Oceans can be Restored in 30 years

By Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News

I am never bored near the ocean. With the exception of a few years living in the middle of Canada, I have always lived near the ocean, on one coast or another.

There are hundreds of Pacific White Sided Dolphins in this photo taken near desolation sound BC. Image courtesy Grant B.

I truly love the ocean. I find it infinitely interesting and I can literally spend hours observing the waves, weather patterns, and the life that lives in, on and around it. Don’t get me wrong, big mountains are stunning and the great plains have an overwhelming and immense beauty, but the ocean? There is where I find constant activity; the whales and the birds, the fish, and the people, even boats make for interesting observation. The food chain is exemplified by the sea, with some of the largest creatures on earth thriving there, evolving huge brains and the huge bodies to support those brains. The amazing thing is that these massive creatures, like the Blue Whales, for example, have evolved to this size by eating some of the smallest creatures on earth; plankton and krill. In the area where I live, the Pacific Northwest, the ocean has provided life for first nations people for tens of thousands of years. Shellfish, salmon, and sea mammals all provided food, clothing, and even tools for the people who lived here, harmoniously with nature, never taking more than they needed.

The ocean provides not just for the people and water-borne animals but also for the forests and the land animals. The salmon is one of the quintessential icons of the Pacific Northwest and is a huge part of the cycle of life here; they are hatched from eggs in the gravel of the coastal rivers, sometimes hundreds of miles from the sea. They live there growing strong enough for their amazing swim to the ocean where they feed on such rich biodiversity they grow to magnificent size. Historically Chinook salmon have been caught up to 100 pounds, although a 5-15 pound fish would be more common.

A wild sea-run trout called a steelhead caught from a river in BC. The fish was quickly released unharmed and swam away strongly. Image courtesy Grant B.

When they reach maturity after 4 years, they return to the rainforest rivers where they were born. In larger river systems such as the Columbia, Fraser, and Skeena, the fish are numbered in the tens of millions. Multiplied by the weight of the fish, an extraordinary amount of food material is delivered far from the ocean to the forest and to the creatures that live there. The salmon spawns and then dies; the cycle of life now complete. But is it? The salmon now have fed birds and larger fish as juveniles in the rivers where they were born, whales, and seals in the ocean and bears and humans as they migrate upstream. As they weaken and die, another host of creatures is able to benefit. Eagles, foxes, coyotes, martin, mink, wolves, raccoons, and many others forage for these dense sources of protein. Those that hibernate, such as bears, make huge weight gains, packing on winter fat for the long sleep ahead.

A grizzly bear hunting salmon at Brooks Falls. Coastal grizzly bears require hundreds of pounds of fish to store fat for winter hibernation. Image courtesy Galyna Andrushko via Envato.

These creatures carry the salmon carcasses to the shelter and safety of the forest where they consume the tastiest bits of the fish before going back for more. The rest is left behind but is not wasted. Decaying into the forest floor, the inedible portions to a bear now feed the roots of massive cedar trees, huckleberry bushes, and ferns. It provides food and a home for insects that then may pollinate flowers on plants and provide food for birds, snakes, and reptiles. All considered, it is a truly amazing natural cycle that has been provided for us and the ecosystem that we benefit from. The same is true around the world; the oceans provide a huge resource of nutrients beyond our wildest comprehension – everywhere there is a sea, there are humans and animals enjoying the bounty.

When the system is out of balance things start to fall apart. Humans, with our massive egos and ingrained hubris, have destroyed in a couple of human lifetimes what has taken millennia to evolve. Pollution, habitat degradation and overfishing have caused many of the world’s oceans to lose their ability to provide. In British Columbia where I live, the salmon that once numbered in the tens of millions are but a fraction of their former numbers.

Even the estuaries of rivers are beautiful in their own way. Image courtesy Monodon via Envato.

But Oceans can be restored to former glory within 30 years, say scientists. This article gives me hope. It shows that nature’s capacity to regenerate and heal is astounding. In only one generation or just 30 years, scientists say we could reverse much of the damage done by humans in the past two centuries. If you simply stop hunting whales, their populations will rebound, if you stop destroying habitat, the salmon will repopulate urban rivers, if you remove a dam, in a few seasons the entire ecosystem will recover.

The most beautiful thing is that this type of recovery doesn’t require huge interventions, we simply need to stop destroying nature, and nature will bounce back. My hope is that we will give Mother Nature the break she needs sooner rather than later. We have a huge momentum building in society that is now being reflected in the campaigns and policies of politicians who want our votes. Change is coming.

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