Greater Nanaimo, Parksville & District, Port Hardy, Port McNeill & District, Port Renfrew, Qualicum Beach, Sooke, Tofino-Long Beach, Ucluelet and WestShore have united to form a coalition called Thriving Orcas, Thriving Coastal Communities . . .
As British Columbians who are now concerned about the survival of our own businesses and communities, we urge the federal government to slow down the implementation of any additional management measures, take the time to get the science right and engage coastal stakeholders,” said Ablack. “Potential restrictive management measures, such as a fin fish closure, that are based on faulty data and limited science could end up destroying our communities and do nothing to help the orcas. On the other hand, a carefully considered multi-faceted approach that includes deeper investments in restoration, enhancement, science and monitoring could ensure that orcas and coastal communities thrive* together as we have for generations.”

[*Note: The Orca are NOT thriving.]

Video re. August 1st, 2018 Orca / Boat Interaction Near Langdale

Recently, there have again been posts shared widely on social media promoting “encounters” where Orca are very close to boats.

My video compilations below about an August 1st incident are an attempt to counteract the effects of such promotions in their increasing pressure on the whales.

It is an attempt to educate, not to shame or vilify.

Those in the video appear to have acted in ignorance but there is the moral and ethical weight to know regulations and the repercussions of your actions, including when you put videos of such encounters into the world.  Sharing such imagery perpetuates ignorance around what is legal, rewards those who have undertaken such behaviours, and feeds the pressure to be “up close and personal”

Know that behaviours shown by the whales is associated with disturbance i.e. repeated tail-lobbing and the tail breaches / caudal peduncle throws.

The incident is under investigation by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

For Marine Mammal Regulations, best practices and boater safety tips see Report incidents to 1-800-465-4336.

Part One

Part Two – shows the boat is in close proximity to the whales while at high speed.

What’s it Going to Be? Fight or Flight?

I learn a lot from social media.

Screen grab from SeaLegacy video of
emaciated Polar Bear. See post below.

The reactions to recent posts I’ve made have given me much to think about.

These include two horrifically compelling videos: (1) a fish full of ingested plastic; and (2) an emaciated Polar Bear.

These videos are included at the end of this blog. I hesitated to share them on social media because I know that at the heart of my “The Marine Detective” community, there are people as aware and motivated as I am. It’s not educating you really need.

Screen grab from video of a Mahi Mahi with
plastic in its intestines. See post below.

You need confirmation of solutions and protection from despondency.

But I did share the videos and you’ll notice in my text on the posts (also below) that my decision to do so was because I believed they were powerful resources for others who may not yet fully “get it”.

I am very aware that it’s a delicate dance. To engage, connect, inspire and educate for the sake of more people undertaking positive action. Graphic imagery can help motivate but it can also lead people to disengage, succumb to eco-paralysis and eco-phobia; and/or disappear into the pit of despair.

It’s about fight or flight.

When faced with a threat that’s what we do*.

And climate change, plastics pollution, lack of security – these are threats.

There are many who flee (or freeze). It’s too much. They deny. They try for alternative explanations. They turn away. They shut down. They need to believe there is somewhere to flee to.

Then there are those who fight. Who become further motivated. Who become even more resolute in their actions and intentions.

What makes the difference? In the work I am compelled to do, I need to understand as best as I can.

What do the fighters need to keep fighting?

And what could motivate those who flee to turn around? To see the way forward?

Of course there are many variables at play but what has been further solidified for me as a result of these recent social media posts is that the difference between flight and fight can be  . . . knowing its worth the fight.

We run from what is overwhelming, terrifying and what is perceived to diminish our quality of life.

We fight for what we know is right and are more inclined to do so when we know how to fight and who and what we are fighting.

Who and what are we fighting?
We are being manipulated by the consumer / disposable / fossil fuel paradigm to be fearful and to continue in the way that will ensure their continued power. We are to value acquisition above time and relationships. We are to equate success with stuff. We are meant to feel discontent and that with further purchasing, life will be enhanced. Not only does this paradigm thrive on fear, it grows fat on inequality (sexism, racism, etc).

How to fight?
Realize there’s so much potential for positive change when we remove fear and recognize there are common solutions to socio-environmental problems.

