Since MLSS’s inception in 1985 there has been much talk about creating more marine protected areas, although little has been done. A few areas in Haida Gwaii and Hecate Strait have made it into the category of marine protected, although they still represent the less than .5% of protected areas on the coast of Canada. MLSS knows that the best methodology to help the ocean creatures to survive and return to health lies in full no-take marine sanctuaries. 9/10’s of the world’s big fish are gone, yet few people are aware of this.
There is a false perception that these aforementioned areas are protected from predation (fishing, trapping, etc…). This is not the case. Many of these areas still allow many different forms of predation. A healthy marine environment requires a full no-take initiative for a marine sanctuary to exist. The sanctuary will have a spill-over affect that will benefit all surrounding areas. They need to be large and the protection needs to be enforced.
Consequently MLSS is currently developing a stewardship program at a community level. It is obvious that current policing is not working and that poaching is a common problem in the ocean. By designing a program that allows people to understand how to observe, record and report, we will be able to reduce illegal fishing and activities that harm the ocean. We are not advocating for policing, we are advocating for educating and understanding the existing rules, so that people can accurately report infractions to the appropriate sources.
MLSS believes that the key to success lies in community engagement and education using active programs. We have started up a beach interpreter program that links divers with shoreline educators to demonstrate what we see in the ocean. This program is aimed at young children and often captivates the parents as much as the children. The average individual has not seen many of the common creatures that live in the ocean. Unfortunately the charismatic creatures like dolphins and whales get most of the attention, while the fish stocks are decimated. Few consider the food that some of these majestic creatures survive on is fish. Fish are not soft and cuddly and consequently don’t get much of the attention when it comes to protection. Using videos and photography MLSS demonstrates what there is to see and creates the emotional attachment that is needed for people to be empowered into action to preserve the life they see.