Thursday, November 6, 2008


With the excitement of elections and a crumbling economy, who cares if ocean life is being killed off?

Jeff Hutchings does - even if the government is ignoring his warnings. Jeff is the Chair of the committee advising Canada on endangered species. And though warnings of extinctions come thick and fast - the government continues to issue fishing and hunting permits to kill off the last of a kind.

I debated running this speech, now, on Radio Ecoshock. Surely Americans will be too absorbed with their own affairs, to notice the end of fisheries of the world's longest coast line? Shouldn't I talk economy, with breezy interviews, and hot music instead?

My listeners do care. They know the human economy is build upon the natural economy. If our ocean stocks are going bankrupt, along with the food chain, we all need to know about it.

Normally, scientists at the top government levels work behind the scenes, keeping a cautious reserve and even secrecy. Not now. The situation off the coasts of North America, and the Arctic, are just too severe. Why even bother with endangered species, if the government will ignore all warnings - even if it saves just two - that's right TWO - jobs. Listen and weep.

Professor Jeffrey Hutchings comes from Dalhousie University, on Canada's East Coast. He's Canada Research Chair in Marine Conservation and Biodiversity. This is the Canada Oceans 2008 annual lecture, recorded by Alex Smith at the Wosk Centre of Simon Fraser University, in downtown Vancouver Canada, on October 22nd 2008.

It's a powerful speech. CBC Radio, the national broadcaster, was recording it for the well-known program "Ideas."

Two points for listeners: (1) the word "extirpated" means that species will disappear from the region, but may still exist somewhere else in the world. It only appears "extinct" to those who have known it for generations in a locale.

(2) "on the Minister's desk" is a quaint Canadian phase which means the scientists have put their endangered warnings in a report to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, for the Federal Government of Stephen Harper - but nothing has been done about it. It is being stalled, ignored, and in some cases abused - by approving a catch on endangered or severly at risk stocks.

You will also find out that Canada's most threatened mammal in the Arctic, due to climate disruption, is not the polar bear. Learn what it is, and why.

The event was held "in the round" at the beautiful Wosk Centre. The plush chairs, each with their own desk space and microphone, were filled with top fisheries people - the British Columbia government types, well-known university scientists, ocean environmentalists you see on TV all the time, and people who love the sea. In the quiet tones of a Canadian from the inner circle, Jeff Hutchings nailed them to their chairs.

Let's tune in to a lament for a nation's oceans, this week on Radio Ecoshock.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock

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