It’s not climate change vs. plastic pollution vs. poverty, etc.

It’s not life depreciating.

There is great gain in:

  • Understanding our connectedness (through ecosystems and through our purchasing and voter behaviour).
  • Valuing human ingenuity but not as an exit strategy and never without true precaution.
  • Using less (less fossil fuels, less disposables, less harmful chemicals).
  • Not being about perfectionism and absolutism and righteousness and bipolarity e.g. “environmentalist” vs. “resource user”.
  • Working for equality. Empowering our fellow humans reduces poverty, violence and even overpopulation.
  • Embracing our power to make positive change.

Really, it’s no surprise that empowered people are happier people.

To you, the fighters who have read this, I hope it has been of use to you.

To those who are inclined to flee, my understanding to you and respect that you have read this far. May this have a roll in your choosing to reject fear and embrace action that leads to greater happiness and purpose. We need you.

For me, the exercise of writing this has been affirming of the path forward.

Because we are even more inclined to fight when we better know how to win.

Text I posted with the following video: “I expect very few people here need further motivation to reduce plastic use but – maybe of use in your circles? Mahi mahi (fish) in Puerto Rico full of plastic. Of course, what we can’t see is the micro-particles of plastic that enter our food chain. Don’t be despondent. Be deliberate.”

Text I posted on Facebook regarding the following:
“I have waited with sharing this. Again, because I believe so many of us here “get it” and I do not want to contribute to eco-phobia and eco-paralysis. But also again, this is so compelling and powerful to be shared with those who do not YET get it. This is what a starving Polar Bear looks like. Is it a certainty that THIS Polar Bear is starving because of climate change? No. Is it a certainty that reduced sea ice makes it far more difficult for Polar Bears to hunt and that they will starve? Yes. And THIS is what a starving Polar Bear looks like. Gutting to watch.
Adds to my motivation to reduce carbon through my consumer and voter behaviour.
Don’t be despondent. Don’t turn away. Mobilize your sorrow and outrage. Reduce carbon footprints.”
For more detail please see CBC “As It Happens” information by clicking here. The article also addresses concerns about why the bear was not fed.

* What further catalyzed this blog is the podcast by Ashley Ahearn in which fight and flight are discussed as reactions to climate changes.
See “You probably have eco anxiety. You just don’t know it.”


Mr. Prime Minister . . . . (after the Bella Bella spill)

Thank you dear reader, thank you for caring enough to come to this page.

You are among those who are gutted by what is being learned from the sinking of the tug, the Nathan E. Stewart, near Bella Bella on BC’s North Coast. You have not somehow rationalized it away, but see the spill fully for what it is – a disaster – a cultural, environmental, and economic disaster. This was “only” the diesel from a tug – a dire indicator of what insane risks are being flirted with regarding tanker traffic on our coast.

You want the lessons to be fully learned and acted on. You want the voices of those most directly impacted to be heard. You don’t want it to happen again.

You want to know what to do.

You are my motivation for this page. For you, I want to bundle what I believe are the most useful actions we can undertake with the resources that support them.

Mammal-hunting Orca T057A traveling through the area of the spill. Photo: ©April Bencze.

Mammal-hunting Orca T057A traveling through the area of the spill. Photo: ©April Bencze.

Please see the four “What You Can Do” points below and, as if you needed further motivation, read the words below. They are from April Bencze. She and Tavish Campbell are on site striving to be of use to the Heiltsuk First Nation in witnessing and documenting the extent of the the impact of the spill with their considerable skills as video/photographers and divers. They are dear friends of mine. I will update this blog with their insights and images and those of the Heiltsuk. April’s powerful words from this morning  . . . .

