With approximately 36,000 kilometres of shoreline, 6,500 islands and more than 450,000 square kilometres of internal and offshore marine waters, British Columbia is truly a maritime province.
For many of us, the coast is our home, our jobsite, our playground and our source of inspiration and identity. In fact, more than three- quarters of B.C.'s large and growing population lives on the coast. Ocean-related economic activities - including recreation, transportation, seafood production and high tech - contribute more than $11 billion to the province's GDP and provide nearly 170,000 jobs for British Columbians.
From the tidepools at Botanical Beach to the rugged wilderness of the North Coast, B.C.'s ocean and coastal areas are home to a rich diversity of species, habitats and ecosystems. Recognizing the value of these areas, the provincial and federal governments have designated 187 marine protected areas in B.C., accounting for nearly 30 per cent of our coastline and representing about three per cent of Canada's Pacific waters. Every year, thousands of British Columbians and visitors from all over the globe come to explore our coastal waters and beaches.
However, tragic events like the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico remind us all of the importance and vulnerability of ocean and coastal environments. The B.C. government is committed to working with stewardship organizations, communities, industry and other partners to ensure the continued health of B.C.'s marine ecosystems and their ability to support a strong, diverse economy and thriving communities. By signing onto the Pacific Coast Collaborative, we have agreed to join our neighbouring states in taking action to address issues of shared concern, including marine debris, invasive species, input of toxins to marine environments and fisheries sustainability.
Think about making a change that will help protect our marine environment. Here are just some of the ways that you can help:
Support and take part in stewardship activities: Unfortunately, not all of B.C.'s marine and coastal areas are in pristine condition. Stewardship groups are always looking for volunteers to help out with beach clean-ups, habitat restoration projects and other important work. Go to the Stewardship Centre for British Columbia web site to find out about opportunities and events in your area: http://www.stewardshipcentre.bc.ca/
Eat local, sustainable seafood: Three of B.C.'s major fisheries - halibut, hake and albacore tuna - have now received the Marine Stewardship Council's seal of approval for sustainability. Buying local, eco-certified seafood supports B.C.'s fishermen and producers, while contributing to a healthy diet.
Reduce your carbon footprint: Globally, rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are leading to higher sea surface temperatures and increased acidification of our oceans, and both are expected to have profound effects on the health of marine species and communities. Visit the Live Smart B.C. web site to find out what you can do to help mitigate climate change: http://www.livesmartbc.ca/
Buy ocean-friendly products: Many of the activities we do on land contribute wastes to marine environments. Making small changes in what we purchase and how we deal with products at the end of their life can make a big difference. For example, avoid products that are treated with flame-retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and instead look for natural substitutes that don't require chemical additives (e.g. rubber, wool).
I encourage all British Columbians to celebrate World Oceans Day by taking some time to enjoy B.C.'s beautiful marine spaces.