© Gilbert Van Ryckevorsel/WWF-Canada


On World Oceans Day, June 8, 2016, the best and brightest minds in ocean policy came together in our nation’s capital for a day of engaging, constructive discussion about Canada’s oceans.

Canada’s Ocean Summit 2016, hosted by WWF-Canada, brought together people working on ocean policy to think about solutions for Canada’s oceans. Our panelists and audience expected us to tackle big challenges; however, some of the challenges were unexpected. After a fantastic morning featuring two important government announcements and a moving presentation by National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence, a massive sinkhole outside the conference venue caused a leak and prompted an evacuation of the entire building, forcing us out just as we started a great panel conversation on marine protection. Keeping in mind that we were hosting a “solutions-oriented” Summit, we found a solution! Within two hours, alternate space had been offered at the nearby National Arts Centre and Canada’s Ocean Summit continued.

Other challenges raised by the conference were more predictable, but less easily solved: climate change, meeting Canada’s marine protection commitments, and the complexities of marine planning. As WWF-Canada President and CEO David Miller said in his opening remarks: “We know the problems. This day is about solutions.”

To find these solutions, the Summit brought together ocean experts from across the country. But the best and the brightest ocean minds weren’t only on stage, they were throughout the audience. We were thrilled to know that Summit attendees included representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada, Parks Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and Natural Resources Canada, academia and environmental NGOs, First Nations and Inuit governments and communities, as well as the fishing, marine renewables and shipping industries.

Three federal ministers spoke at the Summit, signaling the government’s commitment to marine conservation and improving ocean health. The Honorable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, made that commitment explicit, saying, “We need to show the world we are serious about ocean conservation.” He announced an action plan to meet the government’s goal to protect 5% of Canada’s oceans by 2017 and 10% by 2020. Minister LeBlanc’s had a strong message for all participants at the Summit: “The only way to solve our ocean problems is to work together.

Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced that Shell Canada was relinquishing oil and gas exploration permits near the government-proposed boundary for the Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area, setting the stage for the protection of an even larger area in the region. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, pointed out that this was a perfect example of what we can accomplish when we’re united in our efforts toward a common goal, from industry to environmentalists to indigenous peoples to Northerners to Canadians across our great country. Minister Bennett pointed out that the goal of the preservation of a unique, marine environment, and that “the result: a significant development for the future protection of Canada’s arctic coastlines and waters, is priceless.

© naturepl.com/Eric Baccega/WWF

10% by 2020:
Marine Protection

Canada’s federal government pledged to reach our international commitments to protect 10 per cent of our oceans by 2020, with an interim target of five per cent by 2017. WWF-Canada is excited about reaching this milestone, but with only one per cent of our oceans protected today, tough questions about reaching this target needed to be asked.

Our presenters tackled these important questions, and laid out a plan for how to achieve this goal while ensuring proper consultation, and while ensuring effective protection of our ocean ecosystems.

© naturepl.com/Martha Holmes/WWF

The Other 90%: Marine Planning

Canada’s commitment to Marine Protected Areas is important, but it does beg the question: What about the other 90 per cent? This second panel was the sister panel to marine protection, tackling the issue of marine planning. A successful example of marine planning took place off the coast of Rhode Island, and their experience has been documented in Ocean Frontiers II. Produced by Green Fire Productions, Ocean Frontiers is an inspiring film series of citizens coming together to create a new era in ocean stewardship. Ocean Frontiers II tells the story of a region steeped in old maritime tradition now facing a modern wave of big ships, offshore wind and a changing climate. Hear how Rhode Island’s marine planning brings government, conservationists, fishermen, tribes, renewable energy proponents and scientists to the table to plan for a vibrant coastal economy and healthy ocean off their coast.

© Staffan Widstrand/WWF

Temperatures Rising: Climate Change and Healthy Oceans

From sea level rise to acidification, we are all keenly aware of the impacts of climate change on our oceans. On World Oceans Day we held a discussion on successful examples of coastal adaptation, as well as the potential to use the oceans in our struggle to mitigate climate change.


Keynote Luncheon

Sheila Watt-Cloutier

© Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier is in the business of transforming public opinion into public policy. Experienced in working with global decision makers for over a decade, Watt-Cloutier offers a new model for 21st century leadership. She speaks with passion and urgency on the issues of today—the environment, the economy, foreign policy, global health, and sustainability—not as separate concerns, but as a deeply interconnected whole. At a time when people are seeking solutions, direction, and a sense of hope, this global leader provides a big picture of where we are and where we’re headed.

“Climate change is an issue of our right to be Indigenous people.” –Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Ms. Watt-Cloutier delivered her reflections on climate change and the impacts on Northern communities during her keynote address, and she sent the Ocean Summit attendees away with some powerful words of inspiration. “The power is in the attempt,” she said, regarding improving the health of the planet. “You change when you stand up for what is important.”