“Every tide pool has a layer of diesel coating it. The sea breeze, my favourite smell in the world, now reeks of diesel, burns my eyes and gives me a headache as I walk the beach looking into each devastated tide pool and seeing the intertidal life being irreversibly poisoned. Spill response can’t fix this. No one can fix this, no matter how much money or how many resources are thrown at it. Canada should not pretend it has the ability to undo this damage. Justin Trudeau should be mourning the loss of a large expanse of wilderness that has been poisoned, and then do everything in his power to ensure this never happens again. That means no tankers on this coast. But it’s hard. It is hard because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cannot see the marine life dying. He cannot feel the sting of diesel in his eyes. He cannot taste oil on the breeze where there should only be salty fresh air. He cannot see the deer and wolves feeding on the diesel-soaked intertidal life. He cannot see the orcas inhaling diesel and diving with it permeating their lungs. He cannot see the grief of the people who live here. He cannot see the thick diesel covering the ocean, and the tides that carry it to all stretches of the land. He cannot see the spill response team being dismissive about reports of diesel sheen near sensitive salmon creeks. He cannot see that the people here mourn the loss of their food source from the very beaches now made toxic. This is a disaster. Please start a conversation about what you are willing to risk to transport oil/fuel on this coast. I did not accept this risk. The Heiltsuk Nation did not accept this risk. Did you?”

What You Can Do:

  1. Write Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, referencing the election promise made to “Formalize a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast.” This can easily be done by using the David Suzuki Foundation’s resource at this link and adapting the text as you see fit to reference the Bella Bella spill. Let him know that you too do not accept the risk.

    Click to enlarge. Content from PM Trudeau’s November 2015 mandate letter to the Minister of Transport confirming the priority of the moratorium. The mandate letter can be found here.

  2. Reduce the use of fossil fuels and support initiatives to transition to non-carbon energy sources. Enjoy the savings as well as the knowledge that you are not fuelling the demand that threatens our coast with tanker traffic.
  3. Support the Heiltsuk First Nation. If you can, provide financial support so that the impacts can be independently investigated, documented and made public. See this link to make donations.
  4. Help amplify the knowledge of this spill. This happened on a pristine, remote part of BC’s coast.  Imagine the attention and action there would be had it happened near an urban centre. Imagine the number of outraged voters wanting risks reduced. Imagine the resulting political will to follow through on campaign promises. There are those in powerful positions who hope that the remoteness of the disaster means that the concern will go away – unlike the impacts of the spill. Please let’s not let that happen.

Coming: Slide show of April and Tavish’s photos.


How to Kill a Living Dinosaur. The Epitome of Disconnect?

I saw a Leatherback Sea Turtle. I did! And I don’t know if I can ever be the same again.

It happened on July 25th, while I was a member of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) Marine Mammal Research Section aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Vessel J.P. Tully. We surveyed up to 138 nautical miles (256 km) west of Vancouver Island. The purpose of the DFO survey was to increase knowledge about at-risk marine mammal and turtle species’ distribution and abundance.

Can you imagine the wonder, the euphoria, the astonishment, the sense of privilege at seeing this endangered giant that is a living dinosaur?

Here’s how it unfolded. It was at the end of the survey day around 8:02 PM on July 25th. I had finished my shift but was still having a discussion on the port side of the bridge. Suddenly, the Third Officer Brent Seamone said, from the other side of the bridge, “Hey, it’s a turtle!”

With all I had, I rushed to the other side of ship (apologies to any fellow crew members who may have been bruised as a result). And there it was . . . a shadow just under the surface, gliding away from the ship. I stared down its ridged back. Time seemed frozen, suspended for a turtle heartbeat or two. My synapses firing, my adrenaline surging, my brain questioned – could it really be true? And it was. In the vastness of the NE Pacific Ocean we had chanced upon a male Leatherback Turtle. This was the first known sighting of this endangered species in BC waters in two years* (and also reported to I-866-I-SAW-ONE).

Leatherbacks belong in the rich waters off BC’s coast, coming all the way from Indonesia to feed on jellyfish. I knew this well having only just launched the resource “Leatherbacks in BC” to raise awareness about these giants and the risks they face.

I marvelled at the incredible good luck of it – finding a proverbial needle in such a very large and deep haystack – but of course also that I happened to be on the bridge when I was. My dear friend who works so hard for Leatherback conservation and with whom I wrote the resource, had left the bridge mere minutes before the sighting. How wonderful it would have been for the Chief Scientist to see the turtle too.

I don’t have a photo. I wish I did to make the next part of what I have to share more impactful. Yes, now comes the “How to kill a living dinosaur” part.

Only a few days earlier, we retrieved these from the ocean – Canada Day balloons drifting out at sea in Leatherback habitat 20 days after Canada Day.

Canada Day balloons drifting in Leatherback habitat on July 21st. Photo: Hildering.

