Twice lucky in February
February 24th, 2016
The Sea Among Us: The Amazing Strait of Georgia (Harbour Publishing, try $39.95) has just won the Vancouver Aquarium Coastal Ocean Award for Conservation and Research Communication! The award was presented to Richard Beamish and Gordon McFarlane, visit this site editors, Peter A. Robson, project manager, and Howard and Mary White, President and Publisher of Harbour Publishing. It recognizes highly significant recent work and/or an entire career of important contributions in media, journalism and digital communications related to Coastal Oceans.
Beamish and Robson received the award during the 21st Annual Dinner celebrating Excellence in Aquatic Research and Conservation, held February 16 at the Vancouver Aquarium. A year ago in February, Beamish and McFarlane were awarded the American Fisheries Society’s Haig-Brown Award that recognizes those who have produced outstanding, non-technical articles or publications on any aspect of fishery management, research, habitat protection, enhancement, or other related fields. Beamish and McFarlane received the honour during the 2015 Annual General Meeting of the Washington-British Columbia chapter of the American Fisheries Society, held February 16-19, 2015. The award came on the heels of a ten-week-long stint on the BC Bestseller list and a recent second printing due to high demand.
For The Sea Among Us, Dick Beamish and Sandy McFarlane invited ten other experts to help them complete an unprecedented, 384-page book about the geology, biology and anthropology of the Strait of Georgia, illustrated by more than 250 colour photos, maps and charts. With chapters on fish, marine mammals, geology, oceanography, birds, history of settlement and of industry, among others, it is the function of this book to inform British Columbians about the Strait of Georgia. As editor and contributor Richard Beamish says, “All authors hope that the readers will use the information to ask questions about how the Strait of Georgia is coping with change and how they can provide more of the information that is needed to maintain a healthy Strait of Georgia.”
Dick Beamish O.B.C., C.M., Ph.D., F.R.S. is an Emeritus Scientist at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, BC. Beamish, one of the first people to write about climate regimes and regime shifts obtained his PhD. in Zoology from the University of Toronto in 1970, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. After a stint working with the Fresh Water Institute at the University of Manitoba, Beamish landed on the west coast in 1974. There, he continued his research into the effects of acid rain on fish, revolutionized ways to determine age and longevity in fish and worked to demonstrate how ocean climate affects fish stocks. Retired in 2011, Beamish, recipient of the Prix d’ Excellence, the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals, the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia, was a member of the International Panel on Climate Change awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He lives in Nanaimo with his wife Anne, and remains an active member of North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES).
Gordon McFarlane spent 30 years as a researcher at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo. He was a member and advisor to numerous international negotiating teams and participated in the development and conduct of a number of international research programs. He has authored more than 200 publications concerning the biology and assessment of marine resources.
Mark Forsythe, former host of BC Almanac on CBC Radio, spoke with Dick Beamish and Sandy McFarlane the day their book was launched.
BCBW: You talk a lot about plankton in the book—and how much one degree of warming can affect the food chain supply…
BEAMISH: Plankton is probably the key to understanding what’s going on with the Strait of Georgia. But you know this old issue: you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Sandy and I both feel that we need a lot better monitoring and measuring of plankton. It’s just amazing how small changes in the environment affect plankton, which then affects all the other species.
BCBW: The Pacific Biological Research Station is a federally funded institution. Given the recent cutbacks, do we have the resources and people required to do what you’re describing: to monitor the health of plankton? Or anything else in Georgia Strait?
BEAMISH. The short answer probably is no. But the amount of monitoring that needs to be done is probably beyond the ability of governments to afford. So you have to focus the money on the issues that scientists think are most critical. As you know, that’s not always an easy thing to do.
BCBW: How should we be responding to the impact of open net cage fish farming on wild stocks?
MCFARLANE: I think the idea of having a moratorium [as recommended by the Cohen Commission] is probably a good one. All the evidence so far that I’ve seen is still pretty inconclusive, but it indicates that having those farms in those areas is not quite as bad as some people might think. We’ve given the aquaculture industry eight years to show us that, in fact, that statement is correct. And in those eight years there’s been a moratorium; so there’s been no new farms. That’s probably a reasonable approach on the part of the government to address this issue because it’s of huge concern to British Columbians.
BCBW: What do you see coming in terms of population expansion and industrial development around the strait?
MCFARLANE: I think the estimates right now are 75% of British Columbians live within 10 km of the Strait of Georgia and that is projected to double within the next 30 to 40 years. It’s going to be a tremendous amount of new stress on the strait. More contaminants. There will be increases in marine traffic, no matter what.
BCBW: Obviously many people are concerned about increased tanker traffic and pipelines. So how well are we doing at taking what scientists know and putting that into the policies and political decisions that drive how we manage the Strait of Georgia?
MCFARLANE: In the past we made decisions based on this fish, or are we harming this particular this little area. We didn’t look at it as a system. I think we’re just beginning to take all the information we have and use it to assess the overall ecosystem.
BEAMISH: That’s why the intent of the book is to provide people with the background information that exists scientifically. The experts volunteered their time. It’s scientific information, but it’s not written for scientists. It’s understandable, and the kind of information that British Columbians need to have to make good decisions.
We are not going to stop all development. But the development that we do have, we want to make sure that there is an understanding of what impacts could be. And if there are impacts, they are going to be monitored and measured.
BCBW: So how would you rate the overall health of the strait?
BEAMISH: Well, first you have to gather background information from the people that have expertise, then you can start to decide not just what the health is, but also what the complexity is for stewardship.
MCFARLANE: You have to bring all parties to the same table. If they have a common understanding of how the actual ecosystem works, then you can be talking from the same baseline.