Her keynote, and an interview that took place after the Ocean Summit, will be published in Northern Public Affairs Magazine this fall. Keep an eye on this space for the link when it becomes available.

Special Presentation

Enric Sala

© Enric Sala

Before diving into panel discussions, we kicked off the day with some inspiration from Dr. Enric Sala, the Explorer in Residence from National Geographic. When we first invited Enric to join us for the Ocean Summit, he jumped at the opportunity. We were so thrilled that, on World Oceans Day, of all the places in the world Enric could be, he wanted to join us in Ottawa. But when you’re the Explorer in Residence at National Geographic, your expertise is in high demand. At the last minute, Enric was asked by a head of state to join him for a meeting about marine protection…on World Oceans Day. And when a President wants to act to protect our ocean, you can’t say no.

So while it was a great disappointment to us that Enric couldn’t be at the Ocean Summit in person, it was a great victory for our oceans. Enric prepared the following digital presentation – especially for all of the participants at the Summit, because he still wanted to bring his message for World Oceans Day.

The Ocean Tracking Network is a global research, technology development and partnership platform headquartered at Dalhousie University in Halifax. OTN and its partners are using electronic tags to track over 100 keystone, commercially important and endangered species in 20 countries and 16 ocean regions.
To harness the creativity and innovation of citizens, Impact Hub Ottawa and WWF-Canada partnered to launch Ottawa Wave Makers, a first-of-its kind microgrant program designed to catalyze and support local, community-driven creative projects that raise awareness about Canada’s oceans. The Ocean Summit Showcase featured two of the 2015 projects, Shrimps Matter, an ecosystem-based board game, and Oli’s Ocean Adventures, a children’s book.
The marine environment is undergoing unprecedented change due to natural phenomena, including climate change, and from humankind's rapidly changing use of the ocean.

The confluence of these two streams of change is creating opportunities and posing new or altered risks in Canada's marine and coastal environment.

Established in 2012 through Canada's federal Networks of Centres of Excellence Program, the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response (MEOPAR) Network is a national network of academic researchers and students, government scientists, and partners in the private, NGO and community sectors working together to reduce vulnerability and strengthen opportunity in Canada's marine environment. MEOPAR is hosted at Dalhousie University, in Halifax.
Marine Renewables Canada aligns industry, academia and government to ensure that Canada is a leader in providing ocean energy solutions to a world market.
(FORCE) is Canada’s leading research centre for in-stream tidal energy, located in the Bay of Fundy.

FORCE acts as a host to technology developers, providing the electrical infrastructure to deliver power to the grid; FORCE also oversees independently reviewed environmental monitoring in the Minas Passage. FORCE also conducts research to better understand the site conditions.
The Marine Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organization established to address the problem of unsustainable fishing and to safeguard seafood supplies for the future.

MSC’s vision is for the world’s oceans to be teeming with life – today, tomorrow and for generations to come. A sustainable seafood market is crucial to making their vision a reality.

They use their blue MSC label and fishery certification program to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans. They want to transform the seafood market by recognizing and rewarding sustainable fishing practices and influencing the choices people make when buying seafood. MSC works with fisheries and businesses around the world to achieve this mission.
Green Marine is an environmental certification program for the North American marine industry.

It is a voluntary, transparent and inclusive initiative that addresses key environmental issues through its 12 performance indicators. Participants are ship owners, ports, terminals, Seaway corporations and shipyards. The cornerstone of the Green Marine initiative is its far-reaching environmental program, which makes it possible for any marine company operating in Canada or the United States to reduce its environmental footprint by undertaking concrete and measurable actions.

To receive their certification, participants must benchmark their annual environmental performance through the program’s exhaustive self-evaluation guides, have their results verified by an accredited external verifier and agree to publication of their individual results.

Green Marine has more than 50 official supporters. A pivotal element of Green Marine’s success from the outset has been active support from environmental stakeholders and governments. Several of them participate in shaping and reviewing the environmental program.
Ocean Networks Canada operates the world-leading NEPTUNE and VENUS cabled ocean observatories for the advancement of science and the benefit of Canada. These observatories collect data on physical, chemical, biological and geological aspects of the ocean over long time periods, supporting research on complex Earth processes in ways not previously possible.

The NEPTUNE regional observatory and VENUS coastal observatory provide unique scientific and technical capabilities that permit researchers to operate instruments remotely and receive data at their home laboratories anywhere on the globe in real time. The Ocean Networks Canada Innovation Centre (previously called the ONC Centre for Enterprise and Engagement) – one of Canada’s Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and research – promotes the advanced technologies developed by NEPTUNE and VENUS. Together with the Innovation Centre, ONC operates a community observatory in the Arctic Ocean offshore Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

Ocean Summit 2016 Photo Album

Taken at the Westin Ottawa Hotel, June 8th 2016 (World Oceans Days)

For More Information, please contact Gayle McClelland at gmcclelland@wwfcanada.org or call 613-232-2512