Canada Day balloons drifting in Leatherback habitat on July 21st. Photo: Hildering.

It was already our intent to have these images go widely into the world in the hope that it might make more realize that plastics (especially plastic bags) and balloons can kill endangered Leatherback Turtles (and other marine species). Sea turtles cannot discern these from their jellyfish prey. In fact, in a global study of 408 dead Leatherback Turtles, more than 30% had plastics in their intestines (Mrosovsky et al, 2009).

You can certainly see how the balloons could be mistaken for jellies.<br> Lisa Spaven of DFO in photo.

You can certainly see how the deflated balloons could be mistaken for jellies. Lisa Spaven of DFO in photo.

You can imagine my increased motivation for awareness now.

Of course we don’t know the backstory on these balloons – where they came from or if there was any attempt to retrieve them.

Tully crew removing the balloons from the ocean.

Tully crew removing the balloons from the ocean for the sake of Leatherbacks and other species.
Photo: Hildering. 

We do know that it is a far too common a practice to “celebrate” by releasing balloons into the air e.g. as symbolization when someone dies and even to mark an environmental event (yikes!!!)

But of course, unless items are biodegradable, there is no “away”. There is no throwing “away”, flushing “away” or  . . .  drifting “away”.  There is a cost to other species, and ultimately, to ourselves.

What I hope these images and words do, is increase this knowledge. Please could you help?

The solutions are simple, please help increase awareness that #balloonsblow and #plasticspollute.

For more on the wonder that is Leatherback Turtles in BC, please see

TMD Memes.001


* Last reported sighting of a Leatherback Turtle in BC waters prior to this was August 20, 2014 off SW Vancouver Island.

Lost Teddy! Fluffy piece?

Here’s an item that is shared for the purposes of lightness and connection. Because, let’s face it, there’s enough dark and heavy out there. Also, maybe, just maybe it will create an opportunity for awareness about marine debris?

See the image below. Could this be the world’s saddest Teddy?

Lost Teddy! Wouldn't it be remarkable to find out how, where and when s/he ended up in the Ocean?

Lost Teddy! Wouldn’t it be remarkable to find out how, where and when s/he ended up in the Ocean?

My dive buddy, Natasha Dickinson, found him/her at bottom of the Ocean in Port Hardy on January 1st. Unlike so much of the debris near the dock, it is unlikely this little guy was mindlessly tossed away (see photos below).

Wouldn’t it be something to find its home and know its story? Would it enhance a sense of connection? Would the story be a catalyst to discussion, engagement and action about the insult to our Oceans that is marine debris?

Via Facebook and Twitter this information is being shared with “#‎LostTeddy”‬.

S/he has also been posted on the international Lost Teddy site (yes, there is such a thing).

Teddy is now being cleaned up for potential reuniting with humans.


Update: January 3, 2016 – It’s not a Teddy. I got this clue from that Teddy locating site”That’s Ginger Bell, originally sold by Sears in 2004! Brenda.” Sure enough – looked up a photo and, it’s Ginger Bell.

Photos below show some of the beauty striving to survive among the debris under the Seagate Dock in Port Hardy (the dive where Teddy was found). This “scene” is representative of most docks on our Coast and I am striving to raise awareness about marine debris and how, to me, this is the most stark indicator of the disconnect about the importance of the Ocean to human health. We are all vastly empowered to create positive change, not only by ensuring there is less physical pollution (litter) but by reducing use of carbon and chemicals such as pesticides (thereby reducing temperature change, acidification, toxins); and increasing knowledge and engagement about the importance, beauty and fragility of our Ocean. Reality is, what we do to the Ocean we ultimately  . . . do to ourselves.

Shopping carts and plastic . . and anemones. Photo by dive buddy ©Alexandra Spicer.

Shopping carts and plastic . . and anemones. Photo by dive buddy Alexandra Spicer.

Northern Kelp Crabs and Rose Anemone atop a big chunk of plastic. ©Jackie Hildering;

Northern Kelp Crabs and Rose Anemone atop a big chunk of plastic. ©Jackie Hildering

Plumose Anemones just under the surface. ©Jackie Hildering;

Plumose Anemones just under the surface, just above the debris. ©Jackie Hildering;


Hooded Nudibranch on Eelgrass just under the surface near the Seagate Dock, Port Hardy. @Jackie Hildering.

