Our Oceans are Worthy of the Eagle’s View
To make a decision with “an eagle’s view” is to consider what impacts it will bring for the next seven generations.
How we approach the health and productivity of our oceans will require such consideration, and is worthy of the eagle’s view. There are complex challenges ahead for Canada as we take on more aggressive climate change goals, while also generating sustainable growth in the aftermath of COVID-19. So much of our ability to effectively do this depends on our oceans. And our oceans depend on all of us.
Canada is surrounded by three oceans and has the longest coastline in the world. Oceans have significant cultural meaning to Indigenous peoples, and have provided coastal communities for centuries with a source of food and a means of transportation that helped build and sustain livelihoods. Today, our oceans continue to do these things and much more. The further-reaching impacts should be top of mind for all Canadians, whether on the doorstep of the Arctic, Pacific or Atlantic, or never having seen them.
Some 350,000 Canadians work in ocean sectors, helping meet the world’s demand for protein, moving goods and people, generating energy, supporting defence, and unlocking the possibilities of bioresources and ocean technologies — activities we all benefit from in one way or another. There is another, potentially less obvious benefit of Canadian oceans: they absorb significant amounts of carbon produced by human activity. In particular, the North Atlantic serves as the world’s most significant carbon sink. This is an important job, and the choices we make and the actions we take can help ensure our oceans have the ability to continue to do this work.
In Indigenous culture, the ocean is life. It has a spirit and represents a connectivity to Mother Earth. You must honor the spirit of the ocean and in order to profit from it, you must respect it. Indigenous fishers often offer tobacco, a custom shared by many Indigenous peoples, to give thanks. At the same time, Indigenous knowledge gained from direct observations and passed down over generations — most often orally — embodies a wealth of wisdom and experience of nature. Both the Indigenous way of giving and receiving, and Indigenous knowledge can extend to how we shape the future of our ocean through policy and decision-making, industrial activity and also in how we come together to take on some of the biggest challenges and opportunities.
The ocean covers 70 per cent of the planet, yet much of it is unexplored and not well understood. We know the world’s growing population has an increasing demand for protein, and Canadian fish can help meet that demand. And while marine shipping is one of the most efficient methods of transportation, we also know it to be a significant source of carbon emissions.
The ocean is not without its challenges. But it also comes with promise, renewal and a future for Canadians that is healthy, prosperous and a continued part of the fabric of who we are. We will not achieve this without creating a more inclusive ocean, and bringing Indigenous knowledge, experience and leadership to the table to help inform decisions and build meaningful partnerships based on respect.
Through working groups, cluster membership and project partnership, Indigenous communities and companies are playing an essential role in Canada’s Ocean Supercluster. There’s a shared commitment to collaboration, understanding and doing things differently, so we can all benefit from this awesome gift now and seven generations from now.
Currently, Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners are working together to deliver solutions that will help Canada better understand what’s happening in our oceans and its species through ocean DNA; reduce carbon emissions in marine transportation with development of alternative fuels; promote greater safety on ice with tools to measure ice thickness, particularly in Arctic environments; encourage more Indigenous entrepreneurs to establish an ocean company through support and funding opportunities; and grow Indigenous participation in ocean sectors through culturally supportive training, mentorship and internships.
This is exciting, and made possible by working together and recognizing the important contributions that Indigenous peoples have to make to our oceans. And, with an eagle’s view, there’s much more to do — together.