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2023 was a year of impact for Ocean Wise, empowering future leaders through expanded youth programs, pioneering kelp restoration efforts and advancing microfiber pollution prevention with industry collaborations. This year-end review highlights Ocean Wise’s commitment to ocean conservation, showcasing achievements that promise a sustainable future. 

Kelp Nursery Launched to Restore Vital Ocean Habitat 

On April 4, 2023, we opened the doors of our Kelp Nursery in West Vancouver. This marks a crucial step toward restoring and cultivating kelp forests in British Columbia, with far-reaching implications beyond the region.

Photo by Maxwel Hohn

Kelp forests, integral to ocean ecosystems, provide critical habitat for marine life and play a vital role in mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon and producing oxygen. Despite their importance, global kelp forests are declining due to factors like ocean warming.  

Our seaforestation work addresses this challenge through the Kelp Nursery, serving as a research and development hub for testing innovative kelp restoration techniques. The nursery, located at the Pacific Science Enterprise Centre, not only advances research but also provides kelp seeds for restoration efforts in local and distant waters, allowing us to assess and refine restoration techniques. The launch, made possible by contributions from TELUS and other donors, is a vital step toward a more sustainable future for our planet. 

Winter Whale Research: A 2023 Milestone for Marine Conservation 

Our groundbreaking eDNA work continues with a winter field study designed to unravel the mysteries of the behaviour and ecology of British Columbia’s beloved whale populations, particularly those residing in the Salish Sea. The region hosts year-round at-risk whale species, including the endangered southern resident killer whales, threatened northern resident killer whales, Bigg’s killer whales, and North Pacific humpback whales—all listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). With the Salish Sea witnessing notable shifts in whale distribution during fall and winter, the study addresses crucial knowledge gaps essential for their protection and recovery. 

Supported by Prince of Whales, this year’s fieldwork gathered individual identification and location data from approximately 50 whale encounters. By employing our innovative Environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques we are able to shed light on population dynamics and structure while minimizing stress on marine mammals. Prey samples obtained after witnessing feeding events provided valuable insights into the winter diets of southern resident killer whales and humpback whales.  

Supporting Small-Scale Fisheries  

In February we released a new Rapid Assessment Standard (RAPSTA), revolutionizing the evaluation of Canadian fisheries. Since 2005, through our Ocean Wise Seafood recommendations, we’ve been a trusted source for consumers and businesses looking to choose sustainable seafood. However, lack of data on a wide range of issues has historically left several Canadian fisheries unassessed. 

Our first of its kind assessment tool helps to address this gap, introducing a more inclusive, efficient, and cost-effective assessment tool, that removes barriers for these fisheries to entering the sustainable seafood space. RAPSTA leverages data from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program and Oceana Canada to facilitate quick assessments of previously unassessed fisheries. The success of RAPSTA marks an achievement in Ocean Wise’s ongoing mission to restore and protect our ocean through innovative and accessible conservation solutions. 

Coming Together for International Coastal Cleanup Day  

In September we hosted a nationwide celebration for International Coastal Cleanup Day, mobilizing hundreds of volunteers along shorelines to combat plastic pollution and stop the flow of litter into our ocean. The tangible impact of preventing litter from entering waterways resonated with volunteers, fostering a sense of accomplishment among first-time participants and seasoned cleanup veterans alike.

Among the most frequently found items, cigarette butts dominated the litter, aligning with our predictions in the 2022 Dirty Dozen. The success of International Coastal Cleanup Day was a testament to the collective impact achievable through community involvement, as Ocean Wise remains dedicated to raising awareness, promoting responsible practices, and making a difference in the ongoing battle against plastic pollution for years to come. 

Innovating Solutions to Cut Microfiber Pollution 

Also in September we were at the prestigious IFA in Berlin, the world’s largest consumer electronics and home appliances trade show, with our partner Samsung. The purpose was to unveil the cutting-edge innovation in microfiber pollution prevention.

Collaborating with Samsung and Patagonia, Ocean Wise has played a pivotal role in the development and rigorous testing of the Less Microfiber Filter. This device traps up to 98% of microfibers emanating from washing machines before they have the chance to infiltrate the ocean. This technology has the potential to wield significant influence, as it empowers individuals to curtail their microfiber footprint right within the confines of their homes.

The collaboration marks a progressive step forward, building on the foundation laid in the previous year with the joint effort to create the Less Microfiber Cycle

Double Triumph for Ocean Education: Sea Dome Tour and Virtual Classes 

In a year marked by educational milestones we celebrated success on a few fronts, reinforcing a commitment to ocean conservation and knowledge dissemination.

The Ocean Wise Sea Dome continued its national tour engaging communities in Manitoba and Ontario. This immersive pop-up ocean adventure captivates audiences with 360-degree 4K cinematic footage, as well as showcasing marine artifacts and interactive activities.  

Another highlight was Ocean Wise’s partnership with Classrooms Without Walls. Together we delivered free online ocean education to students in conflict zones, including Ukraine, Afghanistan and Myanmar, covering topics from whales to deep-sea wonders.

Best of all, educators have been able to form friendships with the students and sessions continue to grow in size.  Read more about the partnership here! The success of these initiatives underlines Ocean Wise’s multifaceted approach to ocean education, blending hands-on experiences with virtual outreach, making a meaningful impact both locally and globally.  

Empowering Future Leaders

Our youth programs have expanded now including two new microgrant programs, the Ocean Action Grant and Eco-Action Accelerator. Beyond the new programming, the Youth to Sea program we know, and love has expanded beyond its Vancouver roots, extending nationwide with cohorts in Victoria, Halifax, Montreal, and Ottawa. 

The real impact of these programs shines through in the inspiring projects led by passionate participants. A few notable projects include The Climate Connect Deck is an innovative game that encourages players to engage in honest and hopeful discussions about their connection with nature and the climate, “Every Little Bit” a children’s that has evolved into an education hub. This initiative exemplifies the power of storytelling in educating and inspiring young minds about ocean conservation.

The Return of Chowder Chowdown 

After a two-year hiatus, the Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown made a much-anticipated return to Vancouver and Toronto. A total of twenty-two chefs took the stage, competing for culinary awards as they presented their signature ocean-friendly chowders. The event saw over 500 ocean lovers gather to celebrate sustainable seafood. 

Chowder Chowdown showcased the culinary world’s commitment to sustainable practices. With six chowders earning coveted awards we celebrated seafood along with innovative recipes that redefine the boundaries of sustainable dining. The return of Chowder Chowdown promises not just a feast for the taste buds but an immersive experience that champions the cause of sustainable seafood, leaving a lasting impact on both seasoned food enthusiasts and those new to the realm of ocean-friendly dining.

Posted December 5, 2023 by Ocean Wise

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