Hooded Nudibranch on Eelgrass just under the surface near to mounds of debris. @Jackie Hildering.

An example of the beauty among the debris - species trying to survive amongst what most often purposely/ carelessly ends up in the Ocean. Here - egg mass laid by a Pacific Sea Lemon (nudibranch) where each dot can hatch into a larval nudibranch. Next photo, the nudibranch that likely laid the egg mass beside a beer can. ©Jackie Hildering.

A striking example of the beauty among the debris – species trying to survive amongst what most often purposely/ carelessly ends up in the Ocean – an egg mass laid by a Pacific Sea Lemon (nudibranch) where each dot can hatch into a larval nudibranch. Next photo, the nudibranch that likely laid the egg mass beside . . . a beer can. ©Jackie Hildering.

@2016 Jackie Hildering one time use -13324


Dive buddies near Giant Pink Star. Left, Natasha Dickinson. Right, Alexandra Spicer. ©Jackie Hildering;

Dive buddies and Giant Pink Star. Left, Natasha Dickinson. Right, Alexandra Spicer. ©Jackie Hildering.

Surely Not Again?! Tidal Turbines in Whale Epicentre? Still Hell No!

Here we go again. 

It has just come to my attention that there are two applications for tenure for tidal turbines in killer whale critical habitat. This last arose in November in 2012 with my posting the blog “Tidal Turbines in Whale Epicentre? Hell No!”. The resulting media coverage, your action and the ethics of the applicant resulted in that application being withdrawn.

With these two new applications, your action is again very much needed.

The comment deadline is April 9th, 2015. 

Below, I have edited my November 2012 blog to be applicable to these applications and hopefully I have succeeded in making commenting very expeditious for you. 

Here goes . . . .

There are times when expletives like “Hell No!” are justified and I am sure you will agree this is one of those very unfortunate times and – your action is needed.

There are two applications for “OCEAN ENERGY / INVESTIGATIVE AND MONITORING PHASE” by Weyl Power Ltd. If accepted by the BC Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO), this would allow the instalment of technical and investigative monitoring equipment in killer whale critical habitat which could then lead to turbines also being located there.  I believe the applications are still referenced as licenses of occupation“.

See the map for the location of the proposed Weyl Power sites relative to resident killer whale critical habitat as per the Recovery Strategy for Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales in Canada.

Proposed sites relative to acknowledged northern resident killer whale critical habitat.

Proposed sites relative to acknowledged northern resident killer whale critical habitat. Source of base map: BC Cetacean Sightings Network. Click to enlarge. For more on the determination of this critical habitat see Ford, J.K.B. An Assessment of critical habitats of resident killer whales in waters off the Pacific Coast of Canada. Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, Research Document 2006/072.

(1) Johnstone Strait between Hanson Island and Telegraph Cove (File: #1414321)

(2)  Broughton Strait, western end of Malcolm Island  (File: #1414325)

While I of course support initiatives to reduce the use of climate-changing fossil fuels, to have turbines in critical whale habitat would be pure, simple, total, utter insanity. No matter how advanced the turbine technology, no amount of mitigation could compensate for the noise, prey reduction, and other disturbance to the whales.

One would hope that government agencies would surely deny the applications, especially after the public outcry after the similar 2012 application in this same area.  However, we have many examples of this being tragically misplaced faith and cannot count on there being any legislation in place for sound environmental assessment that would confirm environmental impacts. Note that the federal government had to be taken to court TWICE to be ordered to acknowledge and protect killer whale critical habitat – first ruling December 7, 2010; appeal ruling February 9th, 2011.

Weyl Power Application -  Johnstone Strait between Hanson Island and Telegraph Cove. File: #1414321

Weyl Power Application – Johnstone Strait between Hanson Island and Telegraph Cove. File: #1414321. Click to enlarge.

The very ocean current that makes this area of interest for staking a claim for ocean energy is what makes this such a rich area for marine life. The importance of this area for killer whales can be supported by almost 4 decades of data collected by Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the OrcaLab.

To allow these applications to proceed would therefore be ludicrous and in direct conflict of Objective 4 of the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whale Action Plan for Species at Risk which is to “Protect critical habitat for Resident Killer Whales and identify additional areas for critical habitat designation and protection.”

