Approaching the tipping point

Darrell Cole
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Atlantic marine ecosystem at risk

Author and environmentalist Harry Thurston speaks to Amherst Rotary Club members Linda Cooper and Bob Barnes after addressing the club earlier this week. Thurston said the Atlantic region’s marine ecosystem is at risk unless conservation efforts on land are extended to the ocean.

AMHERST – An award-winning author and environmentalist says more needs to be done to protect the Atlantic region’s marine ecosystem.

Speaking to members of the Amherst Rotary Club, Harry Thurston said much has been accomplished on shore to protect threatened flora and fauna, but said the tipping point is getting very close to where damage to the oceans can’t be repaired.

“It’s not too late to turn things back, but we need to start with things like creating more marine protected areas,” Thurston said. “That would be the first positive action we can take.”

Thurston said the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has begun lobbying governments to create a protected area in the Bay of Fundy.

But, he added, Canadians can make a difference individually by asking where the fish they are buying is coming from and to resist purchasing species that are at risk.

“When we go to the store it could be as simple as knowing what species we shouldn’t be eating,” Thurston said. “We can also be good stewards of the environment in our own backyard.”

Thurston, who was the spokesman for the Cumberland Wilderness group that successfully lobbied for the creation of the Kelley River and Raven Head wilderness areas in Cumberland County, was recently nominated for the $10,000 Lane Anderson Award that celebrates the best science writing in Canada.

The nomination was for his book The Atlantic Coast, A Natural History.

“We’re blessed here in Cumberland County with having two shores. The Bay of Fundy is a remarkable ecosystem, but equally so the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a very productive environment,” Thurston said. “We have be aware of that and do our best to see that marine heritage is carried forward. We need to address the damage we’ve done and what we might do to repair the damage and restore the ecosystem to its full potential.”

Thurston said the world is slowly depopulating its marine resources starting with freshwater species, moving to the shoreline and now offshore and moving from larger predatory species such as cod to underutilized species.

While global warming is playing a role, Thurston said it’s mostly a result of commercial overfishing.

Thurston said he doesn’t want to counsel despair, but he cautioned research shows that in another 30 years there will be no wild fish left if fishing habits don’t change.

“Aquaculture can never replace the productivity of the oceans,” he said. “This is a planet largely covered by ocean water and it’s very appropriate that we turn our attention there and what we can do to protect that environment.”


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