Weyl Power Application -  Broughton Strait, western end of Malcolm Island. File: #1414321. Click to enlarge. Weyl Power Application -  Johnstone Strait between Hanson Island and Telegraph Cove

Weyl Power Application – Broughton Strait, western end of Malcolm Island. File: #1414321. Click to enlarge.

Therefore, we collectively need (again) to make our “Hell No!” heard.

Please comment by the April 9th deadline by going to these two links and scrolling down till you see “To comment on this application please click here”.

  • Weyl Power application for Johnstone Strait between Hanson Island and Telegraph Cove (File: #1414321) – click here.
  • Weyl Power application for Broughton Strait, western end of Malcolm Island (File: #1414325) – click here.

Sample text: With regard to Land File Numbers 1414321 and 1414325, the applications for Weyl Power Ltd’s “OCEAN ENERGY / INVESTIGATIVE AND MONITORING PHASE” in the Broughton Strait to Johnstone Strait area, I write you to express that these applications for tenure must not be granted. The applications are in scientifically confirmed critical habitat for northern resident killer whales and it has been legally ruled that this must be protected as per Canada’s Species at Risk Act. In addition, the area is of great importance to humpback whales and many other marine species.  No matter how advanced the turbine technology, no amount of mitigation could compensate for the noise, prey reduction, and other disturbance to the whales and to approve these applications would be in direct conflict of Objective 4 of the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whale Action Plan for Species at Risk which is to “Protect critical habitat for Resident Killer Whales and identify additional areas for critical habitat designation and protection”. It is also unacceptable that the public is not provided with information on these applications other than the applicant name and the maps i.e. no information about design or environmental assessment process.”
You may even want to reference this blog and provide the link e.g. “For further details of the reasons for my great objection to this application see the rationale and resources provided at

Please also help spread the word?

So much insanity  . . . so little time.  


Media Coverage:

Take Part; March 22, 2015; “The Clean-Energy Project That Could Harm Endangered Killer Whales – A mystery firm wants to build underwater power turbines in critical orca habitat off Canada’s Pacific coast

Sea Star Wasting Syndrome Now Documented on NE Vancouver Island

Giant pink sea star in final stages of sea star wasting syndrome. Bear Cove, Port Hardy; December 21, 2013. © 2013 Jackie Hildering

Giant pink sea star in final stages of sea star wasting syndrome. Bear Cove, Port Hardy; December 21, 2013. © 2013 Jackie Hildering

[Update: November 18, 2014 Study published today – cause of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome a densovirus that has been present for at least 72 years? Why has it led to mass mortality now? What makes sense is that, like any virus, the incidents of “pathogenicity” depends on stressors (e.g. temperature change) and proximity of individuals. The virus has also been found in other echinoderms like urchins and sand dollars and it persists in sediment = can be transmitted by those vectors and there is the potential that the other echinoderms are/will be affected. See the study by Cornell University at the link below (lead author Ian Hewson). Includes “If SSaDV is the cause of the current SSWD event, it is unclear why the virus did not elicit wide disease outbreaks in the past during periods in which it was detected; however, there are several possible reasons why the current SSWD event is broader and more intense than previous occurrences. SSaDV may have been present at lower prevalence for decades and only became an epidemic recently due to unmeasured environmental factors not present in previous years that affect animal susceptibility or enhance transmission.”

Good coverage in a 7-minute radio interview
Science Friday; December 5, 2014: “What’s Killing West Coast Starfish?”


Deepest of sighs.

I am very sad to report that Sea Star Wasting Syndrome is now on NE Vancouver Island.

I first detected symptoms of the Syndrome at Bear Cove in Port Hardy on December 13th. Please see table at the end of this blog for how the species affected appears to be quite different from further to the south. Leather stars seem particularly affected and the Syndrome appears to advance much more slowly.

Leather star with sea star wasting syndrome. (Click to enlarge). Bear Cove, Port Hardy; December 21, 2013. © 2013 Jackie Hildering

Leather star with sea star wasting syndrome. (Click to enlarge). Bear Cove, Port Hardy; December 21, 2013. © 2013 Jackie Hildering

I have tried to think up a terrestrial analogy for what is happening to the sea stars so that non-divers might better get a sense of the weight and ecosystem importance of it. However, I can’t come up with a good terrestrial equivalent of an abundant group of highly visible, apex predators. My best attempt is to suggest you think of sea stars like birds of prey. Imagine what you would feel like if you were to notice they were dying, bodies deflating . . . then melting away and that this would progress very quickly and spread like wildfire.

Mottled star with sea star wasting syndrome. (Click to enlarge). Bear Cove, Port Hardy; December 21, 2013. © 2013 Jackie Hildering

Mottled star with sea star wasting syndrome. (Click to enlarge). Bear Cove, Port Hardy; December 21, 2013. © 2013 Jackie Hildering

Please see my previous blog item, “Wasted, What is Happening to the Sea Stars of the NE Pacific Ocean?”, for great detail on the symptoms, species impacted further to the south, spread of the Syndrome, and how to help understand what is happening by relaying data to the Vancouver Aquarium. 

The short of it is:

  • The meltdown of sea stars was first detected in June 2013 in Washington State in ochre stars and in sunflower stars in Howe Sound (BC) in late August 2013 but has now been reported at sites from Alaska to the Mexican border.
  • Sunflower star in distress - potentially wasting syndrome. (Click to enlarge.) Photo from a week ago. Bear Cove, Port Hardy; December 13, 2013. © 2013 Jackie Hildering

    Sunflower star in distress – potentially wasting syndrome. (Click to enlarge.) Photo from a week ago. Bear Cove, Port Hardy; December 13, 2013.
    © 2013 Jackie Hildering

    The number of sea stars impacted is orders of magnitude greater than any previous known outbreak.

  • Most likely due to a pathogen (virus and or/bacteria). Cornell University is doing the genomic work. Toxins and environmental conditions have not been ruled out as the cause (or compounding factors).
  • If it is a pathogen, how quickly it spreads is influenced by the number of animals and if they are stressed. There are likely to be layers of stressors.
  • It has put forward by the scientific community that this could be a normal mechanism for overpopulation in sea stars.

The 1-minute time-lapse video below shows the progression of the Syndrome in a sunflower star over 7 hours.

Yep, it’s terrible.

However, I believe very strongly that, in attempting to raise awareness about marine environmental issues, I must always reflect on “what you can do”. If I do not, I contribute to the spread of a devastating human syndrome: Eco-paralysis. Symptoms include people becoming despondent, overwhelmed, and underactive in undertaking positive socio-environmental change, and often saying “It’s all hopeless”. The cause? This I do know. Eco-paralysis is the result of not seeing the common solutions between environmental problems.

Sea Star Wasting Syndrome is a solid indicator of how little we know about our life-sustaining oceans. It emphasizes the importance of humility and precaution in decision-making around the environment and how we are all empowered to reduce environmental stressors (with emphasis on reducing fossil fuel consumption and chemical use).

Having witnessed what I have over the last many weeks, I am all the more driven to assist others in (1) falling deeper in love with the NE Pacific Ocean by revealing the beauty below her surface and (2) feeling the joy that comes from creating change that is better for the environment and, therefore, ourselves.

What was once a sunflower star. (Click to enlarge). Bear Cove, Port Hardy; December 23, 2013. © 2013 Jackie Hildering

What was once a sunflower star. (Click to enlarge). Bear Cove, Port Hardy; December 23, 2013.
© 2013 Jackie Hildering

The progression of the Syndrome in 2 days in a giant pink star. (Click to enlarge.)© 2013 Jackie Hildering

The progression of the Syndrome in 2 days in a giant pink star. (Click to enlarge.)© 2013 Jackie Hildering

Table showing progression of SSWS at Bear Cove

Table showing a summary of my data re. progression of species impacted at Bear Cove, Port Hardy. Progression of symptoms in a leather star over 16 days at Bear Cove, Port Hardy. (Click to enlarge.) © 2014 Jackie Hildering

Progression of symptoms in a leather star over 16 days at Bear Cove, Port Hardy. (Click to enlarge.)© 2014 Jackie Hildering

Progression of symptoms in a leather star over 16 days at Bear Cove, Port Hardy. (Click to enlarge.)© 2014 Jackie Hildering